Melissa Barnes is a jack of all trades and master of many, which makes it all the more exciting for her recent State FOTF win! This win not only sees her entering the National Competition automatically in the top 10 of Australia but it has also inspired her to follow her long held passion of starting a racing fashion themed Boutique. Whilst Melissa has been a very much admired milliner for the last couple of years, she has decided to persue a different direction and focus more on her blogging, styling and gorgeous young family!
What made you get into FOTF?
I got into FOTF in when I started attending the races in Darwin. I had a case of beginner's luck at Darwin Cup in 2012 when I won best dressed despite being four months pregnant, it was the first time I had ever entered a competition! From there I think the love of FOTF came from being able to dress up for the races and go all out - there is no where else that you can dress like it. There is a part of me that thrives on fashion and I will admit I am completely addicted to it.
Tell us about your win this year and what it has meant for your love of FOTF, styling and blogging?
The win at Adelaide Cup was an amazing feeling. I remind myself not to take it too seriously because it is based on looks, which can be a bit superficial, but what I wear for the races is a reflection of my inner self too. Plus going to Melbourne to be part of the Spring Racing Carnival, being on stage and competing there just blows my mind because only a select few ever get to do it. I feel really lucky!
I was shocked to win the State final as my friend Bec had a gorgeous outfit on that I thought would catch the judges eye. I was thrilled that we got 1st and 2nd because we were both wearing SA designed items, me with my blue twist top and Bec with her pink dress. Cristina from Couture Love Madness helped complete my look and I was so proud to be supporting someone local.
What does this in mean for my blogging? Well I guess it puts my style out there for people to see and gives others an example of what they can do when planning their own outfit. It's shows people how I like to dress and blogging gives me an opportunity to share the experience it with others.
What has been your greatest experience so far with FOTF, blogging and styling.
My greatest experience with FOTF is making new friends and being part of a community. I really value the connections I make with people through FOTF and the races. I started blogging because I love sharing - the best experiences are when I get comments from ladies saying how much they enjoy what I write about.
Are there any particular milliners you are partial to or look up to?
Oh my gosh yes there are SO many milliners I love... it all started with admiring Belinda from Peacock Millinery and from there I have been really drawn to innovative designers. I love work by Reny Kestel, Martha Lyn Millinery, Joanna Roberts, Jill Humphries, Louise MacDonald and Lynette from Love Lotus (there are lots of others). Their work just has an instant WOW factor and the highest level of quality. I would love to own something made by any of them!
What trends do you see on the rise for this year?
Trends are a topic which I talk a lot about but don't really follow too much. Crowns are everywhere at the moment but I personally don't feel comfortable wearing them. I love ruffles and I think we will see lots of them coming into spring along with other structured silhouettes. The problem with trends is that everyone starts to look the same after a while. I think we need to take trends with a grain of salt and put our own spin on them. Don't wear something just because it's 'on trend'. Wear it because use you love it!
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I get inspiration from everything and everyone. I collect pictures of things I see and then sometimes draw my own take on them. I use Pinterest to find fashion inspiration from the past and present. I also follow lots of instagram accounts including stylists, other racewear enthusiasts, local fashion labels and of course luxury designers!
What is something you would like other milliners to know about FOTF and the headwear they create both as a milliner and entrant?
If you are making headpieces for other people to enter FOTF in then quality, originality and passion are key. More milliners are calling out copy cats these days to protect the hard work they have invested in their business. It's important to use other people's work as inspiration not for replication.
What do you like about FOTF? Is there a particular reason you are drawn to the process?
I get up on stage in a hat I have made myself because I love to dress up, not because I want people to buy what I'm wearing. I enjoy being part of the creative process from head to toe. Making my own hats to wear is where my love for FOTF started. I'm also a bit of a control freak ha ha and I like to be able to match colours accurately or change my mind at the last minute (which always happens).
What do you like or dislike seeing on fashions on the field?
I like seeing variety and personality. Although there is an element of tradition when dressing for the races I think there is so much you can do within those parameters. The only thing I dislike seeing is when girls show off a lot of skin at the races, especially if they are judges. I'm a bit of a 'fuddy duddy' I know but I really think the dress standard of the races and FOTF in particular should be upheld. I'm sure this will change in the future and I like seeing outfits that test those boundaries.
Advice for Budding FOTF entrants, bloggers and stylists?
Advice for FOTF entrants is easy... Just be yourself and let your personality shine through. Smile, be happy on stage and enjoy the experience. Do a bit of research if there are themed days and make sure you dress to the weather. Lots of people ask me that question which is why I have made Racewear Carousel a hub for that kind of information, if you are a first timer it's a great place to get some inspiration or advice. As for bloggers I would say keep sharing what you love.
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