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As a growing number of Australians turn their lounge rooms into makeshift offices, the concept of “casual Friday” is being replaced with “formal Friday” — a COVID-19 phenomenon driven by people craving social connection.
Queensland University of Technology (QUT) professor Daniel Angus, an expert in digital communication, said “formal Friday” was providing a fix for people who couldn’t connect with the outside world.
“People are kind of inverting that [casual Friday] now because everyone’s hanging around in track suit pants and t-shirts at home,” he said.
John Tourish and Lee Portelli dressed up for their daily duties on their Hawkesbury Farm in New South Wales last week, even driving tractors in a ball gown and tuxedo.
“Got to look the part, even though we’re isolated on the farm,” Mr Tourish said.
In Zealand, #FormalFriday has been made popular by TV personality Hilary Barry, who shared an image of herself in a formal ball gown while working from home.
American talk show host Jimmy Kimmel also dressed up with his young family, saying it was helping keep the family sane during self-isolation.
“Get out of that bath robe, put on your finest smoking jacket … for me it’ll be the first time I’ve worn pants this week,” Kimmel said.
Closer to home, photos and videos have emerged online from stay-at-home mums dressed in formal wear to men doing the mowing and chopping wood in their old wedding suits.
Darlene Chin from Darwin started her own Friday Formal Frock-Up group on Facebook and already has almost 2,000 participants.
“As so many fundraising balls and weddings or nights out have been postponed or cancelled, we won’t be able to wear our fancy clothes for a little while,” Ms Chin said.
Before starting the movement, Ms Chin said she would only wear black and basic clothing to work and this idea had added a bit more colour to her life in isolation.
“I think it worked because I’m a crier and I haven’t cried once,” she said.
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Kaye Gwyther joined the Friday Frock-Up movement and described it as a bit of fun in what would otherwise be a lonely situation.
“[It was a] great way to finish a pretty hectic day working from home … adding a bit of fun to our new ‘normal’,” Ms Gwyther said.
Rychelle Vines was stood down from her job due to the pandemic and posted on the group’s page, thanking organisers for the initiative which was “just what she needed”.
“Last day of work, now time to recoup, play with the pooch, and look forward to new opportunities — love seeing all you awesome humans looking amazing,” Ms Vines said.
The movement has made it onto cruise ships, even Parliament House.
Ms Chin encouraged those dressing up, to use the initiative and support businesses that were forced to close.
“Maybe order a beautiful meal from your favourite restaurant to take away or have home delivered,” she said.
Ms Chin said it could also be a way of connecting with family and friends, even when people were apart.
“Set the table, light some candles, sit down for a fancy dinner and Skype your friends,” she said.