What can you expect?

If you’re thinking about entering FOTF, you’re probably curious, excited and more than a little nervous.

But the nerves aren’t going to help you on the day, so I’m going to answer the thousands of questions running through your panicked head and give you a better idea of what actually happens behind the scenes.

Prepare for success!

The most prestigious FOTF event on the calendar is Spring Carnival at Flemington Racecourse. I’ll use it as my example as I share my personal behind the scenes experiences with you.

I’ve entered FOTF at Flemington for the last 3 years. And I do have minor bragging rights here, as I managed to place in the Top 10 the first two years and actually won first runner up on Melbourne Cup day last year.

It was an unexpected and exhilarating win for me and I still feel a silly sense of pure joy whenever I see the sash hanging on the wall.

There is an overwhelming number of beautiful people and fabulous outfits swanning around Spring Carnival. It’s a vibrant sea of colour.

You see some amazing millinery, and accessories you didn’t even know existed. There are colour combinations that will blow your mind, inspiring the fashion-minded well into the next year.

As a designer and lover of fashionable frocks, there are literally hundreds of outfits I wish I’d thought of before they did.

With all the fabulous-ness around, it can be unnerving for entrants of FOTF, especially if you tend to ride on the shy side. So I think a little run down of the day might help smooth the nerves and get you excited for a FOTF competition.

Step 1-Registration

Check the FOTF registration times. If you are late YOU WILL MISS OUT.

And while I’m on lateness, we all love a champagne breakfast, but they do tend to get in the way of a clear head. So save the bubbles for after the show and make registration ON TIME.

It’s ALWAYS a good idea to PRE-REGISTER. Spots can be limited, but more importantly, if you saw the painfully long line of, let’s say 500+ girls, you’ll understand why.

FOTF Entrant ID Tag

Upon registering, you will receive a number. This number is precious, don’t leave it in the loo.

Then you will be instructed when and where to line up for the heats. Make sure you know what time you have to be at your heat. It changes every day.

Step 2- The Heats

Arrive early.

Calm your nerves. Breathe. Wee. Whatever it is you do to relax, except probably don’t down a bottle of bubbly right here either.

You will hit the stage with around 10 other hopefuls.

FOTF catwalk stage

Picture: Angela Menz. Source: On Track On Trend.

At this point, all you are required to do is walk on stage in a line, stand still, then turn to show off your (hopefully) stunning outfit whilst displaying your number. Easy?

There is a panel of about 3 judges for the heats, but more judges will join the table once you get to the finals. The panel will make a quick decision and the numbers of the successful entrants will be read out by the host.

If your number is called, step forward on stage. A brilliant smile is appropriate here, perhaps no ‘whoop-whooping’ just yet.

If you make it through to the next round, you will exit to the back of the stage. Hooray!

If you don’t make it, exit to the left of the stage and go about your day. Now is the time for you to enjoy yourself.

The stress is over, drink champagne, win some money and check out all the spunky men in suits. Hooray! There’s always next year.

Step 3- Preliminary Finals

Otherwise known as ‘prelims’, so call it that and you won’t sound like a total novice.

If you make it this far you’ll know what a lengthy process this game is. Sometimes you have to wait it out for 30 heats.

Once all the heats are over, you are separated into 3 or 4 lines of around 10 girls depending on how many the judges have picked.

Someone will be there to brief you on where to walk on stage, but basically you just follow the person in front of you. You’ll probably walk to either side of the stage and return to the line-up.

FOTF catwalk stage

Picture: Angela Menz. Source: On Track On Trend.

Then, one by one you step forward, wow the judges with your outfit and dazzling smile while trying to maintain a composed and elegant vision of style and confidence. Yeah. Right.

Afterwards, all ladies exit the stage and head to the back where you (finally) get some complimentary champagne. I think you’re only supposed to have one… but you can usually charm your way to two or three glasses.

Then the whispers begin. Who do you think will win? Who do you think won’t?

If you keep a light-hearted attitude towards this part it’s fun, don’t get caught up in the narky side, it’s not classy. Meet some new people, make some friends. Be nice.

Step 4-The Finals

From here the 50 or so contestants are cut down to 10! And it happens really quickly.

It’s also here that 5 more judges, with a tad more prestige shall we say, join the panel.

Whilst you are back stage sipping (or guzzling) champagne and trying not to sweat or swear, the presenter announces the top ten finalists.

If you are one of the lucky ones, you fill out a questionnaire on what designers you are wearing, how much your outfit cost, your inspiration and colours etc.

This will be read out by the host as you return to the stage so plan what you are going to say beforehand to avoid embarrassing blunders.

If you have not made the cut :( you are welcome to stay backstage to watch on the TV screen or you can exit and watch from the arena.

You are briefed again on what to do on stage, but this time it’s more involved SO MAKE SURE YOU PAY ATTENTION.


FOTF catwalk twirl

Picture: Angela Menz. Source: On Track On Trend.

This is your last chance to shine.

Most of you won’t be professional models, but for this event, that’s exactly what you are so you had better get your best game on.

Practice. Watch fashion TV. Learn how to walk. Be confident.

If you aren’t confident- fake it. And smile! You don’t ever see timid, hunched-over types winning things like this.

The host is usually the lovely Jeff Banks, who is a famous designer and delightful man. He will read out your questionnaire answers and banter on while you each do your catwalk.

Once everyone has had their turn, judges may ask to get a better look at a contestant’s outfit. There also might be some serious discussion between the judges, then when they’re ready they announce the winners.

Flemington FOTF stage

First, they announce the second runner up, which means third place. If your number is called, step forward and you will be awarded a sash and goodie bag (keep an eye out for my upcoming post on FOTF prizes).

Then they announce first runner up. Unless it’s like last year, where the judges took a vote between first runner up and first place, so keep in mind this could happen too.

Finally the first prize winner is announced, everyone claps and cheers, and you will be needed for some press photos and interviews.

And that, my race-y friends, is my run down of what happens at a FOTF event.

If you are thinking about entering for the first time, before you do have a read of my 10 do’s and don’ts of racing fashion and 7 things I wish I knew when I was getting started.

Did I miss any key points? Share your personal FOTF experiences and funny stories in the comments section below!


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