Thursday, January 13, 2011 11:35 AM
I have entered FITF about 10 or so times and I have always been a finalist, right from my very first attempt. I have helped friends enter and make it to the finals also - what a blast. I go back every year, not for the prizes (sorry sponsors) but for the fun and frivolity of the whole day.
Entering the fashion stakes just takes a 'great' day and makes it outstanding. There is nothing like having a horse in the race so to speak. And sitting on the sideline cheering on your favourite is a total blast.
People and the media often ask me how to dress for the races and what the judges are looking for. I can only speak from my experience and I know when I judged we were so divided as a panel of five that we were simply looking for someone we could agree on. It was hilarious at the time and it gave me some good insights on how hard being on a judging panel is.
For me the day competition is intrinsically liked to the racing. It is why we are all there so the purpose of the fashion event is to celebrate race wear. This is not simply a fashion competition, it is much more complicated than that. The winning outfit needs to reflect fashion literally on the field. Not what is on the catwalks in Paris or Milan, but what is ideal for a beautiful day at the races. The year I took the big prize I was wearing a dress and jacket that I bought off the rack, a hat (and handbag) I had made by a very talented milliner (Amy Jansen-Leen), vintage gloves, and $7.00 shoes from the Salvation Army. I loved the shoes because they matched the fabric perfectly, were really comfortable and were second-hand. They were certainly not cool, not fashionable and not in. But as part of that outfit, they were perfect.
For fun I made my own hat last year and wore a horse on my head! I only decided to go on the Thursday two days before Cup day So it was far too late to have anything made to order. I decided to keep it simple but fun. I wore a dress from Jacquie E that I just love which was already in my wardrobe and the most divine snakeskin shoes, with a matching snakeskin belt and clutch. I had one of the best days I have ever had at the races. Which goes to show that you needn't spend a lot of money, or take yourself too seriously.
When it comes to the competition though, call me old fashioned (and I am) but if you don't have a hat on you don't get a place. For me a hat is not OPTIONAL.
Designer labels don't impress me. Impeccable grooming, a well cut outfit, colour and obvious joy do. Youth or lack there-of is not a factor for me either. Some of the most glamorous women I have seen on the catwalk over the years are certainly not fillies.
A race-appropriate outfit is a must. This is a daytime event people. It is not a wake, neither is it a cocktail party so leave black, feathers and sparkle off your clothing. I don't mind a touch of feather and sparkle in a hat, but not as an outfit.
Wellington Cup day is a day to go all out and really dress to the nines. Putting a little bit of extra effort in to ensure that all the little details are in place makes for a polished and elegant look. This is the ideal excuse for a manicure and or pedicure, a suitable up do to compliment your hat and beautiful day time make-up.
If you are stuck for ideas or just don't know where to start, pick something you love, your shoes, a favourite handbag or a stunning dress or suit and use that as your inspiration base point to build on. Experiment with colours and shapes and different combinations and keep going until you feel great! Borrow something from a friend and wear it in a different way, pop to a thrift store and see what might work with your outfit. Borrowing and thrifting can be a great way to keep costs down and go green.
The biggest disappointment for me is always in the menswear section. Filthy shoes with shoddy soles, lack of a hat and messy hair, pants waaaaayyyy too short or way too long, no jacket, or simply looking like they are going to the Sevens rather than the races. (this is NOT a costume party). It is so easy for a man to look smart. Start with a hat, then add a great fitting suit, a beautiful tie complimenting a gorgeous shirt, shoes that look new even if they aren't, and perhaps a pocket square to top it all off. Done. See, simple.
Who doesn't love racing tips from an insider? so here are my picks for success on the day: You can always bet on style, elegance and fun. Your outfit needs to have a strong sense of your personal style, you need to look and feel elegant and you must absolutely, under all circumstances have fun.
See you there!