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Here’s why you should choose your headpiece before your dress

Spring Racing Campaign image


Your race day look is incomplete without an appropriate headpiece 

Delicately attaching an accessory to your head is – for most of us – only a sometimes thing. So when choosing a fascinator or hat for the races, it’s important to choose well. 

To help you make the perfect selection for your race day look, we spoke to milliner Chantelle Ford of Ford Millinery on how to make sure your head wear complements your racing carnival style.   

JONES: What’s the first thing to consider when choosing a head piece for the races?

Chantelle Ford: Choose a headpiece that excites you and build your outfit around it. The “buy the dress first and find a hat to match” myth can land you in a world of panic when you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for, and it’s also a wasted opportunity to look spectacular from head-to-toe. We have endless opportunities to wear a beautiful dress – birthdays, weddings; a night out on the town – but where else can you rock a killer headpiece? 

J: For someone who has never shopped for racing head wear, what’s your first piece of advice? 

CF: Unlike a dress, a headpiece can’t make your bum look big, so there’s no reason to talk yourself out of buying an incredible headpiece you fall in love with at first sight! Give yourself permission to look SENSATIONAL and say YES to the excited voice inside your head that says WOW! That headpiece is phenomenal!

There’s no perfect shape or face for headwear, so tell any doubts to shush and go for it. If you’re not accustomed to wearing headwear, it is natural to feel a little unsure wearing something ornate on your head. But I assure you, what feels ridiculous in the shop will fit right in on race day. Choose something you love, find an attitude to match and you’ll feel a million bucks on race day!

J: Does your face shape determine what styles will suit you?

CF: I have a non-traditional approach to design and believe that even the strictest “rules” should be re-evaluated from time to time, to ensure your look is always relevant. For Ford Millinery I consciously aim to design headwear that can suit almost any face/head shape or size. This is one of my greatest challenges as a designer, but also one of the things I love most about what I do. A woman can choose what she loves based on her personal preference, rather than bow down to imposed limitations.

J: Tell us honestly, does your head piece have to match your shoes?

CF: Absolutely not! Match, clash or co-tone – there’s no hard and fast rule. For a more traditional look, matching your headpiece, shoes and clutch is the way to go. For a more modern look, I like to consider what the outfit “needs” in terms of an overall look... Is it too busy? Does it need some simpler earrings or less lace to break things up? Does it want some texture – e.g. velvet or metallic – to add romance or fierceness? Consider the base colours or features of an outfit and use accessories to help make them pop.


MARCS ‘Emerald City’ lace dress in green $329.95. FORD MILLINERY ‘Starlight’ headpiece in gold $119.95. TONY BIANCO ‘Kalipso’ heel in black kid suede $199.95. MARCS ‘Emerald City’ lace dress in green. FORD MILLINERY ‘Starlight’ headpiece in gold. TONY BIANCO ‘Kalipso’ heel in black kid suede.


J: Which styles, shapes and colours are on trend this season?

CF: Red is a huge player this season, and you can’t go past teaming a gold headpiece with a solid red outfit – hot! Blush tones are also in, and look lovely with delicate jewelled headpieces, gold metallics and overtly femme florale pieces. Black and white return – hello Derby Day – but this season it’s all about rocking the one statement piece. For your head wear, opt for confident designs, interesting shapes and more structured pieces. 

J: Wearing headwear on race day is an important tradition, can you tell us something about the history of racing headwear that we might not know?

CF: Historical photos of the carnival show seas of men in hats, but where were the women? Presumably not as interested in gambling! So in the ’60s racing fashion competitions were introduced to entice women to attend. Millinery was also a status symbol and statement of individuality. The more fabulous the headpiece, the more fabulous the woman; nothing has changed there!

J: Fascinators, broad brims, fedoras… how do you know which style to choose?

CF: When shopping, consider size and colour, but also learn to trust your style instincts. For inspiration you can also look at womenswear trends in general. What’s the vibe? Boho? Military? Blush? How would you accessorise to enhance that overall look?

J: Head wear aside, any spring racing style advice?

CF: Spring racing style is not the same as Spring fashion. Anyone can piece together a killer look for the season, but to be a convincing race wear fashionista, you’ll need to tone up your confidence and walk the line that intersects elegance, high fashion and character. When in doubt – more is more.

J: What are three things you always have in your race day clutch?  

CF: My race day clutch is a survival kit and contains far more than three mandatory items! Top three though? Bobby-pins for unexpectedly windy days – windy days and hats aren’t best friends – Band-Aids, and hopefully a birdcage pass!

Ford Millinery is available instore at David Jones

Feeling inspired?

Shop Spring Racing headwear online now