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Culture: Hats the way to do it!

Newmarket July Festival Meeting Ladies Day Finalists Picture Mark Westley (2549622)
Newmarket July Festival Meeting Ladies Day Finalists Picture Mark Westley (2549622)

Wondering how to scoop the top spot in this summer’s Style Awards at Newmarket’s July Festival? Last year’s Best Dressed Lady, Ana Pribylova, shares her secrets with Alice Ryan

Let’s rewind the clock to last July. How did you feel about being crowned Best Dressed Lady?

It was unexpected: you never know what the judges are looking for. To be crowned best dressed out of so many stunning outfits, I was really thrilled.

Remind us about your outfit: what were you wearing?

The outfit was inspired by my millinery: from my own brand, Ana Bella, it was a cherry red button made from more than 500 hand-cut mirror pieces.

I really wanted to wear red from head to toe, so I matched it with the dress from designer True Decadence. I loved how the fabric of the dress flowed and the hat sparkled.

I always wait until the week before the race day to finalise my look, as it often comes down to how I feel on the day what I wear. I had two red dresses to pick from that day and my fiancé actually didn’t like the pleated one because it didn’t have much shape to it. But the fabric looked beautiful and, most of all, I felt so comfortable in it. And then I won!

You won some amazing prizes, didn’t you? Make us jealous. . .

Yes, I did: I had to have my fiancé help me wheel two carts of prizes to the car! We have just moved on to our new houseboat and I’ve saved the extremely large bottle of Moët for the boat-warming party. I also won a huge hamper of products from ESPA, which I use all the time; a silver bracelet from Hiho Silver, which I have as a reminder of my special day; a GHD straightener. . . and a spa and hotel stay at Bedford Lodge, which I’m still saving for a special occasion.

It’s not the first time you’ve won a Best Dressed contest at the races, is it? Tell us about your other accolades.

I really love dressing up for the races and have won best dressed in Australia and at 2017’s Dubai World Cup. I attend a lot of race days and just find it fun entering with my friends.

But my passion is making millinery: my millinery has placed top 10 at the Melbourne Cup millinery awards for the past three years in a row.

The hat really caught the judges’ attention. It was one of your own designs, wasn’t it? Tell us about your millinery business.

Yes, it was one of my own designs. Made from more than 500 hand-cut red mirror pieces, that piece was showcased during London Fashion Week on the runway in 2017 and was yet to be worn in the UK.

I work from my studio in South London, which is on my houseboat.

I design collections and make bespoke hats for ladies, stores and races all over the world – Australia, Dubai, UK, US. The job takes me all over the world and keeps me busy all year round, making hats for the racing seasons.

Since we met you last summer, what’s been happening? Busy year?

You would think making hats is an easy and quiet career, but I travel a lot for my work and it can be tiring, especially when I fly to Australia; I open a studio in Melbourne for the racing season from October to December.

In the past year I have exhibited hats during London Hat Week, worked as a stylist on photoshoots for some upcoming race days in the UK, worked on a bespoke collection for a celebrity in the US, and recently I came back from the Dubai World Cup, where I was judging the fashion awards as well as exhibiting my millinery.

I make three collections a year for different seasons and parts of the world, as well as custom orders for ladies. Currently, I’m working on wedding collections for the UK spring/summer season and catching up on bespoke orders for Royal Ascot.

I wonder if anyone has seen me stitching hats on the tube? If I have to go to meetings I take some hats with me to stitch on the tube or in the car to make time go by quicker. . .

You’re going to be resident milliner for this year’s July Festival – and judging Best Dressed Lady. When it comes to the entrants’ hats, what will you be looking for?

I’m always looking for well-made millinery; something that is elegant yet different and eyecatching. I look for hats and outfits that have pushed the boundaries, but still look beautiful.

I love to know a story behind a hat. I remember talking to a lot of contestants last year who had made their hat, or asked a milliner friend to make it.

Millinery can make or break an outfit and the winner of best dressed this year? It could come down to who is wearing a better hat!

Have you got any Ladies’ Day style secrets to share? When our readers are putting together their looks, what should they bear in mind?

You really need to feel comfortable in your dress all day long, so don’t wear anything too short or tight.

I always like to have my heels, clutch and hat the same colour and a contrasting dress colour that stands out. Or, if in doubt, just dress in the same colour head to toe. All pastel shades is also really pretty.

Whatever you choose, though, make sure to be comfortable, because that always shines through in the way you wear your outfit and hat.

Looking back on last Ladies’ Day, what was the most memorable moment?

When they announced that I had won, all I could hear was my fiancé’s loud yelling! It was a really nice moment, and one we’ll remember when we open that extremely large bottle of Moët. . .

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