Imagine this. You put hours and hours of work into an outfit. You think you’ve done a pretty good job and are feeling quite pleased with yourself.

You enter yourself and your outfit into Fashions on the Field. And you fail. Miserably.

Do you bury the outfit deep in the back of the closet never to be looked upon again? Or would you have enough faith in yourself to recycle?

The Event that Made me Question my Style

I attended Derby Day at Flemington this year in a dress I designed and made together with my fabulous friend Andrew Semple.

We spent forever working on this dress and I loved it! (You can hear all about the making of the dress in my outfit design guide).

On stage, I was hopeful the judges would recognise all the planning, creativity and effort that went into my dress. But I was booted off without a second glance.

To say it was disheartening would be a lie. I was devastated!

Not only was I disappointed, it made me question my entire personal sense of fashion and style.

I was drowning in self-doubt.

A Second Chance – To Reuse or not to Reuse?

Then one Friday night a couple of weeks later, a friend casually mentioned that there was a FOTF event on the next day.

The prize was two return tickets to your choice of either Hong Kong, Beijing, Japan or Shanghai. A burning urge overcame me. I dragged out the dress.

With just 12 hours to get an outfit together for the Tattersall’s FOTF competition I didn’t have the time to shop.

And in any case, I wanted to wear my white dress one more time because hey… where else am I ever going to wear it?

It’s not exactly a party or dinner dress. Plus, I worked way too hard to have it go down as a one hit wonder.

I’ve never just re-used a complete outfit before. There’s always a voice in my head saying, “If you didn’t win the first time what makes you think it will win the next time?”

And other peoples’ voices saying, “Why is that woman wearing exactly the same outfit?”

But I’m all about re-working garments. I’ll take a skirt from here and put it there and take a dress apart, add new embellishments. Stick new features on a plain hat.

Examples of Times when I’ve Re-Worked Garments

As an example, here is my “Atlantis Dress”. I first wore it in 2013 for the QLD State Finals. I came second place and still absolutely love this dress.

Reusing racewear fashions on the field

I was determined to wear it again but as I’d worn it to the State Finals, I had to change it up before entering again later in the year at Spring Carnival.

Hundreds of hours were spent beading in some colour, adding fringing to the hem, making a new bag, sewing on three different necklaces and visiting my milliner Meredith McMaster to come up with a new hat.

My hard work paid off with a Top 10 Place at Oaks Day at Flemington which was a huge success for me!

Atlantis dress recycled embellishment

Here’s another outfit I put together using a top from my 2012 Melbourne Cup outfit, skirt from my 2014 Melbourne cup outfit and hat from 2013 Oaks Day outfit- accessories were all recycled too.

Reusing old race dress

But back to my story…

Wearing my White Dress – Take 2

Arriving at the racecourse in my ‘used’ white dress, I felt fantastic. Not so confident for Fashions on the Field but determined to enjoy the day with my friends regardless.

I got up on stage for the heats and was called through to the Top 5 prelim finals.


The judges debated for a really, really long time. Finally, as I stood shaking with anticipation, they announced the winner.


Shocked and overwhelmed, it was hard to keep the tears from flowing over.