Newmarket's July Festival Style Awards: Meet the winners


By Alice Ryan


Recognising the best dressed racegoers at Newmarket July Festival, this year’s Style Awards raised the sartorial bar. Velvet Magazine, which media partners the awards, looks back on three days of fabulous fashion.

Newmarket July Course Ladies Day 2019 Natalie White, of Newmarket, who won Best Dressed Lady at Ladies Day Picture by Mark Westley. (13824170)
Newmarket July Course Ladies Day 2019 Natalie White, of Newmarket, who won Best Dressed Lady at Ladies Day Picture by Mark Westley. (13824170)

Day 1: Ladies’ Day

Always the most hotly contested Style Awards category, Best Dressed Lady saw almost 1,700 entrants - a record number - don their dresses, hats and heels.

Top trends included statement details, notable pleats, ruffles and kimono sleeves; block colours, spanning brights, pastels, cream and white; and halos and headbands, which ranged from summery straw to pearl-encrusted velvet.

The judging panel comprised stylist Sarah Kate Byrne, famous for dressing ITV Racing presenter Francesca Cumani; Denise Taylor, personal stylist at John Lewis & Partners Cambridge; Velvet’s contributing fashion editor Rohiny Belani; and Velvet editor Alice Ryan.

New for 2019’s Ladies’ Day was the Milliner’s Award for Best Hat, which saw official festival milliner Ana Pribylova select her favourite headpiece on the course.

As ever, thousands of pounds worth of prizes were on offer, courtesy of Charlotte Tilbury, Porsche, Hotel du Vin Cambridge, John Lewis & Partners Cambridge, Midsummer House, Ted Baker, Penhaligon’s, The Face Place, Hotel Chocolat, The Manor Florist at Burwash Manor and July Festival headline sponsor Moet & Chandon.

Newmarket July Course Ladies Day 2019 Rachael Collett, Cara Edwards, Gemma Leggett and Emila Leggett from Ipswich. Picture by Mark Westley. (13823917)
Newmarket July Course Ladies Day 2019 Rachael Collett, Cara Edwards, Gemma Leggett and Emila Leggett from Ipswich. Picture by Mark Westley. (13823917)

Best Dressed Lady: Winner

Natalie White, business owner from Newmarket

“I honestly can’t believe this is happening... I was joking with a friend that I’d only ever go to Ladies’ Day if I could win best dressed - this is the first time I’ve come and I actually have won!

“To be complimented and feel accepted by all these other women is really incredible. I have suffered with anxiety and this experience has given me such a confidence boost. It will definitely help my self-belief going forward.

“My outfit started with the dress, which is Forever Unique, then the hat came from The Hat Club in Fordham, the shoes are River Island and the bag’s Kurt Geiger - I’m a bit obsessed with these bags: I’ve got my eyes on the pink version next!

“I run my own cleaning business, so it’s lovely to have the chance to get dressed up. We actually came today because it’s my husband’s birthday and we thought it was Best Dressed Couple, so we were going to enter together. He says seeing me win is the best birthday present he could have, though, bless him.”

Newmarket July Course Ladies Day 2019 Natalie White, of Newmarket, who won Best Dressed Lady at Ladies Day Picture by Mark Westley. (13824115)
Newmarket July Course Ladies Day 2019 Natalie White, of Newmarket, who won Best Dressed Lady at Ladies Day Picture by Mark Westley. (13824115)

Second Place

Megan Downes, zoology graduate from Saffron Walden

“You hear women giving each other compliments all day on Ladies’ Day. That’s something we don’t do enough, I think; to be part of an event which encourages women to celebrate each other is lovely.

“My outfit started with the hat. It’s a Philip Treacy and I bought it last year - I actually wore it last Ladies’ Day with a mint green dress. I really wanted to wear it again, but with something brighter. When I saw this kimono dress on ASOS, I just loved it. My shoes are actually borrowed from my mum - they’re New Look - and my bag’s Topshop.

“I’ve just graduated from Nottingham and I’m having a summer of fun! To come second is such a surprise. It’s amazing.”

