You spend hours reading fashion blogs, shopping, planning, beading, painting, fitting, sewing and worrying.

You love what you’ve created. You feel gorgeous in it. You’re sure you’ll place.

And then you get up on stage… and don’t even make it past the heats. Not a sash in sight. Heart breaking??


Why didn’t the judges like my outfit?

Was I invisible up there?

As you scroll through your Instagram feed, it seems like everyone else is winning except you. Your feed is full of women wearing gorgeous outfits and a winning sash. Why can’t that be me?

Fashions on the Field Winners Instagram

Hmmmph ☹ Have you ever felt like this?

I have. I’ve been there many times.

Which is why I think it’s important to remind ladies, especially leading up to an exciting time for FOTF competitions, that if you don’t win or place, don’t despair.

You are not a fashion failure. Nor do you have sucky style.

Because here’s the tricky thing about fashion. It’s subjective. The winning sash is based on the opinion of a handful of discerning judges, each with their own style and fashion sense.

Fashions on the Field Judges

Image credit: Myer Blog.

You may look amazing, but one or more of the judges (for whatever reason):

• May not like A-Line skirts
• May not like pencil skirts
• May not like orange
• May not like your hair colour
• May not like the way you pose
• May not like butterflies
• May not like green
• May not be comfortable with your epic print clash
• May be thinking about lunch and rushing through the process

… see where I’m going with this?

So unless the judging panel is made up of fashion Gods like the head director of Vogue, Balmain or Chanel, a top milliner or race wear professionals, don’t take defeat too personally. And even then, everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

Trust yourself and if your killer creation doesn’t please the judges, wear it with pride anyway and get on with enjoying your day, millinery held high.

It’s not all about Winning

Make the day less about winning and more about having fun with your friends. Socialise, check out hunky suited up men, be inspired by all the beautiful fashion around you. Then place a bet and watch the race!

race friends

Another must is that if you love someone’s outfit, let them know!! There’s no better feeling than a complete stranger coming up and saying they love what you are wearing and how you’ve styled it.

Now, if all else fails and you still can’t stop yourself worrying about whether you will place or not, a little trick I sometimes like to use is to say to myself, “if you don’t make it to the finals, you can have a large cheesy crust vegetarian pizza with extra cheese and two scoops of Messina ice cream”, so it’s a win-win situation ;)

cheesy crust pizza

The Many Times I haven’t placed at Fashions on the Field

Hopefully these stories of my own FOTF failures will make you feel normal (or at least give you a giggle). Take comfort in knowing that even experienced race goers lose far more competitions than they win.

Girls Day Out 2020. This dress is by one of my favourite brands and what I loved most about this outfit is that I made my own millinery!! I was dying for a donut shaped hat and as usual had left it too late to purchase or get one made, so I got creative. It took me most of the day but I loved how it turned out and thought the teal mixed with fuchsia pink looked unreal together!

I didn’t place in this outfit, but I’m excited to restyle it for another outing later this year. 

Magic Millions 2020. I was hesitant to wear black and white to Magic Millions race day but it was my favourite outfit choice for the day so I went with it. I had so many lovely women come up and say this is one of their favourite outfits they’ve seen me in to date! I didn’t place but I will definitely wear this dress again!!

Image: Wendell Teodoro

This dress might take the cake as my all time favourite outfit! It was so much fun to create and everything just fell into place from the $12 per meter fabric I found, to how well my designer Mark crafted the gown (it fit me like a glove!), how beautifully the top detailing looked and of course paired with the most incredible Louise Macdonald Dior Brim hat!! 

I wore this dress to Derby Day 2019, and am still to this day obsessed with this dress. I didn’t place in this outfit but I did make it to Vogue, which in itself is a prize!!

Oaks Day 2019. I redesigned the top of my pink pleated dress to re-wear to Melbourne Cup Day. I also had a stunning piece of millinery created by Zorza from Taboo Millinery. It was a hand crafted and painted cascading peony piece that would have taken her SO many hours! It was truly beautiful. 

Posing with my dressmaker Mark.

I didn’t place in this outfit but I had a lot of fun restyling and redesigning the look!

I customised an Alex Perry Gown I bought on sale and wore it to Oaks Day 2018. I was so happy with how it turned out (and relieved as the original price tag was $2000 lol!). I loved the way it reminded me of an ocean with the sparkly white fabric of the dress as the sand and the blue pleated crinoline with oversized blue feather flowers as the crashing waves of the ocean. 

I didn’t place in this dress but I made it to Elle Magazine’s Best Dressed list!

This is another one of my all time favourite dresses. It took my dressmaker Andrew and I so many hours to make. The pleats were hand baked in the oven, I even painted the lace and embellished each individual flower with beads. I had a hat made by Monika Neuhauser who hand dyed some sinamay and silk abaca just the right shade of duck egg blue to match the dress.



I wore it to the QLD State Final in 2018 and didn’t place even though I was in love with this outfit. I even gave it another shot on Melbourne Cup Day that year and only made the heats.

Image: Wendell Teodoro

I actually wore this dress the next year and added sleeves for an Autumn race meet, but again, didn’t place. Maybe this dress just wasn’t destined for a placing haha!!

This is my ‘Night Garden’ dress- made by Andrew Semple and embellished by me, millinery by Meredith McMaster.

floral black race dress

I first wore it first to the Magic Millions Queensland State Final in January 2016. I didn’t make it past the first heat and I love this dress, so I was a little gutted.

Its second and third appearance was at the Pitt St Mall Myer NSW State Final and at Royal Randwick on the 8th of October, with a change of millinery: a new crown made by Peacock Millinery.

myer pitt street mall royal randwick

I didn’t place in these events either! Did I tear it to shreds in a frustrated fit of despair? No. I love this dress. And don’t be surprised if I whip it out again. Fourth time lucky right?

And how about these ensembles…

Derby Day 2015. A white leather and sheer panel dress made by Andrew Semple and I, with one of my favourite head pieces by Christie Millinery. I spent WEEEEEEKS on this dress, countless hours and a lot of money… and I didn’t make it past the first heat. Ouch!

Derby Day 2015 Milano Imai

Oaks Day 2015. Didn’t place. It was, however, a very last-minute outfit. I did learn from the last-minute scramble though that I will never arrive in Melbourne with an unplanned outfit ever again! The stress of it was a nightmare.

Oaks Day 2015 Milano Imai

Surf Life Saving Race Day December 2015. I wore a Cue floral printed midi skirt with a bright yellow Cue top. My millinery was by Kylie Heagney. Didn’t place, even though I thought I executed the theme rather well.

red yellow race dress milano imai

Oaks Day 2015- wearing a Tallulah Skirt from Myers, a Mossman dress worn underneath and pink and orange millinery by Peacock Millinery. Didn’t make the finals here either.

losing fashion at the races

January 2014. I’m not so sure what was going on with this outfit…so many colours and prints haha. Once again, didn’t place.

Disappointed racing fashion

However, and this is where I finish up by giving you hope, I slightly reworked two of the aforementioned outfits and wore them to other FOTF competitions. And came home with a sash!

So it just goes to show, maybe your outfit just wasn’t right for a particular comp, or a particular judging panel.

rewear races outfit


So, the moral of the story is, if you go home sash-less, don’t go home sash-less and sad.

Keep your hat on, have a laugh and a punt and put your outfit away for another day. If you feel a million bucks then that’s all that really matters <3


If you don’t think your outfit had a fair run, wear it again at a different race meet! Read this post about reusing and recycling outfits and give that killer outfit a second shot!