I know I say this every year… but, seriously, I think this spring season would have to be my favourite compilation of FOTF outfits ever!!

My fabulous new dressmaker, Mark Blake, created two gorgeous custom-made dresses for me and my third dress, equally as stunning, came from brand, Solace London.

milano imai 2019 spring carnival outfits

My outfits this year for (L-R) Derby Day, Melbourne Cup Day and Oaks Day

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 2019 came about with a behind-the-scenes peak into the adventure of each outfit.

This post (Part 1) will tell the story of my Derby Day outfit. In Part 2 and 3, I cover my Melbourne Cup Day and Oaks Day outfits.

My Dress Maker

Last year I was watching the Myer Design Award competition where I spotted a beauuutiful floral full skirt dress on the catwalk.

floral multicolour designer dress by mark blake

Image: @bymarkblake

I instantly fell in love with the design and knew I wanted to have something made by this designer. I found out he was Mark Blake, a design student from RMIT (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology) in Melbourne.

When it was time to start thinking about my Spring Carnival outfits, I contacted Mark and said I wanted one, or possibly two, dresses for the upcoming carnival. We had a Skype call to discuss designs, prices and time frames.

I am very hands-on when it comes to the creative process. Meeting the dress maker is important to me, to get a better idea of their style and to talk through ideas, making sure they’re in line with my personal style. Around this time, I had already decided I wanted to have some fabric pleated at Specialty Pleaters in Melbourne for an outfit, and decided a trip to Melbourne to kill two birds with one stone was in order. Plus, I had a two-night stay at Sofitel on Collins that I won at Derby Day last year and was about to expire. I promptly booked the hotel and booked my flights.

outfit design brainstorming and sketches

My first meeting with Mark! Isn’t he such a darlin?

A couple of weeks later there I was. Mark came to meet me at the hotel. We discussed ideas and fabrics, drew up some sketches and the look I wanted to achieve, as well as taking my measurements.

It was really great meeting Mark as I felt like he was very capable of executing any design and concept and also had fantastic taste of his own- as well as being super friendly and very easy to work with.

The Design

Mark’s floral dress from his Design Award entry was an inspiration. I absolutely loved the structure of the very fitted waist and big volume in the skirt. I wanted to change the top design, so we set off adding different top ideas to our shared Pinterest board (sorry I can’t share it here, it’s top secret hehe).

sketch for dress

As the dress was very full at the bottom, I wanted to balance it out by having one shoulder bare. I wanted a cutout on the shoulder to show some skin and lighten the look.

I also wanted a big bow on my shoulder for a fun added feature. I told Mark the back had to be just as fancy as the front, and he came up with an epic cutout for the back too.

hand sketch for derby day dress

Mark’s sketch is much better than mine

The Fabric

In the lead up to my Melbourne trip, I visited all the good fabric shops in Brisbane and the Gold Coast. I was open to options, colours and prints as I really didn’t have anything specific in mind.

My search resulted in one fabric, a leopard print with a lurex sheen through it from The Fabric Store. I don’t know what drew me to it, whether it was the sheen or the print, or because it was on sale for $12 a meter (I love a bargain)!!

fabric shopping for diy dress leopard print

Knowing I was going to Melbourne and there would be a better variety of fabrics, I held off.

When I met with my dressmaker, we trammed around Brunswick and walked up and down streets hunting down fabric shops, in the pouring rain of course. Nothing really grabbed my attention though, and panic started to seep in.

race day dress fabric shopping