A relaxed top hat combines comfort and casual style.
In the same way that there is a noticeable difference between a cool Spring day and a hot Summer night, there’s just as much a difference between the hat you might choose to wear to, say, the Melbourne Cup Carnival races in November, and another style you don for a Summer race meeting in late January.
We sat down with Jill Humphries, one of the busiest full time milliners in Australia. Over the past few years, she has handmade over 300 winning Fashions on the Field pieces for clients, won the Myer Millinery Award in 2014, was the milliner for the Myer Design Award 2015 and was runner up in the worldwide Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Millinery Award in 2012 (Worldwide competition).
Who better to advise on the do’s, the don’ts, and the differences in seasonal considerations when it comes to what to place atop your head this Summer?
A colourful display of hats perfect for a summer raceday.
VRC: How does summer racing millinery differ from spring racing choices?
JILL: Summer millinery has such a romantic and soft vibe. In contrast to spring racing trends, where bold and modern millinery takes the stage, Summer is atime to soften the edges of your look.
Jill Humphries’ “The Riviera”
Think about big brims: a beautiful shady hat perfectly matches the more relaxed vibe of summer and works together with the gorgeous dresses on offer (think free following fabrics and pretty feminine prints).
If you’re wanting a more structured look, go for a cool jockey cap, boater or top hat that is fun and versatile with just about everything in your wardrobe.
VRC: What is the ‘Hatiquette’ for Summer Racing for women?
JILL: Summer hats are supposed to be easy to wear, and also work against the harsh summer sun. The main thing to remember style-wise is don’t go too big or you will look top heavy - generally not wider than your shoulders.
Light, and breezy, this summer topper is the embodiment of simple summer style.
VRC: For men?
JILL: I love a classic boater, or even something textured like the new cork cheese cutters that I have just bought in for men. So many men forget to wear hats to the races and I have seen so many burnt heads as a result - that’s the worst accessory for anyone!
VRC: Proper hat, or fascinator? Is one or the other more appropriate for different occasions, seasons or races?
JILL: Definitely opt for a hat, rather than a fascinator, for summer - we all need coverage and to protect ourselves as the temperatures rise. I prefer fascinators for spring carnival when everyone comes out of winter layering and we are dying to see colour and trends.
VRC: Any ‘young guns’ (milliners) out there to keep an eye on?
JILL: There are so many people I look at that are amazing, all around the world. I love Awon Golding's work from the UK - she has a very modern style that is flawlessly executed. She judged here at Flemington last Kennedy Oaks Day, and is one cool milliner.
With Australian milliners, I adore Justine Gillingham’s work - you know a milliner is awesome when you look at their work and are floored at how they even came up with the idea to do something so new.
VRC: What are the millinery trends to look out for this year? Any specific hat choices to recommend for this year?
JILL: Eclectic (which is so exciting for milliners!) brims are back, a 60’s vibe is strong, and the top hats are here.
In 2018, I created a new hat based on “1970’s Riviera” - I could not keep up with the orders, so I will profile this again this year. I am also seeing fashion trends showing a French influence, so I will be making top hats to match this.
VRC: What’s the most ‘out-there’ piece you’ve ever encountered?
JILL: I haven’t witnessed too many ‘out-there’ pieces myself as our race goers tend to have a quiet respect for millinery, tradition and fashion at the races. I do wait every year for the Ascot images to filter through however, and some of those can be jaw dropping to say the least.
VRC: Thank you so much for your time and expertise helping advise us on everything we need to know about Summer hats!
JILL: My pleasure!
Images courtesy of Jill Humphries