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Sunshine, prosecco and stilettos were the order of the day at this year’s Ladies Day competition at the Dublin Horse Show with more than 400 women and men descending on the RDS ready to compete for the €10,000 first prize.
A multicoloured queue of vibrant jumpsuits, striking pinstripes and floral-inspired fascinators snaked around the small green and out alongside a nearby lawn where Connemara ponies strutted their stuff around the ring.
Like many designers, Sarah Barlow was eager for her latest headpiece to get a proper show at the annual fashion event. However, unlike other participants, the young milliner’s age prevented her from taking part in the competition. Instead, her aunt Frances Fogarty took to the stage modelling the latest creation from her talented 10-year-old niece.
“She’s trying to develop her style and build her technique,” says Fogarty. “I hate being the centre of attention but because Sarah can’t go up and model her own hat, I’m proudly doing it for her.”
Sarah and her aunt were wearing matching fascinators which consisted of a spherical tower of peacock feathers. The young designer constructed the frame with wire and pipe cleaners before using hot glue to attach the peacock feathers. “Then we added a bit of sparkle and some netting,” says Sarah, who, like her aunt, was wearing a plain but elegant blue dress. “I decided to keep our dresses simple because our hats would be so dramatic.”
Nearby, the five Murray sisters had joined the back of the queue. Originally from Rahara in Co Roscommon, they were not regular attendees at the event. “We’re here as a thank you,” says Bernie Dowling who has been elected spokeswoman for the group. “My sister recently became widowed and she’s treating us because we helped her at the time. Isn’t that a nice gesture? It’s a chance to get together and the sun is shining, so we’re really pleased.”
Their dresses and fascinators, which were bought for their children’s weddings, are getting another day out, says Dowling. “Some of these dresses have done two or three weddings. Most of us have been brides’ mothers.”
Further along the queue, Michael McCarthy and Paul Carroll were eagerly awaiting their turn to step on stage. The two fashion bloggers, who recently started dressing up for race events, became the first gay couple to win the best-dressed couple award at the Bellewstown Races last month.
“Men are getting a lot braver with their choice of fashion,” says McCarthy, who runs the Funky Fashion Frolics blog with his partner. “It’s wonderful to see Irish men queue up to be judged on their style. I think we’ve come a long way.”
At 4pm the judges retired backstage to choose the winners and the Camembert Quartet hit the stage, playing a stream of energetic pop hits. A Tina Turner classic brought a group of women to their feet joined by the enthusiastic Brian Kidd who had entered the competition for best-dressed man. Ten minutes later Kidd was on stage accepting a special award from Louis Copeland for “style and attitude”. He was joined by overall winner for best-dressed woman, Aoibheann McMonagle, a primary school teacher from Falcarragh in Co Donegal.
McMonagle, who was wearing a Marc Jacobs skirt and Ashleigh Myles classic boater-style hat, was no stranger to the annual RDS competition and in 2014 won the Ladies Day award for “most colourful outfit”.
Everton Tadeu Da Silva, who moved to Ireland from Brazil five years ago, took home the prize for best-dressed man; Kaela Kegan won the award for most creative hat; and Martina O’Donovan was awarded a Longines prize for her jumpsuit and headpiece combo.