Monday, November 6, 2006

Derby Day: RIP the Disco Diva?

The so-called "Disco Divas" may have been given their marching orders by Myer from its Fashions on The Field competition this year, but that didn't stop plenty of the cleavage- and G-flashing, fake tan-slathered, handkerchief hem-sporting Paris Hilton lookalikes from rocking up to Flemington at Saturday's Derby Day [and it's probably a safe bet that plenty of them stocked up on their attire at Myer].

But they did keep their distance from the Birdcage, whose sartorial quotient seemed to have been upped this year, in spite of an apparent plethora of black leggings. A hot street trend, leggings do not however translate well into appropriate track attire.

Bubble and sack dresses were omnipresent, which was handy for all the pregnant women who are normally invisible at the event. They included Jessica Rowe and sass & bide's Heidi Middleton. Rowe - whose baby is due January 22nd - said the biggest sartorial challenge for a pregnant woman at the races is "getting it right".

"You still want to be stylish - and I didn't want to wearing something too short or too tight" noted Rowe, showing enormous restraint from her signature thigh-skimming look in a pretty, knee-length cobalt blue and white Empire line bubble dress by new designer Scarlett Frost.

"I'm ginormous for me - I've got a tummy, I've got boobs for the first time in my life" added Rowe, who completed her look with a matching blue Neil Grigg headpiece and, surprisingly perhaps, Canturi jewel-trimmed platform shoes.

"I've done a heel but this is a shorter heel than I would normally wear" noted Rowe. "It will be wedges for Cup Day and I've put some 'party feet' things in my shoes today to try to give it some extra cushion".

But while Rowe opted for a longer hemline than usual, septuaganarian Lillian Frank flashed more leg than Makybe Diva in a mid calf-length black bubble dress.

"People keep saying, 'I didn't know you had legs'" Frank told the Herald, disclosing that her black straw hat decorated with two white doves was a political statement designed to encourage women to fight for peace. As for the doves, they were real, she noted - but stuffed.

"They've died and gone to heaven already" added Frank. "They're back again".

Going the traditional black and white Derby route seemed to be half Australia's television sorority including Holly Brisley, Shelley Craft, Sonia Kruger and David Jones face/Getaway guest presenter Megan Gale, who could have otherwise been mistaken for a Disco Diva in a thigh-flashing, cleavage-baring black and white sass & bide puffball dress.

Sass & bide's Middleton and Sarah-Jane Clarke meanwhile - who reported they were almost mugged by the masses when they took a wrong turn onto the general racecourse en route to the Birdcage - opted for a silver and black bustle dress teamed with black men's braces and top hat (Clarke) and black tube dress with silver/black kimono wrap (Middleton).

"We now appreciate just how civilized it is in the Birdcage" sighed Middleton inside the Motorola marquee - standing next to the Derby's biggest international ringin, actor Kate Bosworth, as Bosworth chugged back a longneck straight from the bottle.

The diminutive (and some noted, emaciated, although certainly not in the presence of Bosworth's personal PR flack who was craning her neck throughout interviews to closely vet reporter's questions) Superman Returns co-star otherwise looked demure in her long black satin Collette Dinnigan gown, later changing into a short white lace Twenties-look shift dress, also by Dinnigan - teamed with black patent leather T-bar stilettos and a flapper-like black jet Richard Nylon headpiece.

Noted milliner Richard Neylon, "She's so small, I didn't want anything that would overwhelm her".

Other standouts included Moet tent architect, New York-based Australian interior designer Emma Jane Pilkington, in an oyster grey Duchesse satin Prada shirtdress, Suzanne cocktail hat and black patent Christian Louboutin pumps and glamorous Melbourne stepmother-and-daughter duo, Lisa and Emma Van Handel. The first wore a mustard Scanlan & Theodore cocktail dress teamed with tobacco suede Prada pumps and leopard toque, cape and handbag.

"It's OK if it's vintage isn't it??" asked her nervous husband, John Van Haandel, when I enquired as to the leopard's exact derivation. It was real leopard skin all right - circa 1960s, borrowed from the vintage couture Darnell Collection owned by Charlotte Smith.

Emma Van Haandel picked up the Sixties space age cues from the spring/summer 2007 shows in a boxy grey linen coat and white patent leather flower by Scanlan & Theodore, backless white tulip Willow microdress, Azzedine Alaia nude patent platforms and grey python bag, a vintage white bowler hat and white Dita sunglasses.

As for the men, nice to see a new generation of younger men starting to get into the swing of wearing hats again - I lost count of the trilbies and pork pie hats while en route to Flemington by train, around the Birdcage and out in the field.

Standouts were the always-dapper Neylon, in his quirky interpretation of the morning suit and Melbourne architectural duo Randal Marsh and Roger Wood in matching black and white Christian Dior suits.

Annalies Seubert looked a little bit too much like a sugarplum fairy in an ivory organza Willow minidress - which would have been far more elegant had it covered her knees, a la Pilkington's Prada, or at the very least reached them - teamed with nude strappy shoes and Neil Grigg fascinator.

Katrina Warren's cornflower blue sack dress and ugly white lace-up stilettos looked like they might have been selected by Toby The Wonder Dog.

But the biggest fashion disappointment of the day gong was shared, oddly enough, by two magazine mavens: Vogue supremo Kirstie Clements, in dowdy black cropped trousers and white blazer and Harpers Bazaar fashion director Claudia Navone, who looked like she had just turned up for a country picnic and not Australia's second-most prestigious racing event, in a voluminous cardie, skinny pants and flat boots.

When the glossy girls can't get it right, what hope is there for the Disco Divas?

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