Does Anyone Still Wear a Fascinator?

7 Nov

Happy Melbourne Cup Day! Yes, on this day, the country stops and all focus goes onto the Melbourne Cup, the horse race to end all Australian horse races. Well, technically, only Melbourne stops. The rest of the country just devotes itself to a wildly unproductive day of bet-placing and hat-wearing.

Ah yes, the hats. When I first arrived here, I began to notice ads in the paper and magazines featuring women in floral dresses wearing what appeared to be wildly over-enthusiastic brooches on their heads. As often as not, these were pinned to stick-straightened hair, and most looked, well, ridiculous. These ads, I soon learned, were in preparation for the racing season, and most particularly the Melbourne cup, where, like horse races internationally, it seems, the dress code states that women wear hats. To avoid the actual hat (which I supposed would lead to things like hat hair and shade), many women choose instead a (fantastically named) ‘fascinator’, which is usually a small confection of long feathers and netting, or sequins, or felt, or all four. The user’s guide for these seems to be to dress as you normally would for an occasion, with shoes and dress and sleek hair, then to take a piece of Dr. Suessean frippery that usually doesn’t have anything to do with the rest of the outfit, and attach it directly to your head. And voila! It’s off to the races. Or to the office party.

Now I may sound a little harsh here – there are some achingly beautiful hats, like the one in the window nearby that is an almost complete sphere of white peacock feathers, dyed pink at the center and diffusing out. And there are some truly beautiful, creative, glamourous outfits that people put together. But these silly fascinators, they make me angry in the same way people who wear those sad drugstore Halloween costumes do. Because, in both cases, you have this fantastic opportunity to step outside the boundaries of everyday fashion, an excuse to stretch your creativity. On Halloween (which the Aussies don’t really do, to my sorrow), you have an excuse to be as out there as you want, as glamourous, as ugly, whatever. So do it! On Melbourne Cup Day, you have to wear a hat, something it’s tricky to do in this casualized day and age. So wear a hat! Live the dream! Don’t stick a bit of frou frou on your head and call it a day!

Phew, okay, I’m done now.

One other thing about the Melbourne Cup – I have three bets in today. One, a box trifecta (which is basically you choose four horses, and if any three come in as the top three you win) choosing the experts’ pick, top four horses. The next is a grouping of the horses whose names I liked, or colors, or who came from New Zealand, or some other ephemeral thing. The last is an office pool – two horses will be assigned at random to me. So here we have a battle between Logic (the expert choices, based on anaylsis), Intuition (my picks, based on nothing but feeling), and Chance. I’ll let you know who comes out on top.

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2 Responses to “Does Anyone Still Wear a Fascinator?”

  1. Jacek November 8, 2006 at 4:46 pm #

    I think this so called ‘fascinator’ phenomenon could be some kind of Sydneyish bastardization of the over the top racing day hat. We like to dress halfheartedly – it’s the Sydney thing to do. You’ll find that Melbournians tend to dress better by default. And that’s pretty much all they excel at. Poor things.

  2. Michael November 10, 2006 at 6:16 pm #

    Look at you and your clever headline. I feel that it somehow incorporated theatre in your rant about horses and hats. Bravo my friend…bravo.

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