In a French blue dress and navy hat adorned with floral accents, Kimmi Varcoe won the Myer Fashions on the Field competition at the Murray Bridge Cup and was crowned the South Australian FOTF finalist. However, it is the not the first time Kimmi has stunned a racing crowd. The Penola-based schoolteacher won the FATR People’s Choice for 2017-2018 following her win at the Millicent Cup in April 2018. As the South Australian State Finalist, Kimmi will travel to Melbourne for 10 days of the Spring Carnival to compete at a national level on Kennedy Oaks Day.
When curating her ensemble for the Murray Bridge Cup, Kimmi originally thought to recycle a dress she wore to the FATR final two years prior, until she stumbled across her Lela Rose dress. “I had to have it, but I knew it needed something else to compete in the national final,” Kimmi said.
“I took it down to my dressmaker and we played around with it, thought we had ruined it and ended up with the final result, but then the hat drama started,” she said. “First, I had a crown made with the same flowers, but didn’t think it looked right, so I went for another hat but still wasn’t happy with it and then the day before the Murray Bridge Cup, I ended up with the boater hat.”
Kimmi did not try her entire outfit on until the morning of the Cup, matching her Lela Rose dress redesigned by Di McLoughlin with navy Senso shoes, a navy Saint Laurent bag and boater by Helen Mary Millinery with hand-crafted flowers and beading. “Normally I start with a dress and look at current trends in millinery and decide what will work with the dress,” Kimmi said. “I absolutely adore this millinery and think it would be my favourite that I have worn so far.”
On the day, Kimmi did her own makeup, using go-to brands NARS and MAC with brushes by Hourglass. “I went to ‘A Cut In Time’ in Strathalbyn and decided to go with a slick bun on the side that my boater faced up,” Kimmi said.
With a family that has always been involved in racing, it is no surprise that Kimmi fell for racing fashion early on. “I think as soon as I was old enough to enjoy all aspects of the races I decided to start entering,” Kimmi said. “I am from Millicent, a regional town and everyone in the community gets around it and you always know more than half of the people who are there, so it is always lots of fun.”
Kimmi’s favourite racing event is the Millicent Cup, as all her friends attend and she has the chance to observe how these carnivals benefit regional communities. “There are always local sponsors who get a chance to advertise their businesses, local pubs run buses and marquees and get a lot of business out of that,” Kimmi said.
“It is also so nice to have events that people can go to and dress up for, something that isn’t usually offered in regional places,” she said. “It is just so fun dressing up in outfits that you can’t wear anywhere else, watching the horses, winning (and losing) money and spending time with friends.”
But of all her racing looks, Kimmi’s favourite is the ensemble from the FATR final in 2015, where she placed runner up to Crystal Kimber. “It was a ¾ sleeve vintage midi dress by MacKenzie Mode, with black and orange details,” Kimmi said. “I enjoy following racing bloggers ‘It’s all about the Sash’ and ‘Milano Imai’ and seeing what girls all over Australia are wearing, but I can’t go past Crystal Kimber,” she said. “I adore all of her outfits.”
Kimmi is still in the process of organising her Derby Day and Melbourne Cup looks, but when entering a major racing fashion contest, Kimmi recommends following current trends. “Vogue is always a good place to start, mid-length dresses, block or stiletto heels, wear millinery and I like to wear my hair in an up-style,” Kimmi said. “I don’t have a favourite label but am enjoying seeing styles created by Elliat, Talulah and By Johnny at the moment.”
“When I was 18, I wouldn’t have been caught dead in a dress below the knee, however times certainly change and now I wouldn’t wear a dress over the knee to the races,” she said. “Racing fashion has well and truly changed and I just enjoy keeping up to date with all the trends that are evolving.”
Kimmi will be attending Derby Day, the Melbourne Cup Parade, Melbourne Cup Day, the Oaks Day Luncheon and Oaks Day, and is most excited to see the styles on display in the Victorian competition. “I am still in shock that I get to go and experience this amazing week of fashion,” Kimmi said.
“As I am a school teacher, I don’t ever get time off to go to the Melbourne Cup, so I am feeling very blessed to have this opportunity,” she said. “It is also so nice to be a South Australian representing my state.”