Melbourne Cup hats and fashion are the hallmark of Melbourne Spring Racing glamour. It is the time for race- and partygoers to go shopping for that unique outfit, fascinator or hat.
Fashion and Melbourne Cup hats have been a part of the races since the 1800s - very proper and conservative at that time.
Clothing became a bit more frivolous in the 1920s, but dress reverted back to being quite basic during the hard times of the 1930-40s.
It wasn't until the 60s that fashion took a more central role in the Cup and the conservative boundaries were blown to pieces.
The 'Fashions on the Field' competition was introduced in 1962 to entice women to the races and increase attendance. In the hippy era of the late 60s and 70s this competition was replace by not necessary glamorous Alternative Fashion Competitions. It wasn't until 1981 that 'Fashions on the Field' was reinstated as a stylish Melbourne Cup event.
Fashion competitions, such as Womens and Mens Racewear and Millinery and Design Awards, are now an essential part of the Melbourne Cup. The Cup, in fact, is as much a horse race as a showcase of elegance and style a parade of the best dressed, the fashionista and celebrities seeking to wow the crowd with a dazzling display of designer suits, new frocks and original outfits.
Fashion is becoming more and more important, and the Melbourne Cup a place to push the boundaries. Each year the parade of the best and worst dressed celebrities is keenly watched - perhaps even more so than the horses.
Following the tradition of English sophistication, stylish fascinators and hats have been an essential part of the Spring Racing fashion. While they used to be extravagantly decorated hats worn with feathers and boas, the recent style of headgear has been more minimalist.
Today they consist largely of fascinators - delicate frivolous headpieces, decorated with feathers, flowers or beads or other embellishments. However, classic pillbox style hats trimmed with eye covering netting as well as lavishly romantic designs are on the comeback with the popularity of vintage fashion.
There are many places to get yourself a hat or headpiece for the Melbourne Cup, possibilities that cover any price range.
With the popularity of vintage fashion you might get away with a great find from a vintage or op-shop. Some women have put together amazing outfits for less that $35 that way. If that's your style, you need to go hunting in the vintage outlets and markets.
For the creative, there are local Melbourne milliners with a freshness and artistic flair that think up the new and untried, or unusual hats with vintage appeal. Some of these milliners can be found in the Nicholas Building, such as Louise Macdonald, Mandy Murphy and Serena Lindeman.
On the other end of the spectrum you have the exquisite design of the couture hats. You can pick from their range or spoil yourself to an individual masterpiece by one of the exclusive Melbourne milliners such as Christiene's Millinery, Rebecca Share, Torb and Reiner, Hats From Oz, Paris Kyne or Julie Fleming.
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