Third Place

Mollie Shaw, landlady from Soham

“This is all a bit crazy: I couldn’t believe I’d made the top 10, never mind top three...

“I first entered Best Dressed Lady two years ago. I came with a friend, but as the moral support, I didn’t really do it properly. This year I found this outfit, which is actually a top and skirt, on ASOS and loved it: it’s just really different, something I hadn’t seen before. It reminds me a bit of butterfly wings. Then my hat came from Love That Hat in Soham and my bag’s New Look.

“I’m landlady of The Ship in Soham. I took over when I was 19, I was the youngest landlady in the area. The punters in the pub are going to think this is a joke; I spent most days in jeans and a T-shirt.”

Newmarket July Course Ladies Day 2019 Jackie Murfitt, Emily Lawrence, Jodie Davis, Kay Spooner and Kerry Goodwin from Ely Picture by Mark Westley. (13823924)
Newmarket July Course Ladies Day 2019 Jackie Murfitt, Emily Lawrence, Jodie Davis, Kay Spooner and Kerry Goodwin from Ely Picture by Mark Westley. (13823924)

The Milliner’s Award: Winner

Christina Lown, full-time mum from Hatfield

“I am so excited to have won the Best Hat category - especially in its very first year! That’s quite something.

“The hat was made for me by a friend, the milliner Olivia Rose Turner. As you might guess, it was inspired by the Lulu Guinness dress. I saw the dress online ages ago, commented to my husband that I liked it, and he bought not only the dress, but also the shoes and bag, as a surprise for our anniversary.

“I decided then, back in February, that I’d wear the outfit for Ladies’ Day. My husband and I have been coming for five years now; it’s our annual day out without the children - we’ve got three.

“Olivia was initially planning to make leather lips, but she wasn’t happy with the effect, so switched to these acrylic ones. I’m so pleased with the end result - it’s perfect.”

Winne of best hat (13823453)
Winne of best hat (13823453)

Day 2: Feel Good Friday

Attracting some 300 entrants, Best Dressed Gentleman made its return on day two of the festival. Sharp three-piece suits continued to trend, along with waistcoats and shirtsleeves with braces.

The judges - fashion influencer Jon Guelas, of X Factor-formed boyband United Vibe, official festival milliner Ana Pribylova, John Lewis & Partners personal stylist Clara Wardell and Velvet’s Alice Ryan - were impressed to see more men being brave with colour (especially pinks and purples) and print (from florals to checks).

Prizes included shopping sprees at John Lewis & Partners and Ted Baker, a Porsche driving experience at Silverstone, a weekend at Cambridge’s Hotel du Vin, dinner at the Michelin-starred Midsummer House, a Penhaligon’s coffret, and a hospitality day at Essex County Cricket.

Best Dressed Gentleman: Winner

Adam Stewart, decorator from Bury St Edmunds

“When I made the top 10, I thought ‘Fair enough, I’ve made a bit of an effort’. But the other guys looked great - I can’t believe the judges chose me as the winner. I’m still grinning.

“Pretty much my whole outfit is from ASOS. I love ASOS, but my boyfriend hates me loving it; especially when there’s a sale, I just can’t help myself! I like putting an outfit together and adding the little details, like the pocket watch, which my sister gave me for my 40th, and the angel-wing pins on my waistcoat and jacket.

“My boyfriend and I met on First Dates nearly four years ago. We were invited on Lorraine to talk about it and the guys at Javelin in Bury gave me a jacket to wear on TV - the big angel pin actually comes from that.

“I’m a decorator by trade and I do like to make the effort when I’m going out, especially if I’m coming to the races. I’d definitely encourage other guys to get dressed up and have a go: have you seen the prizes?”

Second Place

Earl Lee, semi-professional cricketer from Stevenage

“Coming to the races today was a very last-minute thing: I literally bought my outfit this morning in River Island. I thought, if I was just wearing them with a white shirt, the trousers needed to be quite loud. And I do like to wear braces - they’re just smart, aren’t they?

“I’m here with a big group of my mates, 15 of us altogether, and three of us made the top 10. It’s all been good fun.”

