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Melanie Morris: It's Horse Show time and last chance for ladies to flaunt their summer wear

Just when you thought it was safe to step out of the high heels, and put away those hats, there's one final jump in summer's very social outings.

Possibly saving one of the best til last, the Dublin Horse Show kicks off at the RDS today, and with it, a week of awesome show jumping, quality socialising and, of course, a Ladies Day, this year on Thursday.

Ladies Day at the Dublin Horse Show has always been a pretty spectacular event. And because it falls in August, the weather is usually clement, allowing women a chance to dress in their proper best.

And while many might have exhausted their wardrobes at family weddings, festivals and racing, most will find something special to parade around in.



TRENDS

The unique thing about Ladies Day at the Horse Show is that women can nominate themselves in the Best Dressed competition.

You just join the (very long) queue and register with the judges. Over 1,500 women do so, and about the same again watch on in awe.

On Thursday, the panel of judges you need to impress includes Sharon Corr, Off The Rails presenter Brendan Courtney and hairdresser and magnificent milliner Michael Leong. They'll be at the Lawn Stage from 12.30pm to 3.30pm to view all.

So, if not decided as yet, what should you wear? As someone who's been involved in judging lots of the Best Dressed competitions at a variety of events throughout the years, it's interesting to notice new trends.

This year, it's been all about colour. At The Derby, Niamh Canavan bagged the Most Stylish Lady prize (a five-star trip to Dubai) in a retro pink polka dot jacket and dress by Irish designer Heidi Higgins. At The Guineas in May, most of the finalists worked tones of pale pink and nude, with the winner Suzanne McGarry wearing a dress that combined all these fashionable shades, again by Heidi Higgins At Galway last week, Suzanne McGarry wore cheery bright red with a statement wide hat decorated with poppies. So, if the trend continues, Thursday's winner will be colourful.

Monochrome, while smart, seems to have had its moment, and power dressing is on the wane. Winners this year have looked feminine with precise tailoring and well-made clothes trumping big statement pieces. They've also been clever in combining pieces to show personal style.

I've also noticed extra effort put in to hats -- these days, it's all about the hat -- and how they are worn. A few years ago, hats would just have been plonked on top of heads, but this year, hair has been styled to compliment the look. There have been smart side chignons, slick high ponytails, and plenty of Kate Middleton-inspired 'half up, half down' dos. All look great, as do most of the false lashes. Just take it easy in daylight, ladies.

The Horse Show is possibly one of the final chances we'll all get to dress up and enjoy a summer together, so it's worth facing those heels one last time. But remember, the RDS has lots of lawn, so swap spindly stilettos for cone heels, wedges or something a little more blocky; otherwise you'll stick in the grass like a croquet hoop.



party

If the thought of pain is too much, take a leaf from Herald columnist Colette Fitzpatrick's book and wear TWO 'Party Feet', one on top of the other, on each foot. That extra cushioning means the smile will stay on your face longer. And pack some ballet flats for later, although if you're continuing to The Shelbourne Hotel, where I'll be judging another Best Dressed Lady competition that evening, be prepared to hop back into heels for a final hour or two.

Finally, remember the best accessory ... a wing-woman, who'll enjoy the day with you. These are the days you'll make merry, and remember long into autumn, when the credit card statement for those bottles of Prosecco hit the mat


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