Canterbury farmer Katie Flett takes on the Melbourne Cup fashion competition
Precision planning and steady nerves are required by those seeking to excel in Cup Week's fashion competitions at Riccarton and Addington this month.
Consistent frontrunner Katie Flett says it also pays to be more than a little obsessed with fashion trends. Katie was runner-up in the best-dressed lady style stakes at Addington last year and also won the high fashion award at Riccarton.
"I've always been a fashion enthusiast," Katie, who draws inspiration from European spring collections, says.
If she can't find what she wants on a rack, Katie will get it made by Christchurch dressmaker Jeanette Sinclair (House of Chantilly). She also favours bespoke hats by Pirongia milliner Monika Neuhauser and Christchurch's Helen Curtain (Faith & Hope Millinery).
Katie and husband Hamish are Rakaia dairy farmers, who are also busy raising three girls. For Katie, getting dressed up for raceday is a refreshing change from the routine realities of rural life.
"A few years ago, I was running a farm by myself while my husband was doing another farm; this was in the Waikato. I was sick of being covered in cow poo, so I thought I'd enter the fashions down in Canterbury. There I was, in the cowshed at 4am in the morning, looking for a dress online … I found a gorgeous Trelise Cooper dress and hired Monika to make a hat. It's still one of my favourite outfits."
It was Katie's first real taste of raceday competition – now she's hooked.
"I love celebrating being a woman and embracing my femininity. It's a wonderful creative outlet."
Australia-born Katie stepped up another level this year when she crossed the Tasman in April to enter the Myer Fashion on the Field contest at Sydney's Royal Randwick championships. The gorgeous black-and-white outfit she put together won her second place and a $6000 prize package.
"When you start doing well, it gets addictive and the prizes are so good."
This month, she is pitching for glory at the 2016 Melbourne Cup with three handpicked outfits.
"I've been inspired by what I've seen at Ascot, so I'll be taking a risk: one of my outfits is a beautiful flowing trouser suit in plush pink, accessorised with metallics and a big hat that I've had made. It's about pushing boundaries – that's what sets you apart."
At the time of this interview, Katie was still deciding whether to enter Cup Week's best-dressed competitions, but she is already dressing three of her friends.
"I'm not competitive in that way."
In terms of what should catch the judge's eye this month, Katie suggests it is likely to be large wide-brimmed hats, fresh pastels and full skirts.
"They will be looking for sophistication, clean lines and a well co-ordinated outfit where everything flows."
Katie's top tips:
Dress for body shape and height and accentuate good points without going over the top.
Avoid showing too much skin; skirts should be below the knee.
Be relaxed and confident, stand tall and take your time on and off stage.
Don't forget to smile.
Make sure you can walk confidently in high heels, or you will lose poise and posture.