A Rodarte steal and milliner wizardry: The hurdles of race day fashion

A Rodarte steal and milliner wizardry: The hurdles of race day fashion

November 1, 2021

The racing world is rife with allegations of fixing and performance enhancement, even when the horses are absent. The competition for Fashions on the Field, the Melbourne Cup Carnival racewear competition launched in 1962, can be cutthroat enough to require a choker.

“There can be some bitchiness in comments,” said competitor Em Scodellaro, who runs the Facebook group ‘It’s All About The Sash’. “We try to keep it a safe space. Those comments don’t reflect the spirit of the community. It’s very competitive but it’s full of supportive people lifting men and women up.”

NSW Fashions On Your Front Lawn finalist Viera Macikova wearing her winning outfit.Credit:Janie Barrett

The $90,000 prize packages, including new Lexus vehicles, for Best Dressed Woman and Best Dressed Man, announced on Oaks Day, fuels competitive spirits. Scodellaro missed out on a finals place this year but will try to score a Wild Card entry handed out to attendees on Cup Day. “I’m really hoping that I get noticed,” she said.

With the impact of recent lockdown restrictions, Fashions on the Field is Myer’s Fashions on Your Front Lawn for its second year, open to entrants from around the country with a decent camera. While posing was simpler than attending a race day in front of jeering crowds, there have been some unexpected obstacles for entrants. Here’s the form guide to our top picks.

Viera Macikova, NSW

Dress, Rodarte; Hat, The Fillies Collection; Bag, Pretty Little Things

“I’m just waiting for the comments to land. ‘How can you wear long sleeves in spring’?” said serial competition entrant Macikova. “I’ve been to the Melbourne Cup before. Believe me, sometimes you need sleeves.”

For five years Macikova, 45, who works as a program manager in financial services, has dedicated her weekends to racewear competitions, from Wagga to Launceston. Normally, she finds inspiration at social events but Sydney’s lockdown sent her online.

“I saw this Rodarte dress online for sale at $297. It would normally be well over $2000, so I jumped on it. The next day I looked online and the price had gone back up, but mine arrived, so I was pretty lucky.”

Macikova raided her wardrobe for the finishing touches, producing a look reminiscent of French racegoers in the ’70s. Her lucky streak continued when Sydney’s lockdown lifted on the deadline day for entry submissions.

“I had time to get my hair and nails done. After the photo my legs were killing me. I had forgotten how much it hurts to stand in heels.”

Vic Fashions on Your Front Lawn finalist Peta Bell’s striking headpiece started out as an op shop find bag.

Peta Bell, Vic

Dress, Lainie Brookman; Hat, Eve til Dawn; Bag, Olga Berg; Shoes, Daizy

“I love the Fashions on the Field community,” said Petra Bell, 31, from Teasdale, near Geelong. “We call ourselves a squad and even plan holidays together. We try to meet up and be super supportive of each other.”

Lockdown restrictions led to delays with Bell receiving the fabric for her custom-made dress, along with cancelled fittings but it was a welcome distraction from the challenges faced in her role as an occupational therapist.

“People have really struggled. These have been tough times,” she said.

An unexpected moment of joy was when Bell found a milliner willing to take a raffia bag that she had found in a Geelong op shop and transform it into her striking spring headpiece. “I design all of my entries and love working with small business to create something that you will never find on the rack.”

Queensland Fashions on Your Front Lawn entrant Luke Faulkner broke with convention by using high street labels.

Luke Faulkner, Qld

Jacket, Bell & Barnett; Pants, Zara; Shirt, Tarocash; Shoes, Oxford; Tie & Lapel Pin, OTAA; Pocket Square, H&M

For sports clothing manufacturer Luke Faulkner, 39, entering a photograph in Fashions on Your Front Lawn is much easier than dealing with the lingering trauma of taking part in a racewear contest at the Launceston Cup 16 years ago.

“Being from Queensland I was pretty full of myself and thought that I had it in the bag. I got nowhere and swore I wouldn’t do it again. Then the opportunity to enter with a photograph came up last year and I thought, ‘why not?’”

Despite considerable experience as a professional model, Faulkner missed out on a final’s selection last year, so he was surprised to make the cut with this entry. “It was quite rushed in the end. I just threw it together and got my wife to take the pictures.”

Unlike his female counterparts who look to custom dresses and designer labels, Faulkner relied on high street brands to complete his look. “When you work in the fashion game you learn that it’s not about the label. You don’t have to spend big to look good.”

ACT finalist Emma Wells created an outfit inspired by Australia for her Fashions on Your Front Lawn entry.

Emma Wells, ACT

Dress, Only One Ashley; Hat, Amelda; Shoes, Novo; Clutch, Olga Berg

“I had to take photos on my balcony. That was my front lawn,” says ACT finalist Emma Wells, who submitted her entry during Canberra’s lockdown.

“There were a few delays, with my dress coming from Perth and my milliner having difficulties sourcing materials,” Wells, 38, said. “And then I had to forget about getting my hair and make-up done professionally.”

Working in wildlife trade for the Department of Environment, Wells sought inspiration from imagery of Australia.

“In Canberra I am surrounded by reminders of our past, present and ideas about our future. I wanted to capture that.”

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