This is Part 2 of a 3-part blog series where I show you how I made my three 2018 Spring Carnival outfits pictured below.

In this post I’ll share how I created my Melbourne Cup Day outfit. If you missed the previous post about the making of my Derby Day outfit, you can find that one here.

My Melbourne Cup outfit was the result of many lucky encounters and ideas as you’ll see in the following sections.

milano imai racing fashion blogger flemington outfits 2018

My 2018 Spring Carnival Outfits – Left to Right: Derby Day, Melbourne Cup Day, Oaks Day

Starting with the Hat

Upon accepting a judging position at Cairns Cup, Ana Bella Millinery contacted me, offering to make me a hat to wear. Although she lives in London, Cairns is her hometown and she wanted her piece to be present.

We began discussing colours and Ana suggested blue. I too had been thinking about the colour blue in an outfit for quite a while so we agreed upon a dusty blue. She created a hat with a rose like base, from leather and pleated crinoline swirls and it arrived in early May. It was beautiful.

ana bella millinery dusty blue rose leather and pleated crinoline swirls

In Search of a Blue Dress

I popped over to Andrew’s house one afternoon with my Ana Bella hat in tow to have a chat with him about a blue dress I wanted him to make me for Cairns Cup to match my hat.

When I arrived, laying on his table were some pleats he had been testing and experimenting with. He had made his own pleat template from cardboard and baked them in the oven! Yes, his oven at home! So incredible!

homemade pleated fabric pleat cardboard template

I spotted a blue fabric roll he had amongst his random fabric collection and thought it would be perfect for my outfit, just a slightly different shade to my hat.

fashion design outfit planning

We discussed silhouettes, threw around some ideas and Andrew sketched up some ideas.

silhouettes and fashion design sketches

Exploring Dress Ideas

For the pleated detail I wanted my signature silhouette, which is a very fitted waist and midi length pencil skirt. I returned to Andrew’s house a week later and he had made up a mock idea

feature puffy sleeves jagged edge fabric

outfit design process trial and error

He had made up some feature puffy sleeves, with a sheer bodice that he thought we could embellish or use a jagged edge fabric bodice over, possibly pair with pants as we had been talking about them recently. He had also baked 5 pleated flounces in the oven.

Although I did LOVE the idea of pants- as pants are huge this year, I wasn’t so sure about the design elements of the puffy sleeves mixed with the bodice detail, pants and pleats.

Pencil Skirt with Pleats Concept

I thought maybe a plain pencil skirt with the pleats cascading down around it would look amazing.  

We pinned some fabric to look like a pencil skirt. Loving the tulle bodice feature, I decided I wanted an asymmetrical hem with tulle on the bottom.

pleated tulle bodice feature racing fashion outfit design

dress design on mannequin

Over the next few weeks, Andrew made the dress and painted the tulle bodice in the same blue colour as the dress.

dusty blue dress tulle bottom hem

We also played around with the idea of having a bodice piece that wrapped around the shoulders, but I would have to commit to not being able to move my arms all day…

bodice piece wrapped around arms and dress

milano imai outfit trial fitting

When I came over the next time, we played around with the position of the pleats, moving them around till they were just right.

pleats pinned to dress

Cairns Cup and the Drink Spillage Disaster

I wore this dress to my judging event in Cairns and was so in love with it, I decided I wanted to wear it again on Melbourne Cup day. I would just make a few slight changes to the millinery and accessories.

milano imai at cairns cup fashions on the field

Image (first): @andrewjsemple

During the day in Cairns, I had a drink spilled down my top. Argh! Luckily, the culprit was a vodka soda, but it still left a noticeable watermark.

drink stain down front of dress

Fixing the Stain

I took my dress to 2 different dry cleaners who said they would have to immerse it in water. As the pleats on the dress were baked in the oven and the tulle bodice was painted, I did not think it would turn out well, so my next option was to embellish the dress to hide the stain.

