The race that stops the nation is only weeks away and the lead up is galloping along nicely! If you’ve never entered Fashion at The Races, why not do it this Melbourne Cup? If you’re a bit scared, get your girlfriends to do it with you. Believe me, the prize is worth every little nervous butterfly!
Melissa Barnes is our Spring Carnival Adelady. She also happens to be a milliner and the owner of Adorn Collection, so she’s “old-hat” when it comes to entering Fashion at The Races. Excuse the pun, but she’s done it that many times before and she’s got some great tips to help calm your nerves and possibly help you win it!
Sometimes I wonder if people think that fashion at the races is shallow, because it’s judged purely on appearance. What most people don’t know, is that there’s a lot of time, effort and creativity put into each outfit. It becomes a work of art.
It may seem a waste of time, but I love mixing and matching; it’s definitely a labour of love. For me, it’s not a last-minute throw together. When I won at SAJC Melbourne Cup last year, it was nice to know that the judges noticed and appreciated the effort and time I had put into the outfit. The judges are always looking for unique outfits and stand out pieces they’ve never seen before. So from someone who has been there (and won) here are my tips:
1. Sourcing an outfit
Some ladies start with their hats, but I like to start with my outfit, because I lean towards prints and bold designs that instantly pop out at me. I’m always on the lookout for something new and different, so when I saw the print of the Clover Canyon dress, while scrolling through eBay, I knew I had to have it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t cheap, but when it arrived at my house, the fabric was even more beautiful in real life. It made it all worthwhile. I also loved the feeling of the neoprene because it was so comfortable to wear.
I like to make up fashion-inspo boards, like this one with Clover Canyon skirts, to show my clients what’s available and how it can be styled.
I’m a busy mum, so I do most of my planning and searching at home, online. It’s hard to perfectly match accessories with your outfit, so my best advice is get your dress sorted early and then start Googling accessories to match. Keep in mind, if you’re buying something from overseas, postage can take AGES, so make sure you leave enough time.
Bag :: I bought this one online and thought it would match well with the circles in the dress. I was instantly attracted to it because of its unique shape. But this clutch is purely about looks (it doesn’t even fit my phone in it).
Shoes :: I found it extremely hard to find green shoes anywhere! I had a pair of white Peep Toe’s sitting in my closet collecting dust, so I decided to spray them to match the green in the dress. A pop of colour pulled the outfit together and gave it more of a ‘spring’ feel against the black.
Gloves :: I gather my gloves from all sorts of places, including eBay, Etsy and vintage shops in and around Adelaide. Depending on the colour, you can use the same gloves at a number of different events.
3. Making the hat
My favourite thing to do is design millinery to match my outfit, using unique and quirky patterns. It’s a balancing act to be able to reflect the design of the dress without being too over the top. You don’t want the millinery to detract from the outfit. The leather and straw base of my hat were the best option for spring and the wired veiling around the outside was a new technique I thought added flare. The geometric star on top is made out of feathers and my aim was to tie it in with the dress, without making it look too busy.
4. Finishing touches
I love to pop on a pair of fake eyelashes and nails for the day. I also have a ritual of going into MAC Cosmetics and choosing a new lippy to match my outfit. I switch between doing my own hair/makeup and getting someone to do it for me. Luckily on the day of the Melbourne Cup at Morphettville, there was a pamper lounge, trackside, for touch-ups. The wind was horrible, so this was a perfect little retreat to fix up the fly-away bits of hair.
5. Entering on the day
To me, winning isn’t about being better than anyone else. It’s about being recognised for the enormous effort that’s put into your outfit with all the little details. Winning in an outfit you absolutely love is the icing on the cake, because if you enter feeling good about yourself, then you’ll walk away a winner — even without the sash! It’s completely normal to feel nervous before getting up on stage. Just take a few deep breaths and hold your head high. Confidence is the key!
Best of luck for Melbourne Cup!
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