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.