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Tips from an Expert: National FOTF Winner Crystal Kimber

Only a few years after winning Fashion at The Races, Crystal Kimber has gone on to receive the highest FOTF accolade in Australia by taking out the National Win for the Myer Fashions on the Field.

As a seasoned expert when it comes to FOTF style, Crystal was a well-deserving winner amongst a group of incredibly stylish ladies, including Melissa Barnes from Adelaide as the SA Finalist.

It's hard not to get FOTF inspiration when scrolling through Crystal's Instagram, or reading up on all of the race days she attends on her website, so we made sure to catch up with her after her National win!

Congratulations Crystal! Let's start off with your qualifying event win in NSW!

I only decided to enter about 2 weeks prior to the competition, thanks to my good friend Brodie (a former Myer National FOTF winner) - who now lives in Sydney - convincing me to enter.

The dress, which was originally my Grandma’s skirt had been half converted into a dress but remained unfinished for months, as I was stumped on the neckline of the dress. Once I had booked flights, my mum and I quickly came together to finally complete the dress, then came the hard part of the headpiece. I was very lucky a friend of mine managed to block my headpiece last minute and I just had to embellish it the night before I left for Sydney.

The final was held at Coogee Pavilion right next to the beach - It was such a fun event; with music, cocktails and fabulous fashion. It was a great morning!

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It looked like such an exciting week in Melbourne for the Spring Carnival – what were your highlights from the week as a National Finalist?

The Melbourne Cup Carnival experience was really something special with so many highlights. The first day started with a photoshoot for the Herald Sun with the Clerk horse “Brian” which was a lot of fun. This was the first time, all the state winners had met (other than our online chats on Facebook and Instagram) so it was a fun way to bond. On Melbourne Cup Day eve, we also got to take part in the Melbourne Cup parade with all the jockies and former Melbourne Cup winners and ride down Swanston St, in a horse and carriage. This was truly a unique experience!

We also attended the Cup Eve Gala at Government House, which was a beautiful event. Government House is one of my favourite buildings in Melbourne and is only open on Australia Day or a few special events so being invited to attend the event was really special for me.

Another highlight was attending the Kennedy Oaks Day luncheon at Crown, which has always been a favourite event of my mum and I. The VRC and Crown put on a spectacular event every year; the room was filled with flowers, the dining is delicious and there’s always a great band with lots of dancing involved!

The best part of all the experience though, is making 4 great very fashionable friends for life. We all became so close and at the end, we all wanted each other to win!

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Photo: Aaron Francis

You are somewhat of a FOTF expert; you even won Fashion at The Races in SA a few years ago as well! How did your love of race wear begin?

Growing up, the Melbourne Cup Carnival was the event on the social calendar. The TV coverage would be on all day and this is when I remember my first experience watching the FOTF competition.

The year I remember most was when RMIT Sarah Schofield took out the National Final. She was wearing this amazing unique black and white pick up stick headpiece and looked like a picture out of Vogue. As a budding RMIT student, I wanted to be that girl, it just took me another 4 years to enter!

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Your outfits are always so creative and original - how do you create and style your looks?

For me, it’s all in the planning. All year round, I will research and save images of runway trends from Fall to Spring/Summer and look for colours and silhouettes that are emerging that year. From here I will decide what will suit my personality and body shape and then start designing my own look.

Fabric shopping is always so much fun, mum and I drape ourselves in fabric at Spotlight, envisaging the design coming to life and frequently we’ll just leave with meters and meters of fabric just because it might come in handy one day! From here, my mum starts making the outfit and I will then research different styles of headpieces that would match.

Every milliner has their own unique style so once I decide on a design, I will then pick which milliner could make what I’m after. The accessorising is always pretty easy, I always get my bags from Bag Queen in Melbourne and my shoes and earrings usually come from Asos, Lovisa or Clover Accessories if I’m after a great cheap statement earring.

Check out some of Crystal's Race Day looks...

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Other than your winning outfit this year, what’s one of your favourite looks you’ve ever worn to The Races?

My favourite outfit definitely was my winning outfit due to the sentimental value for both my mum and I.

Another favourite of mine is a red, white and lilac dress I wore to the AAMI Melbourne Cup in 2015. Mum and I spent months with mountains of fabric on the dining table, creating the colour blocking in the full circle skirt. I loved spinning around in it and the colours were just so vibrant; it was impossible to not have a huge smile on my face all day. What you wear on any race day should make you smile and give you confidence!

What do you love about a day at the races?

I love the process of designing and creating an outfit prior to any race day, but it's great seeing everything come together the morning of the race day. When you feel good, you are bound to have a fun day out! Once I get to the track, I always enjoy seeing everyone else’s outfits and catching up over a glass of champagne.

And what are your Top 5 tips for surviving a race day?

  1. Wear a pair of heels you’ve worn before or break them in the week leading up to the event. There’s nothing worse than feeling uncomfortable for a fun day out.
  2. Pack a small survival kit in your bag consisting of band aids, bobby pins and eyelash glue. The eyelash glue can stop further runs in stockings, hold down a dropped hem and fix any fake eye lashes coming astray.
  3. If you are planning on visiting a hair or makeup artist in the morning of the event, plan ahead by booking well in advance as they book out and bring along reference pictures. This will save you time and any stress rushing to the race track.
  4. Pack a pair of fold-up flats for the walk to and from the course. Your feet will thank you.
  5. If you want to fake tan for the event, make sure you tan 2 days prior to the day to avoid any disasters. There’s nothing worse than looking orange or having your instant tanner rub off on to your outfit.

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Favourite racing event you’ve been to?

My favourite racing event I have attended would definitely be Royal Ascot. It is such a unique experience, not only experiencing a race day in another country but being in the presence of the Royal Family. Seeing the Royals travel down in horse and carriage from Windsor Castle was truly special.

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You’ve won the biggest title in race wear in Australia – what’s next?

Great question! I would like to share my racing fashion knowledge and cross into judging FOTF around Australia in the coming years. I will continue designing and creating outfits with my mum, with the hope of launching our own label soon.

In the meantime, I will continue hiring out my outfits to other race goers and helping women create their own race day looks. I’m always happy to help with advice on outfits through my social channels!

Header image via Fabulous Femme

Images via Crystal Kimber Instagram & Website

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