I set out on the hunt for some blue lace to match the colour of my dress and visited numerous fabric stores. It is here I really started to notice what a unique colour it was and how hard it was to match.

matching paint colour to dress colour using colour chart

It is a blue grey colour with a touch of green and all the blue laces I found at fabric stores were either too blue or too green. I finally gave in and purchased some blue lace fabric from Alla Moda in Brisbane and decided to just ‘give it a shot’, I figured if I used a mix of blue beads on top of the lace then it may just tie in together.

blue white lace fabric
I was wrong.

lace beaded embellishments to add to dress

The lace looked ok, but I really didn’t love it, but I was desperate.

I went over to Andrew’s house the next day, with my dress and the blue lace pinned onto the dress to show him. We both agreed it was no good, it was too heavy and just didn’t suit the rest of the dress.

Luckily, he had a roll of white lace fabric that had a beautiful embroidered flower pattern on it, but it still looked very simple and elegant. We cut some flowers out and pinned them on, the perfect addition to the dress.

white floral lace fabric delicate feminine

Andrew gave me some fabric and I took it home to paint. I used acrylic paint and mixed blue, black and white together to create the same shade as my dress. I then used a sponge to lightly dab over the lace, careful to only do a thin coat. Once dried, I cut out the flower shapes and beaded them with aquamarine stones and beads.

painting lace blue

blue beads and embellishments

diy homemade lace embellishments

fashion design sketch

I get my beads from a shop called ‘The Bead Shed’ which is in Carrara, a five-minute drive from where I live. I frequent this place A LOT.

Options that Didn’t Make the Cut

I always test out a few different beading options before settling on my favourite one. This is a great idea to do, but also very time consuming.

beading and crafts for fashion style

I considered beading tulle I painted blue with stones and beads to cover the stain area and create patterns along the dress. This didn’t look good at all though and was quickly ditched.

Another option was to use some silk I painted and beaded, but this too, didn’t look very good. All in all, I spent an extra 10 hours beading and trialling.

beading concepts scissors white blue

beading dress

More Pleats, Please

In the meantime I had decided the dress needed more pleats. Andrew was kind enough to drop off some extra fabric and the pleat template and give me some quick instructions on how to pleat the fabric at home.

how to make homemade pleated fabric

It was tricky, the fabric moves around and you need to use a lot of weights to spread the pleated template out- definitely a two-person job. I roped my younger brother into being my assistant pleater, and we spent the next 5 hours baking the extra flounces in the oven.

I pinned the pleats onto the dress, and although they looked good I still felt like it needed more pleats to fill it out more and to lengthen it. As we had used up all of the blue fabric, I asked Andrew for his other roll of blue fabric. It was a similar shade of blue, but darker in colour.

pile of pleated fabric

It sufficiently made another 5 pleats. Deciding where the pleats were to be placed was a difficult task to do on a mannequin, as it was hard to tell how a body would move in the dress and at what length to finish the pleats.

milano imai wearing melbourne cup outfit

I then bribed my friend Michelle into coming over and trying on the dress for me. Pinning on the last set of pleats and had a play around with the lace embellishments.

I tried putting the lace sporadically all over the dress, but it was just too much. Annoyingly, wherever I placed the lace, it seemed odd and out of place.

floral lace embellishments for races outfit

pinning lace embellishments onto race dress

I was very relieved when I finally trialled angling the lace down from one side of the dress to the other and leaving the other side plain. This took away the heaviness and left it looking beautiful.

Making of the Melbourne Cup Day Hat

Peacock Millinery Hat

For this outfit I had asked Belinda from Peacock Millinery, who makes me a hat every Spring Carnival, to make me a matching hat for this dress.

I originally wanted a Dior style Brim to suit the classic look of the dress but we ended up settling on a different design Belinda wanted to try. I love all of Belinda’s designs, they are so unique and intricate, you won’t find anything like her work out there.

We wanted to repeat the pleated detail and Belinda thought some pleated crinoline would be the perfect material to use. She came up with a swirl hat with feather flowers and a deeper blue ribbon tie to match the deeper colour of the pleats. As crinoline cannot be dyed, it had to be spray painted, but finding the right colour spray paint was difficult.

blue pleated fascinator millinery

A Backup Hat Option

Having a slight suspicion that the blue spray paint would differ from the blue of my dress, I also contacted Monika Neuhauser in New Zealand. I asked her to make me a sinamay Dior style brim, so I would have both options. I could always wear the other hat with my Oaks Day outfit- which was yet to be decided.

