Hats off to Carol as festive golden outfit wins her Most Stylish Lady at Leopardstown
No, it wasn't the gold-dipped turkey feather that sealed the deal for Carol Kennelly, winner of the 'Most Stylish Lady' prize at the Christmas racing festival at Leopardstown.
But it certainly helped - and the quill, with its pearl detail and jewel tip, sat at a jaunty angle and set off the elegant winter beret which milliner Carol finished only on Christmas Eve.
"That was early for me," laughed the Tralee mother-of-two, who has a habit of making her own headpiece last, after catering for her many clients.
The style stakes on Ladies Day yesterday was incredibly high, and I wasn't the only one who thought so as I pulled on my judge's hat and ran my eye around the dozens of ladies who registered to enter the Monart Spa 'Most Stylish Lady' competition.
Experienced racing fashion competitors likened the fashion field of contenders to a Grade One, thoroughbred horse race. The first prize of a €5,000 luxury break at Monart Spa near Enniscorthy certainly generated lots of interest, and the style squad had lots of Christmas finery and festive fashion to show off.
Carol started working on her winning outfit six weeks ago - when she saw a blistered, embossed brocade at Tina Griffin's design studio in Killorglin, Co Kerry.
The gleaming fabric was fashioned into a fit and flare, full-skirted, edge-to-edge coat. And then there was the Christmas Eve top-up of a 30pc off cashmere polo at Benetton to go with a slim, gold leather pencil skirt.
It was an outfit that piqued interest, not just because of its play on silhouettes and textures but also the contrasting matt and metallic touches. Carol's mesh gloves, vintage bag and gold heels were online finds on Etsy.
Second place went to Captain Catherine Lundon from Mullingar, Co Westmeath, who swapped her olive-green army uniform for a stunning Mad Men-style emerald-green wool suit she sourced in a Brooklyn vintage shop two years ago.
Catherine was en route to skiing in Vermont when the hawk-eyed army officer spotted the suit and channelled a January-Jones-meets-Jackie-O look, topping it off yesterday with a hat she bought online and her chunky courts from Office.
Winner of the Best Dressed at the Grand National last year, Catherine missed out on the Christmas races in 2014 because she was on peacekeeping duties in Syria.
But she's certainly made up for her absence in record time and at Leopardstown too, where she clinched a Best Dressed crown in September 2012.
Leopardstown also proved lucky again yesterday for Louise Allen, a mature Human Resources Management student from Slane, Co Meath.
Louise won the Hennessy Best Dressed Lady at Leopardstown in February 2014 and she returned yesterday wearing an aubergine outfit and Christian Louboutin heels, making it into the final three.
"I'm thrilled," said Louise, who attended the races with her partner, Simon Hales - whose horse, Eastern Rules, is running early next year at Meydan in Dubai. Let's hope their winning streak continues.
The lineout of 10 finalists included many hardcore racing fashion contenders, like Maria Osborne and Faith Amond.
These ladies, like Carol Kennelly, travel to enter the many lucrative Irish racing fashion competitions.
Since winning Best Dressed at Galway in 2008, Carol won the overall fashion prize at the RDS Dublin Horse Show in 2014, and one of her hats also won there last August.
She has also travelled to compete in the US and was a finalist in the Jaguar Style Stakes in Dubai last March.
As an indication of just how much trouble and effort the hardcore racing fraternity put into their outfits, hold this thought: Carol Kennelly already has seven commissions for hats to go with outfits chosen for the Galway races at the end of next July.
Now that's what I call racing determination.