Send in the crowns. Lady Kitty Spencer returns to the Melbourne Cup

Send in the crowns. Lady Kitty Spencer returns to the Melbourne Cup

Princess Diana’s niece Lady Kitty Spencer will take part in the Melbourne Cup festivities for her third time, only this year’s visit will be virtual as a judge for the Myer Fashions on your Front Lawn Millinery Award.

Lady Kitty Spencer at the 2019 Melbourne Cup, wearing a hat by Stephen jones and dress by Roland Mouret.

On the panel assessing the merits of wide-brimmed wonders and the inevitable feathered fascinators, Lady Spencer, 30, will join renowned English milliner Stephen Jones, who works with Christian Dior, Gucci and topped off Rihanna’s recent and relatively restrained Met Gala look.

“The award is a wonderful opportunity for Australia’s most talented milliners to showcase their creativity and technical skill,” Lady Spencer said by email.

“I have always loved embracing the glamour and joy of dressing up for the races and wearing an incredible headpiece. In particular, I have such wonderful memories of my visits to the Melbourne Cup Carnival as a guest of the Victoria Racing Club and their principal partner Lexus.”

Lady Spencer attended the Melbourne Cup in 2015 and again in 2019. Since those appearances she has been working as a global ambassador for Italian fashion brand Dolce & Gabbana, wearing their designs at her July wedding to millionaire fashion retailer Michael Lewis, 61, in Rome.

“Judging alongside world renowned milliner and friend Stephen Jones is an honour and I look forward to seeing all the entries from across Australia.”

Rihanna at the 2021 Met Gala wearing Stephen Jones; milliner Stephen Jones; Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, wearing Stephen Jones at the 2018 christening of Prince Louis.Credit:AP- Cameron L’Estrange

For Jones, fresh from working with Christian Dior at Paris Fashion Week, it’s an opportunity to reunite with the aristocratic Lady Spencer as well as Australia’s hat-wearing population.

“I feel a little bit like her uncle,” Jones, 64, said. “We are friends. She is a gorgeous person and knows how to wear clothes very well.”

When the polished pair attended the Melbourne Cup Carnival together in 2015, racing veteran Jones helped chaperone Lady Spencer through the social minefield of the Birdcage at Flemington Racecourse and the accompanying media circus.

Lady Kitty Spencer at the 2018 wedding ceremony of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in a Stephen Jones hat.Credit:AP

“Whether it’s Lady Kitty Spencer or you’re from the middle of the countryside, everyone at an event like the Melbourne Cup is having an out-of-body experience. You feel different and there’s the anxiety of anticipation,” Jones said. “I would just say ‘come on let’s go on stage now’ when it was time. One of the things about hats is that you perform in them.”

Pop princess Kylie Minogue wearing Stephen Jones on her Showgirl tour in 2005.Credit:AP

The judging this year will be another discombobulating moment, with Jones and Lady Spencer looking on from Europe to decide the winner of the $10,250 prize package, with entries closing tomorrow. Framing of the face and balance of the hat are important criteria but the man who has crowned British royalty such as Princess Diana, along with Australia’s unofficial queen Kylie Minogue, has a delightfully democratic approach.

“Do they look as though they own the hat, do they look elegant, are they having fun? These are simple things. Do they look as though they’re enjoying themselves? Someone could be wearing a bathtub on their head in fuchsia having a great time. People expect me to turn up my nose just because they’re having a party on their head.”

With Melbourne’s milliners suffering from another year without bespoke orders for what would normally be their money-making moment, Jones has a message of hope.

“It will come back and it will come back at the races. The connection between wearing a hat and celebration is important. There should be a lot to celebrate.”

The winner of the Millinery Award will be announced on Cup Day.

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