Have you ever entered a Fashions on the Field event in another country?

I think it would be so interesting to see how the racing style, competition and overall feeling of the race day differs to Australia. (Plus, it’s a pretty good excuse to explore another part of the world.)

One of the bigger overseas events that is coming up is the Dubai World Cup, which this year will be held on Saturday 31st March.

dubai racing

Image credit: dubairacingclub.com

I’m curious to know what it’s like, so today I’m inviting Ana, Milliner and stylist from Ana Bella Millinery to share her tips and advice for attending the event.

Ana has had a succession of wins over the past few years at the Dubai World Cup, and will be one of the judges at this year’s event, so she’s the perfect person to fill us in.

About Ana

Ana is an Australian Milliner and owner of Ana Bella Millinery; her studio is based in London. The milliner is well known for her award winning mirror designs internationally.

She has worked with renowned stylist Gok Wan, shown during London Fashion week, London Hat Week, featured in Vogue, Grazia, Hello Magazine and placing in the top ten at the Melbourne Cup Millinery award three years running.

The current Ana Bella Millinery collection is stocked in the UK’s leading online Millinery website “Lovehats.com”, the USA at Shapoh hats, at the “Eternal Headonist” in Australia, as well as taking bespoke orders for events such as the Dubai world cup.

mirror design hat

The following is a guest post from Ana:

Why Dubai???

My love affair with the Dubai World Cup started when a stranger at Magic Millions (Australia) said to me “that outfit would do well in Dubai”…

I had just walked off the stage of the final top ten fashions at Magic Millions wearing my own design spike hat with acrylic gold flower, light green and gold floral print 30’s style fitted dress. This was back in early 2015 when I was working from my millinery studio in Cairns QLD.

green millinery fascinator

I had no idea that racing fashion was even something they did in Dubai, how strange I thought. As a keen traveller it made me very curious.

That evening- I researched Dubai, the fashions, the races, the prizes, and costs to see if it was even possible…. all answers led to “yes!! why not…have an adventure and get immersed in a totally different culture!!”.

A week later, in early January, I booked my flights and accommodation to Dubai. I took two weeks off from work so I could make the most of travelling around Dubai seeing the sights.

I’m a seasoned traveller and have made my own way travelling around the world, but this trip, I was to be accompanied by my now fiancé Anthony.

I organised a few basic things before I went over to Dubai, flights, our hotel and Dubai World Cup tickets.dubai world cup fashion at the races

I found out that the racetrack is pretty much in the desert, outside of the main city, so I made plans for our hotel to be in a more accessible part of town, next to a beach and not too far from the racetrack.

I packed my fashions outfit in my carry on bag, as well as my hat that I had to deconstruct due to the size of it, and put it back to together when I got to Dubai, just in case my bags get lost.

I also booked my flights a few days ahead of the world cup- just in case of flight delays. After all the money I spent on flights, hotels, tickets I didn’t want anything to ruin our adventure and miss the World Cup all together due to flight delays.

On my way to Dubai…

On my first trip to Dubai, we didn’t know anyone, I had no idea what I was doing, where I was going or what to expect. I just knew a few cultural rules of the country, I had to wear modest clothing, not show any public displays of affection in public, even holding my partners hand was off limits.

When you get to Dubai, you realise that some of these rules are not adhered to, but the further out you go, to more local places, these rules are quite strict. Just as a precaution I always note these rules when I’m in Dubai.

The day of the Dubai World Cup was very busy, I had booked a hotel which happened to have a hair salon downstairs in the Lobby- this reduced travel time and potentially getting lost not knowing my way around. I have always done my own makeup and try to book hair salons ahead of time using Facebook messenger to contact salons in Dubai to avoid time differences.

Another tip… one that we found out the hard way – men are not usually allowed into the hair salons in Dubai, my Fiancé was glared at and chaperoned out in a rush from one of the Salons when he accompanied me inside…. oooops! Dubai have separate men and women’s salons and the opposite sex is never allowed to enter. Some hotels with salons attached are more westernised and not as strict.

While in the hair salon attached to my hotel, I crossed my fingers, and gave my hair guy a photo of a hairdo I had on Pinterest. 40 minutes later, my luck, he made a lovely twisted style up do!

I went back upstairs, and enjoyed my favourite part of the day, getting dressed in my fabulous hat, and outfit I had travelled with all the way from Australia.

Meydan Hotel is the longest hotel in the world, which lines the racetrack for the Dubai World Cup. I would suggest taking a taxi on the day, as the traffic and parking can be hectic in a foreign country, especially driving on the wrong side of the road.

dubai races accomodation

After entering the racetrack, I had tickets for Apron Views area, I signed up to be part of the fashions competition at the administration desk, and then I had a bit of time to walk around. The day was long, and all the categories had heats to get through over 600 international contestants.

Fashion Categories

These are the categories from 2017, which you can enter in on the day, and some will allow you to pre-enter on the Dubai World Cup website. I’m not sure if you are able to enter into several categories or just one, you can check with administration on the day.

fashions on the field competition groups

In previous years, they have also had Longines Most Elegant Lady, although this wasn’t a category in 2017. 

I met contestants from Ireland, Australia, UK, Russia, and from all over the UAE. The competition was tough with many amazing and glamorous looking outfits from all over the world.