I sent Monika my fabric samples and we Skyped a few mornings to decide on the design elements. Monika did a fantastic job dying the sinamay to match my hat!

colour matching

hand dyed fabric

She also had some silk abaca which she thought would be great to use to adorn the hat with- this turned out to be a fantastic idea as silk abaca can be folded and pleated.

It was really fun working with Monika on this hat and having Skype calls to play around with ideas and discuss what looked good and what design elements we wanted.

simple millinery sketch

working and collaborating with a milliner

how to make a hat for the races in progress

Monika finally decided on this design and I LOVED it!!

Monika Neuhauser in New Zealand dior brim hat

I received the hat in the mail, happy to see it survived the trip from New Zealand.

melbourne cup outfit 2018

Adding some Finishing Details

I’m generally a little bit extra with my embellishments, and upon seeing the hat on the dress couldn’t help but think I wanted a little something extra on the hat.

I had recently taken the Ian Bennet workshop, where I learnt to make crystoform flowers. Happy to have some left over crystoform from the course, I purchased myself a cheap hot air gun from Bunnings and made as many flowers as I could with what I had left over.

I managed to sew them on and loved the way it finished off the hat beautifully.

Monika had also left me a spare piece of Silk Abaca which I sewed into a strip and used as a bandeu around the back of my head.

crystoform flower embellishments for millinery

crystoform clear flowers

Comparing my Two Hat Options

When Belinda’s hat arrived I tried both on with my dress, and as suspected the blue crinoline was too blue for my outfit, so I chose to wear my Dior brim hat and save Belinda’s hat for Oaks Day.

trying on different millinery to suit dress

My assistant Marge, AKA mum.

milano imai racing fashion blogger outfit trial

The Bag Saga

I had been eyeing off a Cult Gaia bag for about a month, a unique acrylic mother of pearl 3D clutch.

As I could only order one from America, I was hesitant to purchase. It was also way above any price I had ever paid for a bag before and I was also a little worried about the size of the clutch. In some photos, it looked a little big. But I really, really wanted it.

Cult Gaia acrylic mother of pearl clutch

The deciding factor to purchase it was when I saw Crystal Kimber rocking the pink version of the bag to the Everest FOTF event and saw that it was actually quite a minute cute size.

crystal kimber everest fotf rainbow skirt

Image: @crystalkimber

Only a week out from when I needed it, I jumped online to see if I could get one shipped in time. I also managed to find a site with a sale on, and thought I was getting the bag at a (bargain ha!) price of $270.

The site said it would arrive within 3 to 5 days via express courier, which meant that I would have it two days before my competition. Well, when it didn’t arrive on the Thursday (needing it by that Saturday) I nervously called the postal company who informed me the clutch was actually still in America, and there was a very slim chance it was on an overnight flight to Australia.

Hoping it wasn’t so, I called back the next morning and the lady again told me it was still in America and there was no hope of it arriving to me. I was advised to find a new bag. Not willing to give up and in a mild panic, I called the bag store in America. According to their records it was, indeed, in Australia!

Back to the postal company….they said it had actually just been scanned in Australia and would be on its way to me today. A whole lot of stress for nothing. I think I grew some grey hairs this day.

To make my grey hairs worse, when I checked my bank balance I realised the bag price was in American dollars and I had paid close to $500 for a bag!!!! I have never paid that much for an accessory before in my life! You will definitely be seeing this bag on Millinery Market! Please hire! haha

Rest of My Accessories

Bag in hand, the rest of my accessory choices were easy. I found some cute mother of pearl earrings at Lovisa for $19 and my shoes (already owned) were white with a clear heel (to match the clear flowers in my hat) and I painted the white part with an iridescent acrylic paint to match my bag.

lovisa earrings

Earring options at Lovisa.