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Carle Rutledge’s Instagram feed is for the style-conscious follower, populated by pretty dresses, statement clutches and beautiful millinery pieces. She’s creative with her outfits, she’s not afraid to step out in something twice with a twist, and she pushes the boundaries in the racing arena by making her headwear herself.

She’s a budding Melbourne milliner, an avid racegoer and a passionate self-stylist. She travels around Australia following the racing calendar each year, in pursuit of the ever-glistening Fashions On The Field win. She’s been gaining quite the following in the racing fashion scene of late too, and over the past few years, she’s been among the top ten finalists in countless competitions. Her most notable triumph was in 2016 when Carle was named the New South Wales Myer Fashions On The Field State Finalist, finishing as Runner-Up to the winner.

While the accolades are recent, her interest in the industry is no new hobby. Carle has always had a passion for fashion and horse racing, sparked by her experience as a horse owner herself. When it came time to complete the perfect racing outfit though, she often found herself frustrated with the lack of options, and it was seldom that she found the perfect finishing piece in the mainstream market. Season after season, she would tweak ready-made millinery pieces to suit her own style, and it wasn’t long before Carle came to the realisation – the ‘ah-ha’ moment behind her now popular millinery label, Madam Hat.

Submerging herself in millinery workshops and hat making training courses, Carle quickly learnt, but as a humble maker, she believes she’s still got a long way to go.

“I am still learning and loving exploring new materials and techniques! Millinery is ever-evolving, and it’s incredibly artistic. I have a creative soul that needs to be fed, and crafting unique millinery provides that outlet. Developing my look to reflect my passions is an intricate process, but I’ve now set up a creative space at home which seems to be growing!”

And an intricate process it certainly is. Gone are the days of plain pillbox hats and tamed cloches; millinery is now eclectic, colourful, quirky and meticulous, and there’s something infinitely unique about the modern headwear we see trackside today.

“My love of sophisticated fashion comes from the racing arena. Millinery can add confidence to a finished look, and it makes women look polished and elegant. The millinery, gloves, bags, shoes, and the details – right down to hair and makeup – it all matters. The women who participate in Fashions On The Field are all so lovely and amazing too, and no matter what part of Australia you come from, we all seem to connect and have fun. That’s what it’s really about – sharing a passion. It’s the creativity behind an outfit and the process of pulling it all together. The inspiration you gain from the other women who compete is immeasurable.”

The women that Carle speaks of aren’t just the few that make it through to the finals either; Carle shares the Fashions On The Field trail with thousands of women. She often bumps into familiar faces from state to state, and sharing her passion for racing fashion with other women is one of Carle’s favourite aspects of travelling around the country. The pinnacle event of her travelling calendar is undoubtedly Melbourne Cup, Australia’s most famous and prestigious event for both horse racing and fashion. In 2016, Carle donned a gorgeous yellow Alex Perry midi-length dress featuring a gold floral and white lace décolletage with capped sleeves. And of course, she created her own headpiece for the event.

“I created my headpiece the night before after deciding not to sport another boater hat, which is my favourite style to wear! Instead, I wore a yellow sinamay headpiece with a white raffia lace halo, white leather flowers, coloured quills and peacock feathers. It worked so well with my dress and felt amazing to wear. I paired half-gloves in yellow with a gorgeous Olga Berg white leather clutch, and I finished off the look with my limited edition, hand painted Christian Louboutin floral pumps.”

Although the 2016 Fashions On The Field winning title went to Courtney Moore, Carle believes the judges picked the rightful winner, and at the end of a long racing day, it’s ultimately all about the fun of dressing up, not the win.

“I just love Courtney Moore. She exudes elegance, and I had hoped she would be the overall national 2016 winner! Her outfit was perfect, and it was race day appropriate; a gorgeous navy and white combination with a full Ellery skirt and a detailed Alice McCall top. Her headpiece was a handcrafted wire percher that complimented the outfit perfectly.”

Humble and talented; it’s not often you find a milliner in Melbourne that so quickly congratulates another, but Carle Rutledge is one them. Follow her millinery adventures via Instagram and stay tuned for this year’s Melbourne Cup – we’re betting on Carle for the win.

The Fashion Advocate x

Madam Hat and the perfect Melbourne Cup outfit, The Fashion Advocate

Madam Hat and the perfect Melbourne Cup outfit, The Fashion Advocate

Madam Hat and the perfect Melbourne Cup outfit, The Fashion Advocate

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