Marvelous Millinery

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This article first appeared in The Australia Times Fashion – Issue #4, Published 28th October 2013

Summary: A guide to the modern and traditional millinery options for the Spring Carnival season.

Marvelous Millinery

So you have your dress, shoes, accessories sorted, now it’s time to put the icing on the cake and top it all off with some beautifully designed and creative headgear. Brittany Stewart takes you through millinery trends and gives you some tips on how to make the most of your creativity.

Once worn as a display of status, fashion and ceremony, the humble (or not so humble, depending on the occasion) hat is making a comeback.  It disappeared for a while – there was once a time where women wouldn’t dare to be seen in public without her hat and gloves. Now, the versatile headwear acts as more of a statement than simply a part of everyday dress as it used to be. And where better to celebrate its return than at the races!

A piece of millinery is a must to complete your outfits for the Spring Racing Carnival season. For those who are not used to wearing hats, the fascinator has been the go to staple for headgear. But no more. With so many gorgeous hats and modern headwear out there, it’s time to be more than fascinating.

Classic and Simple

The races are one of the few occasions that we can really get dressed up for. While it’s a great time to sport the latest trends, the real standouts of racing fashion are often those who go classic and ladylike. Follow suit with your hat. Choosing a classic style in one of this season’s pop of emerald, fuchsia or tangerine is a great way to combine current trends with the traditional, and looks striking paired with a monochrome outfit. Another way to modernise a more classic style is to look for one made with interesting materials, such as sheer, lace and texture. A hat worn at an angle is an easy way to add a dramatic touch to your look.

Wide brimmed floppy hats

While there’s always an off day (this is Melbourne after all!) the racing season generally coincides with beautiful sunny weather. While it’s not traditional, the past few seasons have seen the popularity of the floppy hat. Stylish yet practical (hopefully resulting in less sunburnt faces!), when worn with loose longer dresses it evokes a sense of ‘70s laidback glamour. Keep hair out and sleek, and really turn heads by opting for an extra wide hat in black or monochrome.

Hats as Art

It’s milliners like Phillip Treacy who are really responsible for making headwear fashionable and desirable. As the hat maker of choice for everyone from Lady Gaga to Kate Middleton, Treacy proclaimed earlier this year “The fascinator is dead and I’m delighted.” But that doesn’t mean we’re saying goodbye to statement headwear just yet. Designer milliners offer amazing cutting edge designs that are works of art. There are a number of local milliners around to cover your needs on a range of budgets – ask around to see which ones people recommend or even check out the comprehensive directory on the Cup Carnival website. My personal favourite would have to be local designer Richard Nylon whose dramatic and whimsical headwear were showstoppers at this year’s Melbourne Spring Fashion Week. A legend in the industry for his unique approach to the art of hat making, he’s recently announced a collaboration with Disney for this spring racing season – Mickey Mouse ears anyone?

The New Look

While the past few seasons have marked a return to the classic and traditional, if you want to play around with your accessories up top, there are a few alternatives to hats. We’ve already seen them sported by younger race-goers who want something more playful and relaxed. Floral garlands, Great Gatsby inspired diamond and pearl headpieces, cat ear headbands and even chic lace veils over the eyes secured by decorative hair clips can and have been made suitable for the races. If you’re going for the playful cat ears, make sure you keep the rest of your outfit chic and grown up to avoid looking like you’re dressing up for a costume party. It’s very non-traditional – but then again haven’t the fashion forward always been about breaking the rules?

Do It Yourself

Don’t see anything in stores that takes your fancy? Make or customize your own! High street and department stores stock a range of headwear at affordable prizes that can easily be adapted to your outfit. Basic designs and customisation are easy to do at home, and you can buy everything you need to decorate at places like Lincraft or your local craft store. Whether you want to keep it simple or attempt something a bit more complex, there are plenty of tutorials on Youtube and online that will guide you through. Looking stylish at the races doesn’t have to be madly expensive – a DIY beautiful millinery creation is entirely possible on a budget, and ensures that you won’t spy anyone else wearing the same thing.

The most important thing to remember is not to think of millinery as something that you’re forced to wear – embrace it and make it as fun as, choosing your shoes or bag. It’s a rare opportunity to pay homage to the traditional ways of dressing while still being fashionable and on trend. As Richard Nylon says, “Millinery is not just about what goes on the head but also what happens with the rest of the body. A hat alters the way a person carries themselves.”

With that, we’ll see you at the races – looking gorgeously stylish from head to toe.