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.
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.
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!
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.
We discussed silhouettes, threw around some ideas and Andrew sketched up some ideas.
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
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.
Over the next few weeks, Andrew made the dress and painted the tulle bodice in the same blue colour as the dress.
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…
When I came over the next time, we played around with the position of the pleats, moving them around till they were just right.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I was wrong.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Monika finally decided on this design and I LOVED it!!
I received the hat in the mail, happy to see it survived the trip from New Zealand.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Finished Look
This would have to be my favourite outfit ever, and with the amount of messages and compliments I received about this outfit, I think it was a favourite among many!!
I only made the prelims on Melbourne Cup Day, but made Elle Magazine Australia’s Top 8 Most Stunning Spring Carnival Looks (twice 😉 )
If you like hearing the story of how my race day outfits come together, be sure to keep an eye out for my next blog post where I show you how I made my Oaks Day outfit.
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Spring Trends Report
The 2018 Spring / Summer Racing Fashion Trends Report. A 39 page comprehensive guide to what's trending this race season. Plus, you'll receive exclusive weekly fashion tips to help you stand out at your next race event.