If you are anything like me, last minute changes to your race outfit are inevitable.

One thing you should always have on hand is an extra hat.

The Go-To hat. The saviour.

The kind of hat you can play around with; cut, twist, paint, cover… whatever it takes to make it work with your outfit. A must-have when trying to cope with the mad panic you’re in the night before.

On many occasions I’ve had a beautiful hat made, just to discover (to my horror) it does not quite suit the outfit.

In this situation, don’t despair, you can wear the hat later. You will find an outfit that does work with your new, gorgeous and probably expensive hat.

But what to do in the meantime? The FOTF event is only hours away!

What makes a good Go-To Hat

A suitable hat for last minute panics is one that has a good base and a plain colour- black, white, cream. Or a block colour that you think can tie in well with other colours and outfits.

Start with a percher, or pill box, something without too much detail. You want to be able to add features to the hat, so if it already has a dominant embellishment, it won’t do.

If the only hat you do have is one with a large detail feature, you should be able to remove it. They are usually sewn on, so just take it off and work with the base, replacing the feature at a later date if you need it.

basic hat shapes Kylie Heagney Millinery

Some great basic shapes by Kylie Heagney Millinery whose hats can be purchased at The Hat Box in Brisbane

Below are a few examples of shapes I would recommend that would be suitable to change up and play around with.

felt hat to reuse and revamp

The hat shown above by MajoriBanks Millinery is a great shape and you could remove the felt twirls and add any kind of floral embellishments or feathers.

jack and jill millinery plain base

These hats by Jack and Jill Millinery are also great shapes that go with most styles of outfits.

After you’ve worn it a few times, you could remove the embellishments and add coloured quills, feathers, flowers, leather trims, Perspex, pretty much anything you can find!

peacock millinery boater hat

This boater by Peacock Millinery would be fun to play around with.

You could remove the flowers and add a ribbon trim around the top or add different embellishments where the flowers were. Or even paint it!

reuse embellish hat base

Even something like the shape of this hat base from The Hat Box is workable.

After a few wears, you could remove the silk abaca detailing or even swap it out for another colour to match your outfit and add new details.

A little about my Go-To Hat

You may be able to guess this – my Go-To Hat is one I purchased from The Hat Box in Brisbane.

It’s by Kylie Heagney. A black percher that sits high on my forehead, covered with a low gloss sequin detail and a small arrangement of black feathers at the back.

trusted go to hat base

I have worn this hat – I’m a little embarrassed to say it… 5 times!!

Each time I have embellished it slightly, to suit my outfit and to hide the fact I am yet again wearing my Go-To Hat.

Looking for your go-to hat? If you haven’t discovered Millinery Market yet, I encourage you to check it out! It’s the first online marketplace allowing you to rent or buy new and used hats. You’ll even find my go-to hat on there for hire!

buy rent hat fascinator millinery headpiece

How I embellish my Hat to suit my Outfit

Over the years I have learnt to curl feathers and quills- with a hair curler.

Curl feathers and quills with hair curler

And it’s surprisingly easy to paint embellishments and sew them on the hat, or when I’m in a hurry… a hot glue gun. You can see how I painted white flowers in my Magic Millions outfit video.

Paint embellishments to reuse hats

I have also learned that using wire can make things sit exactly where I want them and can be great to attach to the base of a hat when you can’t get a needle through.

You can buy thin bendable wire from Spotlight and other craft stores in the section where they have the fake flowers.

Having a base allows you to play around a bit. Even with limited skills, you can sew pretty much anything and everything on.

For more ideas on how to embellish your outfit, check out this post about embellishing.

So let’s take a look at the many occasions my black percher has made an appearance…

Appearance #1 – 2013 Prime Minister’s Cup Race Day

The first event I wore it to was Prime Minister’s Cup in 2013. I had tan accessories so sewed on three little brown flowers to my hat. I placed first at this FOTF.

revamped brown flowers prime minister's cup

Appearance #2 – 2014 Queensland State Finals

The next time I wore my hat was to the Queensland State Finals. I purchased a beautiful white felt hat by @ladyofleisuremillinery but when it arrived the day before it didn’t sit right with my outfit. I am still dying to wear that hat, maybe this Autumn/Winter season!

The night before the competition, I removed the brown flowers, sewed on a black and white pheasant feather that I took off the white felt hat I purchased and covered the sequin base in the same black mesh I used on the panels of my dress. I placed second in this comp!

pheasant feather and black mesh embellishment

With the lovely Kacey @Giddyupfashion.

Appearance #3 – 2014 Melbourne Cup Day

The next appearance was on Melbourne Cup Day at Flemington Racecourse 2014. I wasn’t planning to attend Spring Carnival but my friend Dee, who lives in Melbourne, was looking forward to going and convinced me to come.

A week of mad outfit-planning and many failed attempts, I got out my trusty Go-To Hat to wear with an Aurelio Costarella teal silk dress and Cue pencil skirt worn over the top which I embellished with beads.

To the hat, I added some blue biot feathers (purchased from Spotlight) and mesh petals that I wired into the shape of a flower that hovered in the air.

blue biot feathers mesh petals revamped hat

Appearance #4 – 2016 Surf Life Saving Race Day

My hat was not yet ready to retire. For the red and yellow themed Surf Life Saving Race Day I gave myself the task of putting together an outfit from pieces I already owned in my wardrobe.

My black hat suited my outfit perfectly and I got to work the night before with embellishments. I sewed on a big red hibiscus flower and three smaller yellow flowers, re-working the mesh petals to place them in-between the flowers.

I also curled two black quills and sewed them on. I actually ended up winning Best Millinery which was a total shock to me!

red yellow hibiscus flower fascinator

Appearance #5 – 2016 Prime Minister’s Cup Race Day

The last time I wore this hat was recently, to the Prime Ministers Cup Carnival. I had a hat made by @Meredithmcmastermillinery but when I received it and tried it all on together, the pink tones weren’t quite right for my outfit. I did a last minute swap, saving Meredith’s millinery for a later date.

My percher worked well with the feel of the outfit and I decided to go with it. I kept the quills that were already on it and added some spikey, black plastic boubles. Then I curled two burgundy pheasant feathers and sewed them on. I placed second at this event :)

black spiky feathers reuse hat

reusing black sequin hat


As you can see, even though I am wearing the same hat, a few added embellishments here and there can really change the whole look of it!

I purchased this hat for $560, which at the time was expensive for me… but when you divide it by the number of times I’ve worn it, it’s actually not too bad. I’ve really got my money’s worth.

I hope I’ve given you some inspiration on how to re-work your hats, as it will save you the cost of buying new millinery for every race event you attend.


So, do you have a Go-To hat? If not, come shop the millinery store and browse beautiful hats from talented Australian milliners. It’s a great way to get inspiration and discover new milliners and styles. 

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy reading ‘Is it okay to Reuse or Recycle Raceday Outfits?

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