Abbey Clancy: from wag wannabe to darling of the fashion world

Abbey Clancy is set to go up against newsreader Susanna Reid in the first all-female final in Strictly Come Dancing — and is now hotly tipped to win after a series of faultless, top-mark performances. But it’s not just dancing fans who have been won over by Mrs Peter Crouch.
In a few short years the willowy blonde has gone from scandal-tainted Wag wannabe to a darling of the fashion world. Photographer Rankin adores her, Giles Deacon is a pal, style guru Katie Grand can’t get enough of her and up-and-coming designers are queuing up to claim her as their muse.

Even VB sends her freebie dresses. Not bad for the teenager from Liverpool who left school to be a pop star. So how did Ms Clancy shed the traditional Wag image (even she admits her dress sense was “crap” to begin with) and become a style icon in her own right?


Born in Liverpool in 1986, Abbey has admitted that she wanted to be rich and famous from an early age, saying: “I’d always wanted to be an actress or a model or a singer.
“If I had to study and work hard, it would have to have the reward of a lot of cash.”
She left school at 16 to pursue a career in a girl group called Genie Queen, managed by Andy McCluskey of Eighties band Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. They had brief success supporting Blue on tour before splitting, and Abbey decided to move from singing to modelling.

In 2006 she entered the second cycle of the Britain’s Next Top Model reality show and made it to the final but didn’t win.

By that time, however, the outcome hardly mattered — a month earlier she had met England football star Peter Crouch at a bar in Liverpool and had been invited to accompany him to the upcoming World Cup in Germany.

“I knew he was The One,” she has said, from the moment he stopped her on the way to the ladies’ in the bar and asked for her phone number.


The 19-year-old Abbey arrived at the England camp in Baden Baden as the youngest and newest of the wives and girlfriends in a team that included Victoria Beckham, Cheryl Cole (then Tweedy), Alex Gerrard (then Curran) and Coleen Rooney (then still McLoughlin).

It was the year that the term Wag entered popular culture, triggered by the English women’s blingtastic outfits, six-figure daily shopping sprees and habit of sunbathing by the team hotel pool in an ever-changing series of teeny-tiny bikinis.

Tensions were already evident between the Wags — VB and Cheryl formed one camp; Alex led another — but at a time when even Posh was still wearing micro denim shorts and cut-off T-shirts, Abbey suffered both sartorial and social horrors.

She says she was too scared even to talk to Victoria and admits her clothes were “crap” — she was still more Topshop than Gucci and had yet to be issued with the same kind of platinum-plated credit card her fellow Wags were enjoying.

In addition, she ended up being sent home in disgrace after the News of the World published pictures of her snorting cocaine.

Crouch, somewhat unsportingly, instructed his lawyers to issue a statement virtually denying they’d ever been in a relationship at the same time as Abbey was insisting all was fine between them.

She ’fessed up to the drug use but then had to contend with further claims that she had cheated on Peter with a former boyfriend.


Some Wag-watchers thought it was all over but Abbey bounced back and within months she was with her man again, had scored a cover with Arena magazine and was signed up to a reality modelling show with Janice Dickinson.

She became a regular guest on daytime TV and late-night chat shows as well as a talking head on programmes including The Ultimate Bikini Guide and Slave to Fashion.

But she resolutely refused the traditional Wag route of “at home” spreads in Hello! and OK! magazines, instead opting for roles hosting the Great British Hairdresser reality show and appearing in Hell’s Kitchen. Allegations in 2010 that Crouch had cheated on her with a prostitute called Monica Mint hardly helped either of their reputations but the couple stayed the course and have launched a civil claim as part of the phone-hacking scandal.

By 2011 they were engaged and Abbey was pregnant (daughter Sophia will turn two in March).

A high-profile wedding seemed on the cards — the couple live in the Wag kingdom of Alderley Edge, Cheshire, and one of Abbey’s BFFs is now Coleen — but rather than a six-figure mag deal Abbey simply turned up (eschewing the usual Wang for a dress by her old friend and fashion favourite Giles Deacon) and posed for pictures for free in front of the press.

By then she had discreetly built up a reputation as a bona fide model and fashion icon. Now, as a fully-fledged Wag, she had everything to play for.


The last year has seen Abbey take on the tag of One to Watch.

Her most recent coup was appearing in style magazine LOVE’s über-trendy Advent calendar shoot, alongside the likes of Georgia May Jagger.

Katie Grand, editor-in-chief of LOVE, says: “Abbey is a gorgeous, gorgeous girl. We met on a shoot for LOVE a couple of years ago and I was surprised by how warm, high-spirited and infectious she is. She looks great in clothes as she’s tall with long limbs — just like her husband.”

Rankin, who shot her for his book More, also featuring Emma Watson and Cara Delevingne, has called her “the sexiest fox I have ever met”, while she recently fronted an acclaimed campaign for up-and-coming London designer Hasan Hejazi, who is a favourite of Paloma Faith and Kylie Minogue.

She recently rocked Victoria Beckham’s tangerine body-con dress (a freebie from the designer herself, apparently) and is a muse to both Julien Macdonald — she wore his Union Jack sideless frock to an awards ceremony last month — and Giles Deacon — she strode along the catwalk for him while pregnant and was one of the F’row stars at his September show. But she’s also managed to combine aspirational fashion with a career as a profit-booster for lower-end lines. She’s just been announced as the new “face and body” of Ultimo underwear, in a £250k deal. Her range for Matalan sparked a 30 per cent rise in sales and she swears by Nivea skin cream rather than higher-priced products.

These days she’s as likely to be seen in admiring broadsheet profiles as tabloid magazines, thanks to her starring (and endearing) role on Strictly Come Dancing.

From Wag to riches in her own right in seven years — Ms Clancy has tangoed her way to the top of the tree.


Abbey is not the only Wag to have launched into the high-fashion premiership. Here are three more favourites who’ve gone from sideline to catwalk.

Victoria Beckham

VB has performed a series of unprecedented transformations: from Posh Spice to Queen of the Wags to fashion darling. Anna Wintour sat front row at her latest show, next to VB’s daughter Harper. Some who remember the pneumatic breasts, POB (Posh Bob) and denim cut-offs are mystified that the fashion world has been uncharacteristically forgiving of VB’s girl power past, but most are too busy marvelling at the frocks.

Cheryl Cole

Former Girls Aloud siren Cheryl has been the face of L’Oréal and has fronted British Vogue twice — not bad for a girl who started out wearing cargo pants on a reality TV show. Cheryl favours glamorous gowns by Zuhair Murad, McQueen, Louis Vuitton and Versace.

Irina Shayk

Irina’s boyfriend, Portuguese super-striker Cristiano Ronaldo, might have made his share of questionable fashion choices but there’s no doubting Irina’s fashion chops: she has modelled for Victoria’s Secret, worked with Testino, shot a Spanish Vogue cover and been styled by Carine Roitfeld for her CR Fashion book.