Alison Courtney
Rebecca Share
Kerry Hayes
Noela Langbourne
JD Mannington
Michele Cameron
Young Milliners Bonnie Evelyn Farmer, Lynette Lim, Shara Gilihan, Brett Morley , Felicity Northeast and Liza Georgia - Photo: Simon Schluter

The Melbourne racing season heated up last week with Hatstravagance 2011 at the Flemington Racecourse. Six ''newbie'' milliners were among 42 hat designers who showed off their hat collections at Hatstravagance, the Victoria Racing Club's yearly collaboration with the Millinery Association of Australia.

Since the article was so interesting we thought you might want to read it. On top of that, the hats in the show were just spectacular. On this shore (in the US) women of all ages are warming up to fascinators in a big way. And that's a big deal.

Below is the article that ran last week about the Melbourne fashion show.

"MILLINERY eats up your family time, plays havoc with your health, sees you slaving past midnight and keeps you poor as a church mouse but six of Melbourne's most promising milliners yesterday laughed at the notion they might give it up for a less ruthless business, a more lucrative life.

''Everybody knows they're not going to make money out of it even before they start,'' said milliner Lynette Lim. ''It's addictive, or like a sickness,'' milliner Brett Morley added cheerfully. ''A good sickness, though.''

Over lunch or cocktail canapes in the light-washed Atrium of Flemington Racecourse's main grandstand complex, hundreds of women watched a parade of 250 handmade hats before meeting the milliners and seeing their complete collections.

Many of the artists had worked for months, in a wildly variable range of materials: sinamay and sequins, abaca and pearls, silk petals and tiny resin flower ''stamens'', seed crystals and knuckle-sized rocks, twists and swaths of gauzy crinoline, all assembled with microscopic stitches.

Among yesterday's hundreds of hats, trends were hard to pin down: a tendency to upward-tilting twists of glossy pleated abaca on saucer hats and fixed bands, flashier-than-usual sequins, diamante and crystal trims, and more front-centred boater, bowler or top-hat shapes than side-tilted styles.

''Milliners are definitely being much more fearless with color," confirmed Millinery Association president Richard Nylon. ''It was all over the European catwalks … and people are buying a lot of color for their racewear outfits.''

Now that it is spring, Melbourne's milliners will cut back on their day jobs as hairdressers, dietitians, homemakers, bakers, bankers, teachers and doctors and emerge to service this peculiar social custom: the racewear hat.

''It's a festive time and we're joyful,'' said milliner Bonnie Evelyn Farmer, taking a crack at why women wear feathers and flowers, but only in spring. ''It's more interesting than just showing your face.''

Farmer, known by her brand Bonnie Evelyn, is typical of the fast-rising ''newbies'' coming up behind the association's veteran professionals such as Phillip Rhodes, Louise Macdonald, Marea Bright, Richard Nylon, Kim Fletcher and Kerrie Stanley.

When they tallied their orders and headed back to their homes and studios, hatters were anticipating weeks of long days and many sleepless nights bent over their hats, but most couldn't be happier.

''Millinery is one of the most popular courses,'' Nylon says. ''They know its hard to make a living out of it but because millinery has that whimsy associated with it, that glamour and old-school loveliness, they aspire to that; they still want to have that in their lives.''

Sydney Austraila
Story by Janice Breen Burns