Auckland Cup Week fashion®: Claire Hahn's tips for standout style on Vodafone Derby Day

In a sea of black and white outfits, it may seem like a challenge to stand out on Vodafone Derby Day - a day that hosts not one, not two but THREE racing fashion competitions.

But if you’re serious about making a good impression on the judges in these huge competitions, you have to pull out all the stops.

To give you a helping hand, we had a chat to past Prix de Fashion winner and milliner, Claire Hahn, who revealed her top tips for sensational Vodafone Derby Day style.

Claire on course here at Ellerslie at the New Zealand Bloodstock Karaka Million 2020
Claire on course here at Ellerslie at the New Zealand Bloodstock Karaka Million 2020

Play by the rules “Unless you’re prequalified for The Ned Prix de Fashion, I think it’s really important to pay a nod to tradition.

"In 2011, Burlesque performer and pin-up model Dita Von Teese attended the Melbourne Derby Day races wearing a ruby red dress and while she looked stunning, I really think it’s appropriate to stick to the monochromatic theme on Vodafone Derby Day.

"You don’t have to wear black and white; you can wear all black or all white, which is nice and clean. Elements of soft grey, cream, ivory and even metallic touches of gold can be used to ‘lift’ the outfit.”

Editor's note: We encourage spectators & racegoers to dress up to the theme of black &/or white but this is not essential. In addition, competitors in any of the day's fashion competitions should be aware that judges have been well-briefed that they are not to favour those contestants in black &/or white above those not in those colours.

Use texture and volume to stand out “Think about textures and how they work together. Touches of PVC and leather are on trend, while beading can be a great way to add something extra to your outfit.

"Movement is also key this season and feathers can add another element to the outfit; ostrich feathers fluttering on the breeze are sure to catch the judge’s eye.

"Volume is still on trend - in a big way!

"Just pick one area to supersize, such as a full skirt or sleeve to add drama and remember to work with your body shape.”

Don’t be afraid to be bold “This season is less about florals and more focused on bold, directional prints and retro style prints that pay homage to the 1960s and 1970s. Carena West’s winning outfit last year was a good example of this trend.

"A bit of glitz and sparkle is in this season too, so feel free to glam it up.

"Last Vodafone Derby Day, Carle Rutledge (2018 National Winner for Myer Fashions on the Field) was one of the judges of the day's fashion competitions and she wore a black sequin dress which looked amazing. Because it had full sleeves and wasn’t floor length, she was able to pull it off as daywear.

"So do express your personal style and individuality, but with a racewear spin.”

Scroll to view photos in gallery

Sweat the small stuff

“Really take the time to make sure the tiny details such as jewellery and accessories are perfect for your outfit.

"Statement earrings are still a go-to accessory, but they must work with your millinery and neckline. A long earring style won’t work with a higher neck.

"Bangles and cuffs are back in style, but they only suit a certain type of sleeve.

"A lot of clear acrylic box bags are being used for raceday, but they look strange when they are carried empty, so consider putting a nice piece of fabric inside that matches your outfit.

"This is one day where you need to sweat the small stuff. For example, gold earrings will clash with silver buckles on the shoe, so if you must get a gold pen from the stationery store and paint your shoe buckle - do it!

"Vodafone Derby Day is about that extra level of care as the competition is so high.

"Consider how your makeup works with the overall look too. People often think they need a bold red lip to stand out against a black and white outfit, but that’s not the case. It’s better to tailor your makeup to the theme of your outfit.”

Back of house is a supporting and fun (yet nervous!) place to be for our fashion entrants
Back of house is a supporting and fun (yet nervous!) place to be for our fashion entrants

Match your colourtones “It’s critical to match your blacks and whites perfectly as the wrong tone is so disconcerting and it’s such a shame when people have put so much time and money into their outfit, but the colours don’t quite match.

"Different textures throw the light differently, so you do need to check very carefully in daylight.

"On that note, you’ll need to match your lingerie to your outfit too. Organza is very on trend right now, but it needs the right camisole or slip underneath otherwise it looks untidy. And always wear flesh toned lingerie under white clothing.”

Aleisha Mitchell upon learning she had won The Ned Prix de Fashion 2019 (also wearing one of Claire's designs)
Aleisha Mitchell upon learning she had won The Ned Prix de Fashion 2019 (also wearing one of Claire's designs)

Headwear should work with the neckline

“Wear the correct fabric headwear for the season, so avoid winter fabrics like velvet and opt for summer ones such as sinamay or straw.

"There are always millinery trends, but this season I have made everything from super wide brim hats to donut style headbands.

"People are also requesting more vintage style hats that sit further back on the head.

"Whenever a customer comes to me for a headpiece, the first thing I ask is what their neckline is like. It is really important that your face is ‘open’, so a higher neck needs something sitting further back on the head to keep the face visible, while an open or lower neckline can afford a wider brim as you have more skin showing.”

Quick Tip “Last, but definitely not least... Make sure your shoes are well broken in. It’s such a long day and you don’t want to be limping by the end of it!”

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