With spring time comes spring racing, and with spring racing comes fashion on the field. That time of year where gloves, stockings, lady like dresses and of course fabulous headwear take centre stage. Fashion on the field provides a platform for men and women to express themselves through their personal style in a fun and public way. It’s not just about competing for incredible prizes, it’s about making connections, building your confidence and celebrating the joy of fashion.
I met Viviana Croker about a year ago at an event in Canberra and was immediately struck by her warmth and beauty. As we got chatting I began to feel that I knew her from somewhere but couldn’t quite put my finger on it. It was when she mentioned her love of fashion on the field, it suddenly clicked for me. I had seen her at the races! It wasn’t until some weeks later when a facebook memory popped up in my feed, from a fashion in the field competition in I had competed in a year before, when I realised that the girl standing next to me was Viviana.
Since then I have enjoyed watching her participate in many a fashion in the field competition, admiring her style and incredible hats, voyeuristically cheering as she won another competition. As the spring racing season gets into full swing, I knew exactly the person I wanted to talk to about fashion on the field.
Emma: What was your first Fashion on the Field event?
Viviana: My First Fashion on the Field (FOTF) event was the Black Opal in Canberra in 2013. I had been to the races previously with work and always loved to dress up but had never really considered entering FOTF.
I was encourage by my friends, family, and peers at work to enter the competition. I was very nervous to say the least and been up on stage judged not only by fashion designers and stylists, but the quality of the girls on the day to me was incredible. When it was announced I had made the top 10 I was ecstatic and thought to myself ‘I can happily walk off stage with my head held high because I gave it a go.’
However, when they called out my number as the winner of Black Opal FOTF I remember thinking to myself ‘that’s my number, did they really pick me?’
It was from there on I was hooked.
E: How old were you?
V: I was 21.
E: How did you become regularly involved in Fashion on the Field?
V: I’ve always had a keen interest in fashion, I love following trending colours and styles.
I became regularly involved through the support of my friends and family who encouraged me, ‘to have a go.’ Mum and dad said they could see my confidence growing and they supported me to step out of my comfort zone.
E: What do you love about it?
V: As corny as it sounds, I love the friendships that are made. Fashion has enabled me to meet so many wonderful people from all over Australia that I stay in regular contact with.
I love seeing other woman and men of all ages expressing their individual style and feeling good about themselves.
Another reason why I love it so much is that it has given me confidence within myself that I didn’t think I had, and have been able to use to progress my working career.
E: How do you go about putting together a look?
V: I keep an eye on current fashion trends in Australia and overseas.
Fashion is cyclical, I love looking back and coming up with a new twist for something that has been before. I love also spending time in second hand stores looking for different styles, unusual fabrics, bags etc.
E: Tell us about your incredible hats!
V: Originally I hated wearing hats. I have sticky out ears and thought every time I wore a hat (especially a cap) it emphasised them. It wasn’t until I started doing FOTF were my love of hats developed.
Over the years I had watched my mum [Deb Parish] make the occasional hat but it wasn’t until I started entering FOFT that our love of millinery developed and became a hobby we could both share.
These days I love trying and wearing different styles of hats. I get a feeling about what style of hat is right for a particular outfit. I love to experiment with shape, and unusual mediums like wire, plastics and paper mache.
My favourite hat is one that my mum and dad bought for me as a baby when they went over and adopted me from Colombia, an original Spanish felt hat that was traditionally worn by women to the bull fights in Colombia.
E: What does it mean to you to share this passion with your mum?
V: I love bouncing ideas off mum and I love creating particular looks and styles.
We regularly send images to one another, we inspire each other. Mum is teaching me to sew and make my own millinery. Mum encourages me to try new styles and techniques, to take risks and think outside the box.
Also I think my mum is trendier than me these days and thank goodness we’re the same size as I’m often borrowing her clothes.
E: How competitive can Fashion on the Field get?
V: It can get quite competitive everybody loves a win especially when there are huge prizes on offer. I try and stay clear of the negativity and surround myself with people who just enjoy FOTF for what it really is: dressing up and enjoying a day at the races with friends.
It’s about sharing and supporting other fashionistas.
E: You have travelled all over to take part in Fashion on the Field events, where have some of your favourite race events been?
V: Every event is new and exciting, we love visiting race tracks around Australia, there is such history associated with each club.
I loved visiting Hobart because my dad had grown up in Hobart and it was great to experience some of the things he had spoken about.
Mum and I visited Royal Ascot in London, where the environment is electric, people are singing and dancing after the races and the royal family carriage parade at the beginning is unforgettable.
Flemington is always a fun day and has the most amazing roses.
However, Thoroughbred Park in Canberra will always be special as this is where I won my very first event.
E: Do you also have a passion for horses and racing as well?
V: I grew up on a farm outside Canberra, horses were a part of everyday life. I loved riding with my dad who shares my love of horses.
I do enjoy the racing aspect of the day too and love watching the horses parade in the ring beforehand.
E: How many competitions have you won?
V: I have been very fortunate and have won several major events around Australia but my biggest wins have been in Melbourne at Caulfield Cup where I was lucky enough win a holiday to London to attend Royal Ascot as well as furnish my entire house and most recently Sydney The Championships Day 1 where I won a luxury holiday overseas (which came in perfect timing as I recently got married and this will be our honeymoon).
It is always such an honour to be in that final line of girls.
E: Do you have any tips for other aspiring competitors?
V: Talk to other fashionistas, join some of the interest groups on facebook and watch race bloggers such as On Track on Trend, Milano Imai Field Fashion Community, All About The Sash, and The Races, to name a few.
Ask for advice, most fashionistas are more than willing to offer encouragement and advice.
We are so lucky to have hundreds of talented professional milliners and hobby milliners in Australia, but my biggest pet hate is girls who are new to fashion that pay excessive amounts on their millinery and the quality is not there. Do your research on milliners.
Take a look at more of the incredible looks Viviana and her mum Deb have worn to FOTF.