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Melanie Morris: Smart-looking ladies favour the old style over tacky bling

Another Ladies Day, another Best Dressed competition, but yesterday's was the big kahuna... The Best Dressed Lady competition at The Dublin Horse Show had a holiday prize worth €10,000 and priceless kudos to boot.

Judged by Amy Huberman and fashion designer Synan O'Mahony, it was interesting to see that once again in a summer where subtle occasion-wear has prevailed, we had a winner high on old-style elegance, low on glitz and bling.

Over 500 women buzzed around the judges for their moment of glory on stage. There were models in figure-loving numbers, pensioners in granny-of-the-bride two-pieces, socialites and self-styled fashionistas, rocking their individual looks.

But most had seen what's been wowing the crowds at Punchestown, The Curragh and beyond, and opted for a more 'covered up' look.

The overriding look was less flashy and fleshy than winners of yore. As the ladies filed up around the Blossom Hill Best Dressed judging area, there was a riot of colour and a million ways to wear it.

I instantly spotted Ann Marie O'Leary, the popular winner of the Best Dressed Lady competition at the Galway Races last week.

She'd flown up from Kerry for the day with pals Claire Murphy and Carol Kennelly, the milliner responsible for last week's winning creation.

Again, Ann Marie's form-fitting Karen Moriarty dress was the new calf-length with long sleeves and a high neck. Properly glamorous. Carol wore one of her own hats -- a massive abundance of lucious pink roses, which perfectly matched her demure pink fitted suit.

Lots of young women around the RDS went for vintage looks, veering away from 'matchy matchy' ensembles.

I loved seeing all the beautiful teens and twentysomthings, elegant in retro 1940s-style suits and dresses, net-trimmed hats, lace gloves and fishnet stockings. They looked so 'finished' and miles away from the shiny, showy, blingtastic looks of 2007/8.


All the top looks had an overall restrained, yet very stylish, look.

The big prize went to former Miss Ireland Yvonne Ellard; a very tall, slim, blonde in a smart black and white coat who looked the epitome of an Upper East Side Manhattanite. Without a hint of cleavage or a glimpse of knee, her selection as winner seemed the most telling.

The day of slash, plunge and sparkle have gone; something I, personally, applaud.

Speaking as a veteran Best Dressed judge, I didn't envy Amy and Synan their task. How does one define best-dressed? And what makes one woman stand out more than another?

With such an abundance of choice, and over such a very long afternoon, it's easy to get punch-drunk on fashion, frocks, feathers and foundation garments.

This duo stayed focused though, and did an excellent job. They picked smart, simple, stylish looks that were afternoon-appropriate, worn by women (and a man) who so obviously love clothes.

And as 'the season' draws to a close, I think the fashionistas of Ireland can give themselves a pat on the back. Ladies, you've served your country well.

Air kisses to you all.

Melanie Morris is editor of IMAGE Magazine