Thursday 17 January 2019

How to win the fashion stakes

Style setters are slipping into their glad rags and heading off to the best dressed competition at the Hennessy Gold Cup, writes Katie Byrne

One of the most anticipated fashion events in the racing calendar is under starter's orders. Expect high fashion, generous prizes and a stellar line-up of judges at the Hennessy Gold Cup Best Dressed competition at Leopardstown Racecourse this Sunday.

Now in its fifth year, the grand parade of winter fashion is attended by style setters from Ireland and abroad, many of whom go in hope of winning the first prize of a €4,000 shopping voucher for the Design Centre.

Contenders will be trying to make an impression on the judges, who include renowned milliner Philip Treacy (below right) and model Jasmine Guinness.

Aisling Kilduff (right), owner of the Design Centre, is also on the judging panel. She says the judges will be searching for stand-out style.

"We're looking for individual style. There's absolutely no problem taking a risk. I love people experimenting with fashion."

She also stresses the importance of headwear. "With Philip as a judge, it's very important that the person wears a hat or headpiece. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of a flock of coloured feathers. Go for something else. There are great things happening with hats and headpieces at the moment."

This doesn't always mean huge expense. The Design Centre stocks some very affordable options. Otherwise, Kilduff advises having a piece made or even making one yourself.

"There are Irish milliners who will make up a piece for €150. It's also nice to customise, if you're creative."

The weather needs to be considered, too. "It's really about weather-appropriate winter dressing. I'm not a fan of bare legs or fake tan. We see lots of women in summer slip dresses and they're walking around freezing." Other no-nos include inappropriate footwear and overly coordinated outfits.

However, while there are certain boxes that need to be ticked, the resounding advice from the judges is to put your own stamp on your outfit if you want to take gold in the style stakes.

Suitably Suited

Remember, this is a February race meeting, even if spring/summer dresses are already lining the rails in the shops. Bare legs and arms are considered a faux pas by those on the judging panel. Bring a shrug, stole or wrap if you are opting for a shorter sleeve. And don't forget a smart winter jacket.

Pre-races Grooming

Keep fake tan to a minimum and go for a daytime make-up palette. Hair should be freshly washed and styled, even if it's tucked up under a hat. A lick of nail polish will add the finishing touch.

Match made in hell

Irish women have a penchant for matched attires when they visit the races. The hat matches the shoes, the nail polish and the race card. Excessive matching looks old fashioned and garish. Leave colour coordinating to the horses' silks.

Think outside the box

Resist the temptation to plump for typical racing attire. Instead of a court shoe, consider a smart boot. Forget the ubiquitous fascinator, consider a pill box hat, cocktail hat or whimsy.

Past present

Originality is paramount for those who want to take gold in the style stakes. Search out vintage stores or look on eBay to find unique pieces that will give your outfit the edge.

Well heeled

Opt for a comfortable shoe that won't leave you limping. A wedge is perfect. It elongates the leg and adds height without impeding mobility.


Accessories doth maketh the outfit. Snap up a quirky headpiece, gloves or a vintage wrap.

Colour pop

We often associate winter race meetings with darker clothing palettes. The judges beg to differ. "Don't be afraid of colour," says Kilduff. "It's not to say that someone in head-to-toe black won't be considered, but I always like a pop of colour."

Contestants are encouraged to enter the competition by presenting themselves at the registration desk in the Hennessy Best Dressed marquee on Race Day. All contestants will receive a welcome pack and get the chance to meet the stylists from the Design Centre.

Make Up For Ever will be present in the marquee, offering ladies a chance to touch-up their make-up.

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