Thursday 22 March 2018

Best Dressed Lady: Parisian style to wow on race-day

The Best Dressed Lady competition got underway with a glam fashion show, writes Andrea Byrne

Cobalt-blue draped dress with boat-neck, €695, by Synan O’Mahony; gold 'Safari' neckpiece with blue stones, €889, by Erickson Beamon
Cobalt-blue draped dress with boat-neck, €695, by Synan O’Mahony; gold 'Safari' neckpiece with blue stones, €889, by Erickson Beamon
Hand-painted silk floral full-length gown, €1,100, Don O’Neill for Theia; gold 'baroque n' roll' earrings, €529, Erickson Beamon
Vintage bronze stretchlace top, €310; stretch-wool khaki skirt, €469, both by La Petite Salope; taupe chain bag, €279; taupe leather gloves, €129, both by Sabine
Cheque wool dress with brooch detail, €459, by John McCormack; taupe felt beret with pink rose and veil, €249, by Aoife Harrison; leather gloves, €129, by Sabine
Clementine full-length silk column gown with laser-cut leather tan collar and corset, €1,200, Claire O’Connor
Blonde fur coat, €2,699, by Umit Kutluk; dress, €499, by Tricotine; leopard headpiece, €925, by Philip Treacy; platinum bow belt, €99, by Sabine
Red fur jacket worn with patent leather inset, €3,000, by Umit Kutluk; pencil skirt, €159, by Caroline Kilkenny; black bow belt, €99, by Sabine
Cream organza tunic with flesh tulle detail, €515; cream pencil skirt, €345, both by Sean Byrne; nude headpiece with sequins and feather, €199, by Aoife Harrison; white leather gloves, €120 by Umit Kutluk
Red brocade fitted coat, €329; taffeta gold belted prom dress, €216, both by Caroline Kilkenny; red headpiece with lime flowers, €469, Dessislava; leather gloves, €129, Sabine
Silk tulle full-length magenta evening dress, €2,129, by Catherine Deane; gold earrings, €399; gold 'solar eclipse' bracelet, €489, both by Lara Bohinc

IT’S cold, it’s dark and it’s Monday. Ordinarily, that would be enough to have even the most fervent partygoer heading for home. But this is an occasion that is worth battling the blues and the bluster.

It’s the launch of the Hennessy Best Dressed Lady competition in association with the Design Centre, an event that is largely considered one of the most stylish of the winter racing season and, indeed, the social calendar, and which takes place next February.

The launch is being elebrated with a fashion show, with all clothes provided by the Design Centre, one of Ireland’s leading luxury retailers and a long supporter of indigenous design talent.

The launch’s appeal is further bolstered by the fact that it is being held in one of Dublin’s most elegant homes — the French ambassador’s residence on Ailesbury Road.

With its rich interior, original Georgian features and skyhigh ceilings, it provided the perfect backdrop to this classy, civilised and intimate salon-style show. I felt like I was in Paris!

The look on the catwalk was also quite Parisian, but more accessible and more body-friendly.

Combining the best of young and established Irish talent with a sprinkling of international sophistication, it was grown-up and groomed, a look the Design Centre does so well.

International fashion commentator, Godfrey Deeny flew in especially to attend the event. Godfrey, who is originally from Northern Ireland but based in Paris, will be returning to judge the Best Dressed Lady competition at Leopardstown in February.

In terms of picking the winner, what will he be looking for?

“A woman who is, as the French say, ‘Bien dans sa peau’, she is at ease in her own skin, that’s someone who understands how to wear clothes that flatter her colour and shape, her sense of style,” he told a room full of beautiful women hanging on his every word.

“I would like someone who doesn’t necessarily spend a lot of money, maybe just one item. So if she mixes Hermes with H&M, and gets a great result, she might be the person who I am looking for. It will be tough to pick the overall winner, but I look forward to the challenge.”

Fellow judge and Design Centre owner Ashling Kilduff wants someone who “doesn’t overthink their look and who lets their personal style speak for itself ”.

A common mistake when planning an outfit for Best Dressed Lady competitions is to over-accessorise.

Unless it’s certain to rain, don’t bring an umbrella. It can make outfits seem a little My Fair Lady.

The same goes for evening gloves, be careful how you wear them.

Also, nowhere in the rules does it say that everything must match. Cliche though it is, less is more.

Wearing something from an Irish designer, or at the very least an Irish store, will possibly better your chances.

Don’t wear heels that you can’t walk in.

Lastly, dress for the weather. This is a winter race meeting so you will need a coat, which can be a source of added stress when planning your outfit.

However, Caroline Kilkenny, whose collection is available from the Design Centre, has some beautifully feminine, colourful evening coats in rich fabrics that are very well priced.

If your budget stretches a bit further, Sean Byrne’s black cashmere cocoon cape coat is incredible, and would certainly make you stand out from the crowd.

Young Turkish-born, Irish-based designer Umit Kutluk, who opened the fashion show, provided some of the best inspiration for winter race-day attire.

Winner of the DCU, DIT and UCD fashion shows, his debut collection of belted black and red fur jackets and coats worked perfectly with streamlined wool and cashmere dresses and pencil skirts.

Umit’s collection had a quality and finish far beyond what one would expect from a recent graduate. The look was simple, yet dramatic.

“He takes direction really well,” remarks Ashling. “I think he is going to be one to watch.”

Claire O’Connor, Catherine Deane (Hong Kong-based), Belle Marina (new label to the Design Centre), Synan O’Mahony and Don O’Neill for Theia provided the glamour quotient to the evening with a beautiful array of evening gowns that would be perfect for hunt or race balls.

John McCormack and La Petite Salope paid homage to the ubiquitous but timeless hourglass dress, a style that is always in favour on race day. Just make sure you give it an edge with some showstopping millinery or this season’s must-have accessory — the “trophy” necklace.

With a €7,000 voucher for The Design Centre as the prize, the Hennessy Best Dressed Lady competition merits some serious effort. So get planning!

The Hennessy Best Dressed Lady, in association with the Design Centre, takes place at the Hennessy Gold Cup on Sunday, February 12, 2012, at Leopardstown Racecourse. Contestants can enter in advance by registering online at before Friday, January 27, 2012, or by presenting themselves at the registration desk in the Hennessy Best Dressed Lady marquee on Race Day

Photography: Kieran Harnett
Styling: Paula Hughes assisted by Kellie Barnes & Sinead Sanlon
Hair and make-up: Dylan Bradshaw
All clothes, jewellery, gloves and bags are available from the Design Centre, Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, D2. Tel: (01) 01 679 5863
All footwear from Cinders, 22 Wicklow St, D2. Tel: (01) 677 7491 and other stores nationwide

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