Melbourne Cup: Waikato woman to compete for best-dressed honours at Fashion on the Field

Anna Campbell
Anna Campbell is going to be representing New Zealand in the fashion stakes at next week's Melbourne Cup. Photo credit: Anna Campbell via RNZ

By Lucy Corry of RNZ

A Waikato doggy daycare owner who usually wears "old farm clothes" will be competing for best-dressed honours at the Melbourne Cup's Fashion on the Field event next week.

Anna Campbell said she already feels like a winner after being named one of two international finalists selected from a pre-race digital contest.

Campbell, who lives at Mystery Creek near Cambridge, won 'Best Suited - International' after submitting photos of her race-day outfit. 

"It's lovely to get the odd prize over the fillies, just to keep them on their toes. It's not about age anymore, and that's fabulous."

The basis of Campbell's look, 'Powder Blue Power', is a "not hugely expensive" three-piece blue Country Road suit.

She accompanied it with oyster Diavolina heels, a Gucci bag and earrings, and a fedora hat created by Pirongia milliner Monika Neuhauser.

"She is luckily not far from me, so I get to go and see everything up close and raid her supplies. I like to think I'm her best customer." 

She'd initially created the outfit to wear to another Australian race-day, The Everest, held in Sydney last month. When she realised the closing date for digital entries for the Melbourne Cup contest was looming, she decided to snap a few shots and send them in.

"I didn't really plan to do it, but I thought I may as well take some photos. My daughter just took some photos in our driveway, and I think that might have helped me actually, our driveway is quite photogenic."

Next week, she'll line up against other digital finalists from Australia and the US, as well as competitors chosen on the day.

The grand final of the fashion contest, which has a total prize pool of more than $350,000, takes place on at Oaks Day on November 9. 

Campbell says her race-day looks are very different to her usual garb, joking that the dog owners she sees on a regular basis probably wouldn't recognise her.

She's been entering - and often winning - race-day fashion events for more than a decade, often with her daughter Eleanor. In fact, Campbell bought her suit using vouchers that Eleanor won for making the top three in last year's Melbourne Cup fashion event.

"This is not our first rodeo," Campbell says. "It's our hobby. We wear old farm clothes 90 percent of our lives, but we love the racing dress-up because it gives us a real creative outlet.

"If we didn't have that we'd be pretty bored because we love fashion, and we just don't get to wear it with our jobs." 

As well as winning a place in the final lineup, Campbell's prize includes flights and VIP tickets to Melbourne Cup week events, including attending a cocktail party at Government House.

This means taking a sizeable wardrobe with her - especially because daughter Eleanor is joining her on the trip and also competing again this year.

She says the key to a great race-day outfit - whether you're aiming for the winner's sash or just keen for a stylish day-out - is coordination. 

"I always try to match shoes and handbag or clutch… I'm a 'less is more' type of fashionista. You don't have to have a whole garden on your head, just a little touch of colour from your outfit on your hat."

Away from the catwalk, Campbell does have an interest in the horsey side of things through her part-ownership of three fillies.

"Two of them are with an all-lady syndicate. It's a lot of fun and quite addictive."

Even better, she says, is being able to combine the two race-day interests. The syndicate supports a breast cancer charity, so the horse's colours are pink and white. 

"There have been a few hot pink buys to match our horse's colours. It's a little fashion outlet besides competing.

"I'm definitely a veteran mare, but I'm not going to hang up my handbag any time soon."