My life has been changed in a way that I could never have imagined because of Frock Up Friday.
I grew up in North Northumberland and spent many a year at the back of the crowd, the quiet and chubby one with very little confidence and a pretty bland wardrobe (all though I always had a ridiculous quiff in my hair), all until two things happened; one, I found trance ha ha, I danced and danced and weight fell off and I’d be adorned in ultra violet tiny pieces of clothing and fluffy socks; and two, I sang on a karaoke and almost weekly my confidence grew because I found my voice.
I didn’t join a band until I was 28 but once I did, I never knew it then, but looking back on it everything has been about music ever since. I spent a few months in New Orleans after my marriage ended and moved out of the North East for good after that, everything was too quiet and too small and there was not enough music. I spent a few years in Scotland around the bonny banks of Loch Lomond, Glasgow and Largs; I went back home and found myself in a music scene around Newcastle for a short time before I headed South!
I moved to Hastings 6 years ago because it was so vibrant and the most New Orleanian place I’d ever been bar the crescent city itself. By day I’ve been a cycling scrubber, and by night a rhythm and blues singer, quite the change in costume!
I met Bev through a friend at a pineapple party she was holding in her house, her house is like a giant sparkly thing with art in every corner and hundreds of PINEAPPLES. It was a great meet because soon later I became Bev and her husband Andy’s lodger for two years. It’s the kind of house that if you feel like a dance then the music is turned up to Sophie Ellis Bexter and if there are only three at home then it will be a disco for three until 3am! No lies! I had such a great time living there all though eventually, being the hobo that I am, I had to move again and even though just a few hundred meters behind their house Bev and I were at a loss when a week after I moved out, lockdown came crashing down upon us. After dressing up for nights out or Bev helping me with gig outfit alterations, fashion shows and dressing up had become a ‘thing’; it was Bev who said ‘Why don’t we make a group on Facebook and invite our friends to dress up on friday and pretend like we’re going out’.... And so began Frock Up Friday. Between us, we have been overwhelmed. Over the months there were a few difficult times and we have had to ‘police’ the group of around 13,500 to make sure the members hold no prejudice toward anyone, we will not stand for any sort of discrimination and we do not allow advertising; this meant that the group was solely about dressing up and people being kind. The outcome of it has been such that Bev and I are both quite often in tears, of joy and of pride, the ‘frockers’ are the kindest and most open bunch of people you’re ever likely to meet. Frock Up Friday has been an escape for us and for everyone in there from the virus; from the impact of lockdown; from politics; and from anxieties of personal battles in health, mental health, body image and gender issues to suggest a few. The stories and honesty that come from the group members, as well as their beautiful pictures of course meant that making a book would be a really great memoir of a beautiful thing which happened in a disastrous time in history.
Funny, there are a large number of people who feel sorry for me about just getting by day to day and not owning or earning very much. I have been a buyer for a company, a retail manager, made great money in sales, and just finished a degree last year in Social Sciences but I believe we’re only here a short while and if something doesn’t feel right for you, then it probably isn’t and I feel absolute freedom in having a simple life and trusting my gut instinct. Luckily, it’s worked out well for me and I may be financially poor but I have got a memory bank that is as rich as rich can be. Ok, I’m 42 and don’t own much materially but; I have a very close family and feel like the luckiest girl in the world for that; I’ve taken my band around the country and to Norway, The Netherlands, Paris and played some great festivals like Lindisfarne and Glastonbury; I’ve played in Nashville, New York and Boston too and sat in with some greats; I’ve met my heroine Irma Thomas; I have seen the pyramids of Egypt and Mexico and Island hopped in Thailand; I’ve recorded in Sun records, been to Graceland, visited sites on the American blues trail and stood beneath THE crossroads; I have released an album and had it signed to a label and now, crazily, I am about to be an author.
While I never had a passion for fashion, I’ve always had a passion for life. I find absolute joy in watching the sea or having time to read a book and cry openly in a live music audience.
Frock Up Friday has allowed - or even forced me to push boundaries with my own wardrobe and style on a day to day basis, and life, unbelievably, has become EVEN MORE colourful than it has ever been.