Third Place

Phil Weavers, on-call firefighter from Bury St Edmunds

“This is the first time I’ve entered Best Dressed Gentleman. I do like to make an effort with my clothes when I’m going out, though - this suit is from Dapper Fox in Bury and it’s tailor-made.

“I’d tell gents to enter the awards next year, definitely. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about, is there? And the prizes are brilliant: mine include a lock-in at Hotel Chocolat - lock-in and chocolate are two words that sound good together. . .”

Winner of the best dressed gentlemen (13823449)
Winner of the best dressed gentlemen (13823449)

Day 3: Darley July Cup Day

2019’s Style Awards came to a close with the Best Dressed Couple category. Some 400 couples - partners, friends, parents and children - entered, with looks ranging from elegant and understated, with subtle touches of colour coordination, through to all-stops-out themed outfits, the judges’ favourite being one husband and wife’s matching grass-and-flower print waistcoat and dress, finished off by her astroturf clutch.

The judging panel comprised John Lewis & Partners personal stylist Dolly Bamrah, milliner Ana Pribylova, and Velvet’s Alice Ryan, and prizes included another Porsche driving experience, Hotel du Vin stay, Midsummer House dinner, John Lewis & Partners vouchers and The Face Place treatments.

Best Dressed Couple: First Place

Kelly and Justin Miller, from Dorset

“I’ve been in the top 10 and top three of Best Dressed Lady before, but this is my first actual win - I think a husband is what I was missing,” laughs Kelly. “We love coming racing - we stay with my parents in Cheveley - and I’ve been making my own hats for a few years now.

“I took a millinery course to improve my work/life balance and give me something to do at the weekend when Justin’s working on the farm. Friends and family started asking me to make hats for them and it just grew from there. The house is now full of hats - and the floor’s covered in pins!

“Today’s outfit started with my Self Portrait dress. I’d already bought the Diane von Furstenberg bag and thought I’d better put it to use, or I should probably take it back.

“My straw halo brings the navy, white and orange together: I made the leather flowers myself, and hand-cut all the feathers. I’ve been a fan of the halo for ages - so really Kate Middleton’s copying me. . .”

“I wasn’t even meant to be here today,” adds Justin, a farmer. “We were supposed to be harvesting, then on Monday my Dad said no, we’d wait a week, which meant I could come racing. It’s been a brilliant day.”

Second Place

Victoria and Lewis Blackbird, from Newmarket

“We always like to enter the couples’ competition - we won in 2017,” says Victoria, a beauty therapist. “This year’s outfits were a bit last minute, though: I’d been into town to pick up the tails for Ascot and was literally running through John Lewis, just before it closed, when I saw this dress. I didn’t even try it on, just picked it up!

“Lewis already had the tie and pocket square, which match perfectly, and I realised the shoes and bag I’d bought to go with my Ladies’ Day outfit would go, too. The hat was made my Tabitha Ada; I saw it when I went to pick up my Ladies’ Day halo.”

“My jacket and waistcoat are Topman and I’ve had them for years,” says Lewis, who runs local firm CB Engineering. “The shirt’s Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing and the trousers are by Dapper Fox: I bought both of them with the vouchers we won in 2017, actually.

“If husbands and wives are thinking of entering, my advice would be to let the woman be the statement piece and then mix and match from your wardrobe to complement her outfit, keeping it classic. And people should think about entering: it’s a bit of fun, isn’t it?”

Third Place

Cherryl Evans and Stephen Hanson, from Wakefield

“We come to the July Festival most years and do like to dress up for the occasion. This dress is actually about 12 years old but I love wearing it, so I just change the colour of the cummerbund to give it a different look. This time I went with yellow, and my friend, the milliner Sally Harper-Kenn, made me a yellow hat to bring it all together,” says Cherryl.

“It’s been a great week for us: we breed horses as a hobby and have just got a first place in the Great Yorkshire Show,” adds Stephen, a podiatrist. “My hat’s an Ecuadorian Panama, my jacket is a Boden by Mr Smithers, and my shoes are Barker. I’m actually wearing the wrong trousers: these are the trousers I wear for taking the horses out, I packed them instead of my chinos by mistake. . .”

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