It’s a day of extreme prowess on the track and uber-glamour off - where the country’s most high profile personalities put their best Jimmy-Choo-shod feet forward. If you’ve ever wondered what goes on inside the exclusive birdcage on racing’s biggest day, wonder no more. Celebrity stylist Penny Hunt (who dresses everyone from Toni Colette to Kate Ritchie) went undercover for Beauticate on Melbourne Cup Day, getting a little preening intel from Australia’s most glamorous women.
One could remark that what goes on in the birdcage of Melbourne’s Flemington racecourse is just a lot of horsing around, however the folk penned among exclusive hedge marquees on Cup Day tend to enjoy all that’s on offer: from champagne on tap to exquisite canapés and custom entertainment. But with hours of schmoozing, quaffing and playing the ponies, how does this beauteous posse maintain their polish and allure for a photo finish?
For the more genetically-gifted racegoers, there may have only been a brief Spring Carnival beauty ritual, however mine included a bounty of pre-race primping including an antioxidant peel and Pelleve treatment from The Clinic and a luminous St Tropez spray-tan from the ever- fabulous Michael Brown. With the addition of Flower Temple floral head piece and several hours of preening and pinning later, I emerged, hoping to strike that balance between Botticelli bohemian and ethereal Dolce and Gabbana diva.
Between espresso martinis served chilled in the Lavazza marquee, English Royal Guards impersonating Spice Girl moves in the Emirates Georgian-themed marquee and French bubbles free-flowing in Myer’s prime trackside abode, there was barely a tuft of grass left that didn’t showcase liquid-gold swigging pretty people. Amid sips of vintage Mumm and mouthfuls of mini gourmet burgers I gathered beauty and style intel from the racing elite, who were poised to see our first-ever female jockey, Michelle Payne win The Melbourne Cup (there was barely a dry eye). Although we managed to saddle up next to the noble crowd, and get in a few horse quips with Lady Kitty Spencer and the Honourable Julie Bishop, their body guards didn’t allow for much girl talk.
It was hard not to marvel at Bishop’s sleek Giorgio Armani shift dress and navy over sized fedora that looked almost identical in design to the cream Stella McCartney number worn by Amal Clooney during her Venice-based wedding. A non-coffee drinker but a confessed champagne consumer just might explain why Bishop’s skin glowed exhibiting that perfect incandescent summery make-up finish most of us would only dream of in our fifties.
And from political icon to famed frock designer, Leona Edminston knows better than most how to survive Spring Carnival after making the pony pilgrimage more times than she cares to mention. Looking almost royal in her Nerida Winter crown and own printed Leona frock she handed over some sage advice on beauty preparation. She promptly points out that all the drinking dehydrates skin, so always make sure you moisturise your skin prior to applying your face. “A hydrating lipstick is also a must and don’t forget the block out!” She uses Shiseido Anessa 50 and insists that skin is a lifelong asset as well as a healthy lifestyle, “Its important to stay healthy and active all year round! My regular routine is 20 minutes on the bike most mornings,” explaining Edminston’s ageless charm.
Her advice about what frock to wear is just what any girl wants to hear, “Find a dress you love and wear it with confidence – and if all else fails pop on a pair of spanx!” Priceless! And, as the tent-hopping procession starts again and before she moves on, I have to know one last beauty secret - well actually two: who her eyelash technician is (Edminston’s eyelashes are enchanting) and what are her clutch bag must-haves? Lita Brow Boutique in Darlinghurst for all things lash and inhibiting her Leona Clutch are an iPhone, Leona Edmiston sunglasses (vintage), SKII lipstick #421, Napoleon concealer (light), Napoleon pressed powder and of course money for bets!
We head out of the Myer marquee spotting the ever-effervescent Jennifer Hawkins disco-dancing in her fluoro Toni Maticevski number, and spy the gorgeous Kate Peck dressed in a 60’s vibe fuchsia floral number from Aurelio Costarella topped off with a silver and purple flaming crown by Viktoria Novak. To complete the 60’s swinging thing Pecks famous blond crop has been whipped into what she calls "love locks" while her sparkling make-up is all thanks to Napoleon Perdis - as are her clutch essentials: a nude Napoleon lippy and compact powder.
Seeing all of that perfection up close has me running for a touch up, and thanks to some premier airline hospitality, I arrive at the Emirates marquee’s Yves Saint Laurent beauty den. Leading make-up artist Jeanni is on hand to touch up everyone from the Housewives of Melbourne to the Seven News crew. Most requested is a bronzed radiant look with red or burnt tangerine lip tones. Hair is next with Alex from Joey Scandizzo salon blow-waving and pinning my locks back into position with a selection of Eleven hair products. He almost runs out of the Sea Salt Spray that is reportedly holding up almost every celebrity hairdo in the Birdcage.
Reenergised, I feel ready to face another onslaught of supermodel perfection and find none other than Rebecca Judd sitting pretty in her show stopping ruby red Alex Perry cocktail dress. She's with her gal pals in the Lavazza marquee sipping on espresso martinis. She floats effortlessly around the marquee sparkling with a Swarovski-crystalled headband by the Hatmaker and high-rise Bianca Buccheri heels. I'm transfixed by how perfect her make-up looks until she explains that it's a new airbrushing technique her make-up artist Perth based, Hendra Widjaja was using. Widjaja was in Melbourne to host master classes with Judd’s own beauty mecca, Beauty EDU and, of course, to create Judd’s luminous, bronzed and contoured look for the race week while her hair was tamed and tonged by Keely @ UVA Salon in Prahran.
And while Judd certainly draws a crowd when Aussie model mum Megan Gale entered with her ALF posse it seemed all onlookers froze to admire. When we finally got chatting (after wadding through the entire cast of The Bachelorette) Gale did comment she was worried she would look like Kermit the Frog in her green getup. See - even outrageously stunning people feel insecure sometimes! But no one could rock that Dolce & Gabbana and Studio Aniss Millinery sculptured headpiece quite like Gale. Her hair was effortlessly thrown back into a clean pony by Marie @ UVA Salon and those moneymaker lips and cheekbones were naturally bronzed and highlighted by make-up artist Chantelle Baker.
With the mention of an after party taking place at the Prince of Wales Hotel I assess my feet situation (as a stylist I advised so many clients to wear Scholl Party Feet but did I? No!) and determined I was barely going to make it out of the racetrack in these high heel torture chambers. T'was best to hold my ethereal head high and trot home on what little foot muster I could find. Melbourne, it's been sweet. Until next year!
Story by Penny Hunt