The ladies in red

The Weekend Sun journalist Sharnae Hope and ‘Queen Likky Cooky Pot’.

I may be lacking in laugh lines and life experiences, but for one night I got to experience what it was like being the ripe old age of 50.

The Red Hat Society is an international group for women created to connect like-minded women, make new friends and enrich lives through the power of fun, friendship and fellowship.

Almost 20 years ago the first red hat was gifted to a friend on her 50th birthday to say ‘being fifty could be the start of something magical’.

From then on, women have been parading the streets in their radical red hats and purple garments in Australia and New Zealand.

One of three Tauranga Red Hatter groups, the Welcome Babe Red Hatters, invited The Weekend Sun to one of their regular dinner parties - this time at the Tauranga Citizens Club. But first I had to look the part.

Rosemary Sloman, also known as Lady Sultana Rose (Her Red Hat name), dressed me in an array of purple and red. I was a real eye sore in a crowd and for good reason - I was the youngest in the room.

“You’re very special,” says Rosemary. “Normally a woman younger than 50 is classed as a ‘Lady in Waiting’ and wears pink and lilac until they are 50.

“Then we have a big party to celebrate them becoming a Red Hatter. Today, though, you get to be one of us.”

The Welcome Babe Hatters group have been growing, with almost 30 members attending their events. Colleen Percy, also known as Queen Likky Cooky Pot, started up the group five years ago after she left a Red Hatter group in Taupo to come to Tauranga.

“I tried to join the other groups, but the clubs were full at the time and had no space for me and two of my friends,” says Queen Likky Cooky Pot. “So I started up my own group and it’s grown from there.”

Lady Sultana Rose says becoming a Red Hatter is almost like being knighted. The president of the club, Queen Likky Cooky Pot will place an object backwards and forwards on the women’s shoulder and bestow her with a Red Hat name that relates to her personality.

“It’s not as serious as it sounds,” says Lady Sultana Rose. “It’s all about having fun and being proud of turning 50. We have a couple of women who are ladies in waiting and Red Hatters from the ages of 50 all the way up to 83.

“We’re like a family. It gives women a chance to talk about the grimes of the day, develop new friendships and have a little bit of cheeky fun.”