Friday, 11 July 2014

Best. Day. Ever.*

The first time I went to the Queen's Plate I was about ten years old. I was not wearing a hat. The next time I went was last Sunday, July 6. This time I had two hats -- one to wear, and another one.

The other hat

For this was the occasion of the very first Queen's Plate Millinery Design Competition. The Queen's Plate is the premier horse race of the season, the first in Canada's Triple Crown. Our own Kentucky Derby, or a petite Royal Ascot. I was invited to participate by George Brown College (GBC), where I learned my trade. They co-sponsored the contest, along with Woodbine, the racetrack, and David Dunkley Fine Millinery. David is the Official Milliner to the Queen's Plate, for the second year, also a GBC alumnus, and a contest judge. Other judges were Maria Cristina Grossi from GBC, Traci Melchor from CTV's The Social, and Bri Mott from Fashion at the Races.

David's tent

Traci Melchor

Bri Mott

Over thirty GBC-trained milliners submitted a design for a hat to wear to the races. Of those, fourteen made the first cut and were invited to create the hat designed and submit it. It took me over a day to get the nerve up to even open the email, I was that nervous about my sad little sketch's chances of passing muster. (I can make a nice hat but drawing them? Not so much.)
See? Sad.

When I did open the email, the news was good. Phew! I'd made that cut, too, and went ahead, made the hat and submitted it to the college.

The fourteen of us were to come to the Queen's Plate's three-year-old Hats and Horseshoes party on race day. There the final judging took place, onstage in front of the party, on an overcast, windy afternoon, with jets flying just over our heads from nearby Pearson Airport. Our competition hats were waiting for us on display in GBC's tent nearby. We filed onstage one at a time to show and talk about our hats to the MC, The Social/CTV's Mellisa Grelo, with the panel of judges looking on from their table in front.

Melissa Grelo

Competition hats in GBC tent

One of many planes flying low above us. (I loved them!)

Competitors onstage with Melissa Grelo

After that, we waited in trepidation for the next round, when the judges would make their decision.
Trepidatious competitors waiting.

Luckily, one of my clients came by with her good wishes, wearing the fascinator she had bought from me to wear that day. That was a pleasant distraction from the nervousness.


With the high calibre of entries, I thought I would be lucky to make the top five. But they skipped that level and went right for the top three finalists. My name was called. I'd made the top three!
Three finalists: me, Amparo Findlay, Iris Lee

Then they named the runners-up. My name wasn't called for second runner-up. It wasn't called for first runner-up.

That meant....

I had won.

First Prize! A plaque and a substantial cash award, too!

My jaw dropped. When I picked it up again, my chin wobbled, trying to hold back happy tears, without much success. I was rendered inarticulate with geflemptitude. (Must be a word if I just used it.) And thus I remained for the remainder of the day.

See? I'm not kidding.

David and me on the red carpet afterwards

Why did my hat win? Who knows! They didn't say. The colours I chose, I think. Pink was having a moment.

Right, Lexie-Lou?

I can't tell you what a big deal this is to me. It's humbling, and also vindicating. I Am A Milliner! And I Don't Suck! Even among such a talented group of competitors, I can hold my own!

I also can't tell you how grateful I am to be honoured in this way. It's so encouraging. It makes me want to improve my skills and grow, and make better millinery for all my fabulous clients, current and future.

What do you think? Is this a story you'd like to go with your new bespoke piece you'll have me make for you?

Thank you for reading this far. A day like this doesn't come along often, so thank you for indulging this me-fest.

Hire this woman to dress your head! Please!

If you want to see more photos of not-me at the Queen's Plate last Sunday, Woodbine's Facebook page ha more than you'll know what to do with.

* In my millinery career, definitely, and right up there in my life in general.


  1. So terrific for you Annie. Now I know why Audrey is so very proud of you. PS.... beautiful, beautiful hat! You deserve all the accolades and the money too! (Ian's support worker, Phyllis)

  2. Thank you, Phyllis! It was so nice to see you last Wednesday. Thanks for being on Ian's team, and for kindly looking at and leaving your wonderful comment on my blog!