To the frockers, thank you! I have this ‘rose tinted glasses’ view of the world which many laugh at me for as there is so much corruption blah blah blah, but YOU! All of you confirm my belief in humanity and how great it is. You’re frocking amazing and I shall be forever grateful.
From the youngest age I was obsessed with clothes. It may have been my mum’s influence, as she made my clothes and I always had something individual to wear.
I spent my childhood making my dolls’ clothes and hats. I would hold doll fashion shows often for my next-door neighbour who indulged me by watching the dolls sashay along a homemade catwalk.
As I reached the grown-up age of nine I was obsessed with watching Hollywood films, never really following the plot but just gazing at the clothes and thinking “when I grow up I’m gonna wear that”!
I was rather disappointed that I wasn’t a millionaire and lived a Grace Kelly type life by the age of 14.
As a teenager I had a rockabilly boyfriend and we spent our time together looking for original 1940s clothes. My obsession with all things vintage began. I then met Andrew my long term partner , we met at school but he doesn’t like to talk about that! Anyway we were in a local punk band together and we thought we were great even if we did come last in the Worthing battle of the bands competition.
I secured my place at university studying jewellery design. It was unusual for people like me to go to uni and because education was free, I was able to go. Getting my place at uni was one of my proudest moments. I also realised that I had no money and had to roller skate a few miles everyday to avoid the bus fare and lived on chips .
After uni I made a small amount of money selling little devil brooches with rather large appendages; not enough make a living though!
I was lucky to get a job with a hat maker who was then working for Chanel and I learnt how to hand-make high end hats. I watched and learnt; it was a brilliant experience . I decided to set up my own business after finding dozens of hat blocks in a skip in Soho. Not shy of skip diving I kicked off my high heels dived in and pulled out all the hat-making treasure. I filled a cab with as much the driver would allow me to put in his cab and spent my week’s wages getting my haul back to Hackney. I made six hats and sold them from a blanket from the bridge at Camden. One of the hats was bought by a journalist and she wrote a wonderful piece about me in Time Out Magazine. My hat making career began. I sold hats all over the world and won “London’s young business person of the year” and the” U.K. Design for Enterprise award. Things went swimmingly for a long time until my shop and design studio was burgled; I lost everything. I tried to keep the business going but the financial hit was too much. I had so much fun around that time and although it was abrupt ending to that chapter in life.
I went on to have three fabulous children who spent there childhood covered in glitter, now hate glitter. I trained to be a primary teacher and the caretaker in my last teaching job refused to clean my classroom because the carpet was encased in glitter.Ive always liked sparkly things!
Unfortunately, I had a devastating health scare and I had to take a step back from working, luckily my wonderful husband has supported me through all of my crazy ideas and not least this frocking madness.
To help pay for my daughter to study in the Netherlands I ran an air BnB from my home, made hats, became a cleaner and took in lodgers.
Susan became our lodger after putting a plea on Facebook that she was going to made homeless again. She moved in and it was a blast and we all got on like house on fire; Susan had actually set her previous house on fire!
Every Friday was dress up night; she would be going out to sing and I’d be just going out for fun. We would try on outfits and give each other advice; dressing up was key to our friendship. When she moved out her timing was brilliant! it was practically the first week of Lockdown and she was going to be living alone in her beautiful new flat. We decided to keep in touch by posting a Friday frock on a private group and invite other friends to join in. Within two weeks we had 10,000 members.
Initially the group was just about dressing creatively and sharing styles but it’s become something so much more. Early on we decided we wanted the group to be all inclusive. Anyone could join as long as they loved to dress up; we never expected to become a great big family of frocking loveliness supporting one another through the Covid crisis. In fact, the group became so important that as Lockdown lifted in the U.K. we decided to keep going as it has always been Lockdown somewhere in world and the whole world was joining in.
We decided to make a book collecting the fabulous frockers photos and stories and this has kept us super busy.
Now here we are in the second lockdown, still frocking and supporting one another and expecting the book to be sent out any minute now. My lockdown experience has been a strange one, but an incredibly rewarding. I’ve learnt so much and I now have wonderful friends from all over the world. This experience has been a life affirming one. Here’s to the unique beautiful frocking people of the world; I will never be able to thank everyone enough for what they have done.