FASHION: Milliner Claire Hahn on summer raceday style

A highly sought-after milliner, Claire Hahn’s creative styling flair has seen her win multiple fashions in the field titles over the years and her headwear is worn by many fashions in the field entrants here and around the world.

We chat to her about how to look chic in the heat this summer.

What key trends do you think will be big for spring and summer racedays?

I follow racewear closely so I’m always aware of what’s going on at a national and international level and this season, the key trend was tonal looks. So instead of a baby blue dress with orange hat and shoe, keep it all in one colour family.

Big floral prints are in, like those on this Dolce & Gabbana camellia-print dress

Florals are always on trend for spring and summer raceday attire, but this year the florals are bigger, bolder, more Dolce & Gabbana style.

A tonal shoe is also a slick look, so if you’re wearing a red dress, team it with a perfectly matched red shoe, or choose a shoe that is not a statement, but blends into the outfit.

Remember, the key focus should be on you, your millinery, your face and upper body rather than drawing the judge’s eye to the foot.

Go for a small shoulder bag rather than a clutch as they are effortless. Remember, the key trend is ultimately effortless style.

What sets someone apart from the crowd when everyone is immaculately dressed?

Claire on course at our recent twilight races

Someone who will always catch my eye is wearing a unique outfit; not ticking all the trend boxes but pushing all the trend boxes. Something that is a bit ‘you’.

Don’t forget that your hairstyle, makeup, and nails are part of your outfit.

Someone who presents with confidence is important. I understand stage fright as I used to get so nervous when competing, but as a judge it’s so lovely to watch people that are obviously pleased to be there.

What’s inspiring you in fashion now?

Although I don’t have the budget for it, I get inspired by high-end couture fashion, but I like to recreate the vibe in an accessible way.

At the moment, I am really feeling the 1960s and 1970s retro looks, but they need to be refined in a modern way, so it doesn’t look as though you a wearing a costume.

Should people start by choosing a headpiece or outfit first? As a milliner, do you have a preferred way to work?

Soraya Gurney, winner of last year's Millinery Award at the SkyCity Boxing Day Races, wearing one of Claire's designs

There’s no right or wrong way to do it, but I work better when people come to me with a key part of their outfit already as I am particularly good at telling people what millinery will work with their outfit.

If you fall in love with a piece, that’s a great way to start an outfit – even if it’s a necklace.

Building the rest of the outfit around that element is a good place to start.

What trends are big in millinery right now?

First, I really want to say that before people think about trends, people need to think about what suits the outfit and what suits their face. Don’t buy into a trend… following trends is great but being fashion forward is more important.

That said, rear fitting styles have been popular the last season, but that’s starting to change, and headwear is starting to move more to the front.

Texture and movement are important to consider.

Carena West winning MYER Fashions on the Field 2019 in one of Claire's headpieces

Up until Carena West won the MYER Fashions on the Field 2019 in Australia, headpieces were immobile.

I added feathers through the top of her headpiece so that when she moved her headpiece did too and I feel it gives the outfit a bit more depth to have a bit of movement. Plus, it catches the judge’s eyes.

How long do your clients allow for outfit styling?

It varies from milliner to milliner. A lot carry a lot of ready-to-wear, which is an option.

Claire with Carena at our recent Barfoot & Thompson Twilight Summer Night

I have a closing date, which I promote on my site and on social media.

Ultimately though, the sooner you book in, the better. I like to have all my clients looking quite different on the day so starting early means you get a better variety of fabrics and styles to choose from.

How do you choose a milliner?

We are fortunate to have many talented milliners in New Zealand, so start by researchin

g their previous work or find a milliner whose ready-to-wear line appeals to you.

It’s important that a milliner suits your personal aesthetic.

In fact, the other week a lady contacted me to make her a headband, but as it just wasn’t my aesthetic, I recommended someone else that I knew could create exactly what she was looking for.

Personally speaking, what do you love about raceday fashion?

Claire (a few years ago!) in the outfit that won her the national racewear title, Prix de Fashion

I love the creative process beforehand.

Try to enjoy it as it’s meant to be fun, it’s a rare opportunity to really put thought into our outfit and really dress up.

On that note, I am a big fan of honouring raceday style traditions. I don’t care where you buy your hat from, or whether you wear a fascinator, or if you just buy some ribbon from Spo

tlight and wind it through your ponytail, but I really believe you should put something on your head for raceday!

If you’re at Ellerslie and you don’t have something on your head, you’ll feel like you missed out on the opportunity.

What tips do you have for getting the whole look right?

Fashions in the field is not the same racewear you would wear to enjoy the day – it’s taking that up a level, so you do want to start early.

If people are new to racing fashion, then I suggest starting with research. There are great Facebook groups to join and pages to follow, and if you follow #fotf on Instagram, plenty of images will come up.

A quick search of #FOTF on Instagram provides plenty of racewear inspo

You will get inspired and see what the unwritten rules are, such as midi length versus mini, what is and isn’t appropriate.

I love to use Instagram for ideas as it’s such a visual reference.

But when you’re putting your look together know that racewear doesn’t need to be designer, couture or even custom-made.

In my opinion, it needs to be three things: a nod to tradition, setting a trend, and showing your unique personal style.

Have the foresight to put time into your look and be creative with your styling.

What next?

© 2021 Ellerslie

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