With each passing year, I learn more and more about racing fashion and feel like I get better at putting my outfits together. This year would have to be my favourite one ever! I actually managed to have three outfits I was super happy with for Derby Day, Melbourne Cup and Oaks Day.

milano imai racewear melbourne cup

There is a lot more involved in a race day outfit than just choosing a dress, millinery and accessories. For many people, it involves the entire design process and making of a dress, the countless hours spent looking for the right clutch or colour shoe, trialing different options, having melt downs and a lot of time spent, simply, problem solving!

Personally, I think that the story behind a race day outfit is just as interesting as the final result. So, I’ve decided to share with you how my three race day looks for 2018 came about, with a behind the scenes adventure of each outfit.

This post (Part 1) will tell the story of my Derby Day outfit. Keep an eye out for Part 2 and 3 in the coming weeks, which will talk about how I created my Melbourne Cup Day and Oaks Day outfits.

My Designated Dress Maker

This year, as I have for the past four years, I enlisted Andrew Semple to help make my Spring Carnival outfits.

Andrew and I met 6 years ago when we were both studying Fashion Design at TAFE. I loved the design side of the course, and the embellishing, but was hopeless at patternmaking and sewing. After I left the course and started entering Fashions on the Field, I thought about Andrew and what a fabulous pattern maker and sewer he was. I contacted him a year down the track and asked him to make me a dress I had in mind for the races.

That was the start of our friendship and he is now my go-to dress maker for my race day outfits. Sometimes I go to him with an idea, fabric or a sketch of what I want. Sometimes he has something he has been working on. Together we have come up with some seriously epic dresses (if I do say so myself!).

outfit design guide diy style design white dress

My outfit design guide shows you the steps I took to make this white leather and lace dress.

When I first met Andrew, he was unfamiliar with the world of racing fashion. It wasn’t long before I had him immersed in it, turning up at his house talking about race fashion, discussing appropriate lengths, silhouettes, the styles I wanted to wear, along with dresses, hats and accessories.

We have come such a long way together, so I was so excited and proud of him when he was selected as just one of ten designers invited to compete in the Myer Design Award. And to top that… he succeeded in the incredible achievement of placing second runner up!! I am so very happy for him and I feel like he has found his calling as a dressmaker (extraordinaire) for race day ladies. He’ll be opening his clientele next year and I cannot recommend him highly enough.

myer design award andrew semple only one ashley

The Myer Design Award winners, Andrew with his model Brittney on the right.

He gets the fit of all my dresses perfect and is always willing to make any changes I want (even last minute). He is up to date with new trends and has some seriously fabulous fashion forward ideas. When we come together to work on a dress and play around with ideas, it’s always so exciting to see the final product, as it will always be a one off unique design, something I will cherish forever.

The Making of the Derby Day Dress

Derby Day is a really fun day to dress up for, with the challenge of wearing something black and white. This year I repeated an outfit I had made earlier in the year (by Andrew) and wore to Stradbroke Cup in Brisbane – the theme being black, white with a touch of red.

2018 derby day dress black and white fashion sketch

I sent Andrew a very quick sketch and had him make me a strapless full skirt dress out of black and white jacquard fabric, which I wanted to wear with a white ruffle sleeve shirt underneath from brand Harvey x Seeker. He did an amazing job whipping it up for me in a day- as I had left it to the last minute as usual.

There was no time to add boning, so I am thankful for my time spent working in a store called Kitten D’Amour. When I worked there I purchased waay too many corsets that I would never dream of wearing now, but I can sew them underneath garments as they provide the boning needed.