You never really know what the judges are looking for, but I just hoped to stand out among the crowd. Thinking back, my spike hat is what made my outfit stand out to the judges, it was the second outing for my “spike hat” after the Gold Coast and it was getting so much attention even before I went on stage because it was something no body had ever seen.

fashion at meydan racecourse

Mindset; having no expectations is the best way to approach most of the fashion competitions, then you don’t get upset if you don’t get anywhere with your style. You never really know what the judges are looking for. Just be confident and happy, enjoy your company and the experience, and best of all, enjoy your outfit, it’s not everyday you get to wear a hat and dress up as extravagantly to the races.

The fashions are run in heats, and I had entered the Best Dressed, and Best Hat category. From about 20 heats in each category I made it to the top ten finals of each, which in itself was pretty amazing, I thought.

By the end of the day, in 2015 I won the category Longines Most Elegant Lady with my spike hat and light green vintage inspired outfit, judged by a panel of professional judges.

Logines most elegant lady winner

I won a timeless Longines watch, silver, with a face lined with diamonds, presented by the famous Longines ambassadors that I still smile at each time I wear it out on special occasions, and to the races.

The Prizes

Each year the sponsors and prizes have changed. Some prizes are only redeemable in the United Arab Emirates, such as beauty and hair packages. So you will need the time to be there to use them, or as I have done given them away to friends who live there.

I have won some great prizes that I have been able to take home, like a mobile phone, my Longines watch, hotel stays, which I use when I get back to Dubai, and hair and make up prizes. I am waiting to come back to Dubai in 2018 in March to use my Top Shop voucher, as it is only redeemable in the UAE.

On the Day of the Dubai World Cup

Key timings:

  • Gates open at noon
  • Sign up for fashions before deadline cut off time otherwise you miss out (check these times on website when they are released)
  • Be at your category call time with your number to be presented to judges on stage
  • Horse racing starts at 3.45pm
  • The evening concert is an amazing display, fireworks and a grand performance by a major artist usually follows. In the past it has been Kylie Minogue, Janet Jackson and Sia.

Generally there are about 15 contestants in a heat on stage, where the judges pick finalists.

At the end of the heats, either your number will be called on the stage and asked to be held back and continue to the next round, or numbers of finalists will be called at the end of viewing the entire category and heats. Each year has been different. But each year they always have at least 300 contestants in category, so it’s tough out there ladies!

Because of the heat in Dubai, the horse racing starts later in the day, scheduled for 2018 at about 3.45pm, on World Cup day. See the 2017 Style Stakes schedule below.

competition schedule start time

What’s the Fashion like?

The Dubai World Cup Fashions attracts racing fashion and racing enthusiasts from all around the world. The result is a mix of fashion, from the very traditional British wide brimmed racing hats to a lot of ball gown and evening wear worn to the race track and everything in between.

It is not unusual to see a lady without a hat, those who aren’t used to wearing one, but there is certainly an effort made to dress up.

fashion at the races jaguar

In 2017 there was a rule guideline introduced for the racing fashion competition, it included such rules as; dresses need to be of modest length, but not ball gown, hats must be worn and straps wider than 2 cm which are similar rules to Royal Ascot.

competition rules

fashion at the races judges

These were some but not all of the rules. You would be best to do your own research for 2018 when they release the guide as that may be changed.

The day ended with fireworks, Kylie Minogue in full concert singing and dancing on a stage at the end of the track with thousands of racegoers. It was a spectacular day, lots of fun, with new friends made.

If you get a chance, have a look at the main entrance of the Meydan Hotel, which lines the track. This is adorned with beautiful real flowers and orchids, displays, exhibits, statues and is one of the most beautiful hotel lobbies I have ever seen. You may even want to book to stay at the hotel during the world cup.

I spent the rest of my holiday travelling around Dubai… my favourite tour was the Cultural Centre, sitting down and having a cultural meal with Emirates (pronounced emy-rah-teez), which is what you call the local people who live in Dubai. I would highly recommend that as part of your trip if you have time.

group dinner on floor

I also drove around the sand dunes in 4 wheel drives, dressed in traditional clothing and smoked some shishas in tents, rode on camels and went to Atlantis, a giant water park. It was truly an unforgettable holiday and experience I highly recommend.

2016 couldn’t keep me away from Dubai; there were plenty of friends and clients that had decided to attend the Dubai World Cup. I entered the “the Best Hat Category”, out of over 600 entrants on the day, and a completely different judging panel than the year before so you can be rest assured it’s an
even playing field, and to my surprise I won.

best hat category

The cherry on top of my win was that a client of mine (white dress in photo above) had placed as the “runner up best dressed Lady” and it was great watching her on stage.

I won’t bore you with more details, but in 2017 I flew from London to Dubai and entered into the “Best Dressed Lady category”, one which I had never been successful in.

Again a different judging panel, this time 6 judges were appointed and a new set of rules were introduced about attire and the judging (see above). I could see them having a very hard decision at the end of who was going to win the final prize. They announced I won the title of “Best Dressed Lady” in 2017.

jaguar style stakes fashion

fashion at the races competition best dressed lady

Tickets for the Dubai World Cup

I have always bought Apron View tickets, this enables you to go out to see the racetrack, go in to the fashions area, and also able to go to an eatery.