The Ballybrit catwalk comes into its own on Ladies' Day
Best Dressed Lisa gets to impress with her own label, while a garda in gladrags bags Best Hat
Published 29/07/2016 | 02:30
As fashion scripts go, it was a dream story for a fledging style entrepreneur on Ladies' Day.
Insurance broker Lisa McGowan from Tullamore went to the Galway Races wearing a dress from her new fashion label Strawberry and Lime - and won the Best Dressed Lady prize.
You cannot buy publicity - and a launch pad - like that, and even as she was posing for photographs Lisa got a request from milliner Jennifer Wrynne to supply her new range to Jennifer's fashion boutique in Powerscourt Townhouse Centre.
"It's a year ago since I started my fashion blog 'Lisa's Lust List' and I got such a reaction to my outfit here last year of silver tulle, cream and feather hat, I decided to go for the same colour scheme," explained Lisa.
Her leather-trimmed, one-shouldered, full-skirted dress was designed by Shauna Fay from Belfast, who Lisa got to know through Facebook, and their debut collection has eight looks and is being supplied to 12 stores.
The pewter trim set off the contrasting diagonal panels of silver leather and porcelain-white crepe.
Lisa's tilted hat was designed by Marie Claire Millinery from Northern Ireland and her prize is a €10,000 package that includes a stay at The G Hotel's Linda Evangelista suite - just the place for a photo shoot for her next collection.
Garda Ciara Murphy from Dunboyne scooped the Best Hat title and won a €2,000 stay at The G - the hotel is the new sponsor of Ladies' Day at Ballybrit.
Ciara said her Fiona Rafter hat, with its peaked arrowheads and hairband of dried flowers, reminded her of the iron chair in 'Game of Thrones'.
The garda, who is stationed at Dublin's Store Street, was cheered on by her patient garda hubbie Mark, who waited for her through the judging and then celebrated with her before the evening Best Hat competition at The G Hotel.
The couple met when she was a trainee garda at Fitzgibbon Street.
She rented her hat for €55 and her pretty, butter- coloured, prom-style dress cost €69 at Sky Fall in Gorey.
All in all, quite a result for minimal outlay, but then again, this fashion-loving police officer has form.
Ciara won Best Dressed at Fairyhouse in 2015 and has been a finalist several times.
The style at Ballybrit yesterday revealed several new trends.
While the two winning outfits featured dresses, there were far more trouser-based outfits in evidence, including lots of jumpsuits, palazzos, culottes and even a Bianca Jagger-inspired white pant suit.
Hats were more vertical than wide.
Meanwhile, accessorising was strong, attitudinal and very design-led.
Best Dressed winner Lisa was accompanied by her partner Chris McManus on the day. The boutique owner sported a deep tan, as she was freshly returned from three weeks in Boston.
"Shops are screaming for the collection and I would love to see the brand grow into something successful like the Fee G label," said Lisa.
"I love the fact that, working with Shauna, there is a north-south aspect to the business," she added.
A number of former winners also turned up to try their hand at winning again. There's just something about the theatre of the Ladies' Day style chase that makes it irresistible to Irish fashionistas.
The Judge - Louise Duffy
Today FM's Louise Duffy got to celebrate the good news from the latest JNLR survey, after it showed a jump in her listenership numbers. The DJ was a celebrity guest judge for the Best Dressed Lady and Best Hat competitions.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Louise said she was a regular at the races and called the opportunity to judge "an honour".
"My family all live in Mayo, so it's a family reunion for us every year," she said. "But it's my first time being involved, so I'm delighted.
"I love fashion and people-watching so this is the dream day. It's supposed to be work, but this is a dream to ogle pretty outfits and lovely ladies."
The Finalist - Susan Burke
Susan, from Athlone, told the Irish Independent that she entered every year.
"The Galway Races is the only event I dress up for," she said. "I'm usually an 'in the garden up to my eyes in muck' kind of girl.
"I've entered here for the past five years but never won. I won the Best Dressed at the Ardilaun on Tuesday, so I had hoped my luck would hold."
She explained that she spotted her dress first and her friend then made a bespoke hat to match.
The Diehard - Caroline Downey
While the craic at Galway remains the stuff of legend, many punters struggle to sustain more than two days at the festival.
But Caroline Downey, from Tuam, has resolved to be at the track for a whopping seven days straight.
"I do come here every year," Caroline declared.
However, it had been all work and no play for Caroline thus far, as she works in PR for a number of local businesses.
"For the last four days, I've been working with clients," she said. "This is the day off - the only one - but I did have a win in the first race with Ruby Walsh."
The Injured Party - Natascha Creagh
Injuries on Galway's flat and national hunt tracks are far from uncommon, but one punter was paying for an accident she was involved in prior to Ladies' Day.
Natascha Creagh (36), from Limerick, was confined to a wheelchair having sustained a compound leg fracture after being kicked by a horse on a date.
But, while high heels may have been out of the question, Natascha was determined to have a good time at the famous festival.
"I'll be in a wheelchair for four months, but we come every year and I was determined not to miss it because of a date from hell," she said.
The Milliner - Caithriona King
Caithriona King, a milliner from Galway, came to the track early in the morning to survey her creations.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, she said her hatmaking business was booming this year.
"There are more ladies who want extravagant and different pieces - I found that this year, for sure," she said.
"One particular lady said 'all I want is to be on the front page of the paper'," she added. Caithriona studied art in Waterford Institute of Technology, and then went to London to study millinery.
But she believes Irish hatmaking talent remains the best in the world.