My first Fashions-on-the-Field (FOTF) competition was 5 years ago, after a long drive all the way out to Beaudesert.

My (then) pink and purple hair was down and curled around my shoulders. I wore an after-five dress, a pair of heels that didn’t really match and a wide brimmed black and cream sinamay hat with a big bow. The only hat I owned. I adored it!

I don’t even think I had a clutch or accessories. Rookie.

Beginner Lessons Learnt Racing Fashion

Fast forward 5 years and, thankfully, my style has changed.

I have learnt A LOT about Field Fashion. My own personal style, in my modest opinion, has evolved into a much classier, race-appropriate, non-purple-hair style.

So, for those of you just starting out, I’ve made a list of 7 things I wish I knew when starting out in Fashions on the Field to help jump the queue.

Lesson 1 – Can’t find it? Paint it.

When I can’t find accessories that are an exact match, I get creative with paint.

It’s a lot easier than you think.

Acrylic paint covers most surfaces and works really well on leather.

So far, I’ve painted tan shoes white, a bright orange clutch blue, the white foam flowers on my hat blue, leather panels on my dress white and an orange beaded necklace a burnt orange colour. Click here to see examples of hand painted racewear and accessories.

You can see how I painted the hat and clutch shown below in my Magic Millions outfit video.

Paint Millinery Fascinator Hat Flower White Blue

Paint Clutch Handbag Orange Blue DIY Design

When using acrylic paint, you will need to use a few coats though, and it is really important to have a soft bristle paintbrush or you’ll see all the paint strokes.

This handy money-saving trick will save you loads of time surfing the net and racing through department stores and, this way, you can mix paint colours to get the exact match.

Lesson 2 – Don’t be too ‘Matchy Matchy’

Something I’ve been guilty of is trying to make my outfits match too much. It’s okay in small doses, but over-match and your outfit will look dated.

Find complementary colours or textures that go well together, but using the same fabric in the dress, millinery and accessory is too much and will lose you points with FOTF judges.

One year I had a Perspex clutch, so I lined it with some fabric from my dress and beaded it the same way I had beaded my dress. Then I used the same sequins on my dress to embellish my hat.

Blah. Overkill.

Looking back now, I would have opted for a nice plain clutch and a hat that complimented the colours in my outfit.

Matching dress clutch embellishment couture

Matching spring racing dress outfit

Photo by Fabulous Femme.

Lesson 3 – Invest in your Millinery

The first hat I ever purchased was $150 and I thought THAT was expensive.

Then I visited my first ‘proper’ hat store, “The Hat Box,” in Brisbane and realised what ‘expensive’ really meant.

I fell in love with a chartreuse sequin sinamay hat and, even though it carried the seemingly ludicrous price tag of $560, I had to have it.

Wearing that new expensive yellow hat in a FOTF competition changed everything for me.

I felt sophisticated and classy. People complimented my millinery and it made my outfit stand out. I was hooked.

From there, I went on to complete a millinery course and I was awakened to the level of hard work, time and love that goes into a hat!

Hours upon hours of fine craftsmanship and intricate detailing goes into these things and now I understand the price tags.

Fascinators Millinery Hats White yellow pink orange

So far I’ve had 3 hats made especially for an outfit and I’ve purchased 3 off-the-shelf hats because if you’re planning on seriously competing in FOTF you have to invest in millinery.

It is expensive, but you can wear a hat more than once. Or sell it on once you have worn it.

I have a hat that’s been worn and embellished five different ways to cover five Race Days and I’ve placed four times wearing it.

A big part of the judging criteria is your headwear and how it complements your outfit. Often the judging panel is made up of milliners and they will be keeping an eye out for great headwear.

So, having a custom bespoke hat made for your outfit will give you a better chance of taking home a sash. Check out my millinery store to discover milliners and browse different hat styles.

Lesson 4 – Start Planning Early!

I know, I know, I’m such a hypocrite! I am a self-proclaimed last-minute queen.

I know first-hand that spending sleepless nights working on your outfit the week before a race event isn’t ideal. You won’t be able keep your eyes open on the day and, let’s face it, if you fall off the stage, you won’t win.

A winning outfit, with perfect detail and millinery, takes planning. Three months before an event is a good time to start looking around for inspiration.

Check out my outfit design guide to see how much planning went into my white ‘Leather n Lace Dress’ that I wore to the Tattersall’s Celebration Season Race Day FOTF competition.

Fashion Design Sketch DIY Sewing Patterns

Tattersalls Celebration raceday fashions on the field

Lesson 5 – Your clutch is not a handbag

Don’t bother trying to cram everything into your completely impractical, but amazing looking, clutch.

There’s nothing worse than holding onto a choc-a-block bag for dear life so it doesn’t pop open at any moment.

Buy miniature size items for your clutch, or carry a spare bag. If you are entering FOTF, you’ll need to touch up makeup and be prepared for, well, anything.

Click here to see what I pack in my race day handbag.

Clutch handbag purse raceday racing fashion

Handbag Contents makeup purse

Lesson 6 – Comfortable Shoes

Choose your shoes wisely. Comfortable shoes are a MUST.

Your heels will sink into the grass and you will be standing for most of the day. Seating is usually quite limited and there is a lot of walking to do – especially around Flemington which is a huge racecourse!

If you insist on wearing a spectacular-uncomfortable pair, then wear them in first or get them stretched.

Another option- pack a pair of flats. You won’t think you’ll need them, but you might come 4pm. It’s hard work trying to convince a savvy man in flat shoes to swap with you.

Comfortable ballet flats shoes raceday feet sore hurt

Lesson 7 – Hair is an addition to your Millinery

Getting your hair done, in my opinion, adds points to your overall FOTF outfit.

If you have a big hat you need to accompany it with a BIG up-do. A beautiful up-do in itself can be a work of art that makes you look even more polished.

Doing your own hair on the morning of, is stressful – especially if you are like me and your go-to style is the donut which you are YET to perfect, and usually ends in tears.

The last two years I’ve been having my hair styled and I wouldn’t go back to doing it myself.

It saves me time, stress and your hair stylist will work your hair around your hat making it secure on your head, ready for windy weather and a long day at the races.

In my post about races hairstyles I cover the most popular hairstyles with plenty of photo examples.

Hair hairstyle millinery hat fascinator hairdresser

Hair Style Races Fascinator Millinery Hat Hairdresser


What are some things you wish you knew when starting out in FOTF? List them in the comments below and let’s help our friends who are just getting started in the world of racing fashion.

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