In that parallel universe of fashion known as racewear, a hat can make or break an outfit. But in an age when so few of us are accustomed to wearing millinery in our day-to-day lives, choosing a hat for the races can be daunting.
Wide-brimmed hats, statement headpieces, crowns and fascinators will always turn heads during the Spring Racing Carnival. But the key to getting it right is to curate your look based on your build, what flatters you most and keeping your overall outfit in balance.
Many of us struggle to find a hat to suit, making the mistake of chasing seasonal trends rather than remaining focused on the fundamentals. Millinery is all about feeling – and looking – good in the piece you’ve chosen.
We asked the experts for their tips on getting it right.
Small women look great in pillbox hats rather than oversized headpieces. Demure metal crowns or fascinators with lace or mesh can also work for more petite women. Taller women can opt for wider brims and millinery with height.
Milliner Ann Shoebridge says the general rule of thumb is to choose a brim no wider than your shoulders, unless you are exceptionally tall.
Milliner Brett Morley says it’s important to balance out your whole look. “The taller you are, the larger the hat can be, hence one tends to stand out more. The smaller you are, the more compact works best.”
David Jones senior buyer for millinery Sarah Clancy says red and navy will be big this season while metallic crowns and laser- cut pieces will return in black, gold, silver and white, with subtle splashes of colour.
But when choosing the colour of your hat, consider your skin tone as well as trends. Those with darker skin are spoiled for choice, says Christine Barro of Christine boutique. “Think white, cream, pale grey, soft pink and beautiful cherry red,” she says.
Those with paler skin should stick to darker colours to contrast and bring out their complexion, says milliner Danica Erard. “If you want to go for neutral tones, go for sandy/caramel shades rather than stark white millinery,” she says.
When it comes to outfits, millinery provides your point of difference. Opt for a shade different to your dress and match it back with accessories.
Understated crowns in gold and black are back this year and work wonderfully with lace dresses, shift styles and ’50s old-world glamour. They also look grand.
If you have a bright dress, don’t approach millinery with the same intent; accentuate rather than exaggerate your look.
Ann says the key is balance and proportion. “We can break and bend rules to create new looks. An example is the cult boater – it goes with anything, from sharp suits to floating dresses,” she says.
Danica wants you to think about structured style – a fedora with a pantsuit, crowns with full skirts or a fit-and-flare style dress. “Your outfit should not have to compete with your headwear,” she says.
“Try picking out the least dominant colour in your outfit, then exaggerate that colour up top. Never look for an exact match, as you will look too contrived.”
Christine says the key is balancing the propotions of your outfit with the shape of your hat. “If you have a long skirt with volume and a slim fitted top, then you can proportion it with a grand Cecil Beaton-style hat.”
Women with heart-shaped faces should try slanting their hat to one side to slim the face and draw attention to the eyes, while oblong faces should avoid tall pieces advises Brett Morley. “Think clean, sharp lines instead,” he says. “A full brim will look great and will bring balance to your shoulder line too.”
Sarah Clancy says hats with plenty of height work wonders for round and elongated faces. She says those with an oval face can opt for almost any type of millinery, while floppy hats work for rounder shapes and wider brims suit women with a square jawline.
- Ann Shoebridge annshoebridge.com
- Brett Morley Millinery brettmorley.com
- Christine Barro christineaccessories.com.au
- Danica Erard danicaerard.com.au
- The Eternal Headonist theeternalheadonist.com
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