Fashion field trips – Crystal Kimber is making her way one stitch at a time

Crystal Kimber - Myer Fashions on the Field, Queensland winner - national finalists

Whether it’s peep-toes from Paris or millinery from Milan, true fashionistas will travel the world to satiate their passion for fashion. Fortunately for style-savvy Crystal Kimber, her self-confessed addiction to Fashions on the Field competitions doesn’t yet require double-digit time-zone shifts, but it certainly does demand a bit of travel to keep in stride with the lucky country’s racing calendar.

Though Crystal now thinks little of jetting off to fashion events, her initial foray into Fashions on the Field competitions started closer to her Melbourne with a win at the 2011 Caulfield Cup. Despite a strong start, it is only within the past eight months that she has really become involved in the world of racing fashions. Now, after 18 competitions around the country, Crystal admits that she gets withdrawals if she doesn’t have an event on the horizon. And, as she notes, it’s not all about competing. “It’s just so much fun. I love seeing all the girls.”

While it’s a delight to meet up with friends and other contestants, she is quick to add that the gorgeous outfits are a significant part of the day’s excitement. Crystal recalls gathering for barbecues on Family Cup Days, then turning on the television to watch Fashions on the Field. “I remember seeing Sarah Schofield and Angela Menz on TV thinking, I wish I could do that one-day.”

But, rather than just wish, she pursued her interest in fashions and enrolled in RMIT (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology). The studies may not have lasted but the passion did; it led her to develop a personal style she describes as “classic meets contemporary – classic silhouettes with futuristic and modern pieces…where colour is a must.” With such specific taste, she is reliant on her owns sewing skills to bring these outfits to fruition. “I actually make most of my outfits,” she notes, “or buy a dress and change it by adding pieces like a cape, collar, overskirt and such so that it’s different. There is always that worry of someone else wearing the same dress you have on so I try to eliminate that chance!”

Bright in blue at Sandown 2013

Bright in blue at Sandown 2013

Crystal is certainly hitting the mark with her designs, one of which was even copied head-to-toe by a fellow race-goer.  Over the past eight moths (12 events), Crystal has not only made it to the finals but won Fashions on the Field events including Sandown and the Brisbane Carnival – Tattersalls Cup, taking home such enviable prizes as a trip to Hong Kong, Myer shopping sprees and $1000 Chadstone vouchers.  Her most recent win, Myer Fashions on the Field – Queensland, will see her compete against the other states’ finalists at Crown Oaks Day during the 2013 Melbourne Cup Carnival. Although this means she won’t be able to compete at Melbourne Cup itself, Crystal notes, ”Flemington spring racing carnival is always so much fun! I can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with!”

While Crystal makes most of her outfits either from her own designs or modifications from existing pieces, she does draw inspiration from a number of designers. At the moment she is following Peter Pilotto and Mary Katrantzou though, she notes,  “it always changes…it’s more seasonal trends and my own ideas.” Her most recent ensemble, the lovely tangerine number she wore for Myer Fashions on the Field, perfectly exemplifies the amalgamation of her influences.  The daring patterns on classic cuts are a prominent feature in Pilotto’s collection while the embellished textured yoke and inventive headpiece align with Katrantzou’s concept of “wearable art.”

Crystal Kimber

Intricate details define Crystal’s outfits (Photo by Ross Stevenson)

Not only did the judges praise her ensemble, a moment that Crystal deemed, “a massive thrill and such an honour,” it’s also the outfit of which she is most proud. Having her heart set on a specific design, she was unwilling to compromise on any element.  Crystal knew from the onset that her project, with all its particulars, was going to be quite difficult. Her first challenge was two-fold: find and source four different fabrics that suit the design. Frustrated after scouring traditional sewing stores and coming out empty-handed, Crystal resourcefully ended up using upholstery fabrics to create the outfit’s layers. The foundation of the outfit, however, came from the back of her wardrobe in the form of an old orange dress from Zara.

Her nod to Pilloto is apparent in the detailed pink, orange and white geometric-patterned fabric used to create the classic pencil skirt, which is accompanied by a bold pink and orange tweed peplum, sculpted into a structured shape by way of a wire sewn into the hem.

Lest you think that the only way to compliment this outfit is with luxury accessories, you’d be pleased to know that Crystal was equally resourceful when it came to that department: the neck of her silver yoke was stitched with pieces of a Lovissa mirrored necklace; the Zara pumps were off e-bay; the gloves were an old pair dyed orange; and the clutch was Perspex with an orange felt insert. Oh, and don’t forget the silver cuff she bought at the airport – on her way to the event.

As much as we’d like to believe that her hat was another homespun creation, Crystal admits that her headpieces are bespoke. While she does have favourites, like Jill & Jack Millinery for their unusual shapes and “amazing designs,” she notes that all designers have a unique style so she’ll approach those that she feels are best suited to her outfit.

Caulfield Cup 2011 - Crystal's first FOTF competition

Caulfield Cup 2011 – Crystal’s first FOTF competition

Amazingly, Crystal’s whole ensemble is quite often completed in a last minute frenzy, however, she does try to begin work on it at least two weeks prior. But unlike many racegoers who base outfits around one specific element (e.g. hat, bag, or shoes) she waits for that one bit of inspiration. “I will generally research, come up with a concept I like then comes the colours, fabrics and such to apply the concept.”

Come competition time, Crystal says that behind the scenes there are lots of laughs and lots of support but there really isn’t a true formula for winning FOTF. “You learn along the way, some outfits are winners, some aren’t,” adding humbly, “we all make mistakes.” Ever the optimist and with advice as bright as her colour palette, Crystal adds that,  “as long as you love it and are confident in it on the day that’s all that matters!”

-Race Wear Australia

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