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RACEDAY READY - your guide to being ready for the races in Autumn

Monday, February 26, 2018

When it comes to Racedays, I can't think of anything more exciting than Fashions on the Field (FOTF). For many, the FOTF is just the sideshow with the racing as the main event - however for me, it's completely the other way around! No amount of silk, leather, felt, straw, quills and feathers is ever too much! You'll find me entering FOTF every chance I get and so far, I have a 90% success rate of making it through to the Finals, winning Runner Up in the 2015 Melbourne Cup in Toowoomba at Clifford Park.

Photo credit: Damian Herde.

Needless to say, I follow all the gurus of race wear and millinery and pay attention to seasonal trends in clothing, colours and millinery materials as well. Naturally I have a bona fide milliner that I work with for the majority of my hats and headpieces, who is a creative genius in my books. Not only that, she 'gets' me and my unique sense of style and I cannot express strongly enough how important this bond between milliner and client is. My milliner understands what I like, and when I give her a job, 4 weeks out from a raceday (that's not usually a good idea by the way unless you have a very good relationship), I will give her my dress, a general idea and away she goes to create something spectacular for me! When I go to pick up my new piece, I am giddy with anticipation and usually can't hold back squeals of delight as I try it on in the mirror. It's been made specifically for me, which means it suits my personality and tastes, and my milliner is beaming from ear to ear - it's a win-win situation.

One time I even asked my milliner if it was okay if I came along and helped make one of my pieces, which she very graciously allowed. No word of a lie, my fingers felt like they were going to bleed. Bashfully, I had to hand my piece back to her to continue sewing. What strong hands she has! Another surprise was how much time the project took. Then I understood - that headpiece was worth every penny! This is probably the reason why I have never gasped at a piece of custom millinery since, other than to admire the brilliant handiwork and combinations that go into making such head turners!

FOTF - the main event

As a passionate FOTF entrant, I wanted to shed some light on the event, and what constitutes as appropriate race wear for the Toowoomba Weetwood in particular. Clifford Park host the event each year and we are so lucky to have the support of management who want to see the FOTF become such a large and stylish event. Registrations usually open around 11am and FOTF itself normally begins sometime after this, however most FOTF entrants will get there early to mingle and assess the competition of course! I love to go around midday and spend probably the first 30mins just admiring the spectacular outfits and unimaginable combinations of custom frocks and millinery, that dazzle and burst with creativity. It's sensational to see the effort and preparation that goes into each FOTF entrants' outfit, with countless hours spent perfecting every little detail.

If you want to be efficient, the best way to plan your outfit - unless you're a milliner or have a very good milliner friend - is to pick your dress, or top and skirt combo first. Bear in mind, Weetwood is part of the Winter racing carnival, where Autumn/Winter clothing is more appropriate. Heavier fabrics, longer sleeves and hemlines than seasonal Summer outfits, and warmer colours as well. I always find inspiration from the current colours and styles you'll find in any major department store, with the Autumn outfits already starting to appear.

This year I expect to see lots of bell sleeves, mermaid skirts, midi skirts, pencil skirts and dresses with modest hemlines, fitted at the waist and possibly still a short cape or two - depending on the weather perhaps. The colour palette for winter this year consists of navy, plum, burgundy, dusty pink, forest green, light blue, mustard and burnt orange, along with traditional blacks, greys and red.

TIP: Keep an eye on Paris, Milan, New York and London Fashion Week runway shows over the upcoming weeks for inspiration - designer 'ready to wear' lines are fashion forward for Australia because of our opposite seasons. I have had some good luck following their shows, forming bright ideas that have helped me create some of my more flamboyant race day outfits.

As for millinery, again, stick to the Autumn/Winter materials - feathers, leather, felt, and wool are ideal options. If you are having your piece made, go to your milliner with some images of things you like, take your dress or outfit with you so they can match the colour for you, and have a discussion about what would work for you. For example, some people find headbands uncomfortable and your milliner needs to know this. Ask them to put in combs or elastics that will hold the headpiece in position all day, as you will likely be wearing your piece for at least 4 hours. This year I expect to see many crowns, halos, boaters, hats and headpieces made with touches of metallic in them.

Also, consider your hair and how your piece will fit around your chosen hair style as well. If you can afford it, a professionally crafted hairstyle always looks more polished; I was told once that my hairdresser did such a wonderful job on my hair, it earned me extra points in judging. It all counts! Makeup is no exception either, your makeup needs to flatter your natural face shape and tie together with the colours and tone of your outfit. If you want to make sure your makeup looks good in photos, go heavier than normal and add false lashes for a feminine touch.

Attention to detail is what usually separates the winners from the rest of the crowd. Consider how added elements such as broaches, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, stockings, heels and a clutch can change the entire look of an outfit. You may not need all of these, but they should complement your millinery and overall outfit.

ACCESSORY TIPS: wear stockings for more polish; carry a clutch, not a bag or purse; make sure your earrings are a good size and don't clash with your millinery; wear closed toe heels for a more Autumn/Winter look and be sure to wear-them-in beforehand. For the icing on the cake, don a pair of leather gloves as these add so much glamour to a raceday outfit. Driving gloves are still very popular and can be found in specialty boutiques or online if you are looking for a specific colour.

If you want to enter FOTF, ensure you leave yourself plenty of time on the morning of the races to get ready, I do a lot myself and I have been known to take up to three hours to get myself organised. So, take it from me, do everything you can the night before, and enjoy the experience on the day.

That's everything you need to get yourself raceday ready - dress, millinery, accessories, heels, hair and makeup. The rest is up to you - Good luck and see you there!

If you would like assistance preparing for your next raceday, please don't hesitate to contact me to arrange a Personal Shop on 0408 406 065.

Quick Glossary of race wear terms:

  • Milliner - a person who makes and sells hats
  • Fascinator - a light, decorative headpiece consisting of feathers, flowers, beads, etc. attached to a comb or hair clip.
  • Headpiece - a decorative piece worn on the head
  • Crown - the part of a hat or other headgear covering the crown of the head.
  • Halo - millinery design in which the headpiece acts as a circular frame for the face, creating a halo effect.