Hats off to Dale Olsson!



Brisbane's Carolyn Donovan in a stunning HAT BOX headpiece - Copy - Copy

Photo credit: Carolyn Donovan wearing a statement headpiece from The Hat Box

Preparing for the winter racing is underway and I couldn’t think of a better person to guide me through the fashion do’s and fashion don’ts of the season, then the queen of race wear, millinery expert and savvy business owner of The Hat Box, Dale Olsson. Hosting a special high fashion event celebrating winter race wear, Dale will showcase a selection of millinery masterpieces at the upcoming The Hat Box High Tea, held at the Emporium Hotel. When it comes to the winter race wear trends, Dale is not about to keep it under her hat. Instead, she gives TBS readers an insider guide to dressing for the races. Ladies, hold onto your hats!


Dale Olsson, owner of The Hat Box, certainly knows how to accessorise. She is an absolute vision in deep purple. 

Q: Known as a millinery bowerbird of exquisite hats and headpieces, TBS readers would like to know where this fascination of collecting millinery began?

Dale: My father was a racing man who started taking me to the track (Eagle Farm Racecourse) with him when I was 14 years old. Naturally my mother always made sure I wore a hat. As racing and millinery have always existed hand-in-hand, my fascination with all types of hats started early in life. In my twenties I started entering Fashions in the Field and over the years I have won many fabulous prizes including overseas trips and jewellery. Fashion is my passion so ten years ago I made it my business, giving up teaching to buy my milliner’s boutique in the Brisbane Arcade. As I’m not a milliner myself, I have sourced hats from some of the best milliners in Australia who all create exclusive original headwear for me. I love what I do and assisting a client choose something beautiful to match her outfit gives me great pleasure.


Photo credit: A sneak peek from The Hat Box winter collection

Q: With your wealth of experience in race wear millinery; tell us what makes a memorable Races outfit?

Dale: As I now judge Fashions on the Field throughout Queensland, I am always on the lookout for a memorable race day outfit, something that will make the wearer stand out from all of the other entrants. It has to be currently on trend, well co-ordinated and appropriate for the season. With the Winter Racing Carnival approaching, I would like to see a court shoe or ankle boot, hosiery, covered arms and shoulders, little leather gloves topped with a felt or feather headpiece. Many women make the mistake of over accessorising, for example wearing an elaborate hat with a very busy dress, or too much jewellery. However, one small quirky piece will always catch my eye, be it a little fur wrap or a pretty vintage handbag.

Q: In your expert opinion, how should the ultimate fashionista style a statement headpiece?

Dale: A statement headpiece should be worn simply so as not to lessen its impact. Team it with a suit or dress in a block colour which will either match or contrast well with the hat. Keep the interest above the neck by styling the hair pulled back from the face and worn in a loose knot or bun at the back or side of the head if the hair is long. Keep earrings small, perhaps pearl studs or gold hoops. Conversely, if wearing an elaborate ensemble, keep the hat simple, a pillbox or beret shape, for example.

Q: Hats or fascinators? Lace or feathers? Classic monochrome or bold colour blocking? What is the current trend in headwear for this winter race season?

Dale: The current trend in headwear this racing season os small hats: cloches, berets, fedoras in felt or leather trimmed with lace, beading, feathers with or without veiling. The 1920s Gatsby look is still popular with small hats heavily embellished. Young racegoers still prefer fascinators as they don’t have to suffer the dreaded “hat hair” during the evening but they are larger and more elegant than in previous seasons. Wide-brimmed hats are starting to make a comeback and look ultra glamorous in black velvet with minimal trim, allowing the shape itself to shine. The colour for Winter 2014 is red – all shades from pillar-box to crimson to brick. Other popular shades are cobalt blue, turquoise and orchid. Black for Winter is always a winner and looks most sophisticated teamed with ivory. There is no hard and fast rule re colour. I’ve always liked my hat to co-ordinate with my outfit but colour blocking can look stunning, for example, hot pink with orange or purple with lime. My only suggestion is to never wear more than three colours in your outfit or you’ll attract attention for all of the wrong reasons.

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Photo credit: Perfectly pink at The Hat Box this season

Q: In 5 words, describe what can be expected from The Hat Box High Tea event?

Dale: What can be expected from The Hat Box High Tea event? Colour, glamour, sophistication and fun!

For booking enquiries and information surrounding The Hat Box High Tea event, phone the Emporium Hotel on 3253 6999 or email info@emporiumhotels.com.au. In the mean time, make sure you visit The Hat Box and like the Facebook page to stay up to date with the race wear season. See you there fashionistas!

Emporium Hotel High Tea copy cropped

Photo credit: High Tea at the Emporium Hotel