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Hat first? Or frock? A chicken and egg blog post

by Julie Goodwin, / Wednesday November 29th 2017


As the racing season looms each year, I am often asked if I “have a milliner”. Do I keep a small, slightly eccentric but highly skilled person and a supply of feathers, hat blocks and straw under the stairs? No.

But I do, most definitely, work with a milliner. And she (or he) works with me.

This year, that milliner was Louise MacDonald – a name familiar to many in the fashion industry. We met through a mutual friend and fate decreed that we would, to use a word very popular at the moment, collaborate.

The process is hard to describe, because it changes with every outfit.


Take for example, my outfits for Derby and Cup Day this year.

Having spent way too much time at the NGV’s Dior exhibition, I had my heart set on a long ‘New Look’ coat dress and a broad brimmed natural straw hat for the Derby. I had already begun the dress when, armed with detailed sketches, inspiration photos, and fabric swatches I stormed Louise’s studio and asked for exactly what I wanted.

She was brilliant. She gave me more. Crisp, expertly blocked, tilted just so, and finished with flair – that hat is a masterpiece and I love it. Rave reviews. Instagram likes. General applause.

Image credit : Suzie Potter


Cup Day, by contrast, was a completely different story.

I impulse-bought my red curly crown on a visit to Louise’s studio. It was madness. I don’t wear red, I like to cover my face with my millinery, this thing was completely out of my comfort zone but I had to have it.

Back in the studio, I unearthed a silk print which I knew worked perfectly with the hat – but could I make it work on me?

Cue mulling over many designs. MANY designs. Designer stress. Then action.

My Cup Day outfit was so much fun. Festive, bright, and very Melbourne Cup.

More rave reviews, more Insta likes, even a “you should wear red more often” or two.

Images by Suzie Potter



Louise’s Millinery Award entry was conceived differently again.

She started with a skirt she had seen in my studio, she was inspired by the silhouette and colours in my design. The result is astonishing – so elegant. And she finished in the top ten. Bravo!

Collaboration takes many forms but between Louise and I, I think we nailed it every which way.


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