Hat's the way make a statement
HATS dominated the skyline at Ballybrit yesterday.
Fittingly, Connacht milliners grabbed the limelight, and the prizes, on the busiest day of the week at the races.
Suzanne McGarry, from Sligo, won the Best Dressed title with a red, vintage dress and show-stopping headpiece made by Lina Stein from Westport, Co Mayo.
A gift from her husband last December, Suzanne's hat featured red roses springing from a black-and-white trellis base with a pearl embellishment.
Her simple dress, from Enchanted Vintage of Sligo, and black, patent accessories balanced the millinery drama.
"I believe in recycling," she said, confirming she wore the same piece to the Derby in June.
And yesterday it found favour with the panel of five judges. She was introduced to the crowd by Brendan Courtney of 'Off The Rails' and was presented with prizes worth €12,000 by Anthony Ryan, the Galway department store owner who has sponsored the competition for the past few years.
Meanwhile, Australian-born Lina Stein watched with pride as a hat made by one of her former students, Edel Ramberg from Galway, was selected as Best Hat.
Obstetrician Sieglinde Mullers was delivering babies at the Rotunda Hospital last Wednesday afternoon. But the young Galway woman's decision to take a week's holiday and to commission a cream hat with orchid decorations from Edel paid off, earning her a €1,500 shopping voucher.
There was a strong evidence of authentic vintage and vintage-inspired dresses among the 50 finalists.
Laoise O Murchu, from Kilcullen, Co Kildare, created a Grace Kelly look with a pink prom dress with shawl neckline, sourced from Gladys Adams of Tullamore, Co Offaly. Her thrifty hat was recreated from three other hats and a giant tumbling rose she bought for €1.
Galway mum Maria Connell wore a €2,000 black Victoria Beckham trapeze dress, while former physiotherapist-turned-textiles-student Sarah McGloughlin wore a dress she crocheted using fishing tackle and plastic bags. Her hat was made from tennis balls.
Mary Stapleton, from Killarney, Co Kerry, wore a new lace dress inspired by a photograph of her mum in the 1960s. Her floral hat was made by Carol Kennelly, a racing stalwart who was Best Dressed at Ballybrit three years ago.
Carol used her winnings to do a millinery course with Lina Stein and then set up her own business in Kerry. There were no fewer than 30 of her pieces at the event yesterday.
Ann Marie O'Leary, last year's winner of the Best Dressed prize, was in a cream dress by Matt Doody, puffed out with black tulle underskirt, YSL snakeskin shoes and a butterfly hat by Carol Kennelly.