FINDING a headpiece for the Melbourne spring racing carnival it is not as simple as popping any old hat on.
Milliners look at many components when fitting a headpiece to match their clients' race-day outfits.
Nerida Winter, a Sydney milliner with many Melbourne customers, says it is not just the shape of a face that determines race-day headwear but the ''whole package, including your height, shoulder width, personality, attitude, as well as outfits, jewellery and necklines''.
Other factors also come into play, such as the No.1 spring racing rule: no felt.
''Straw is the appropriate material for the spring carnival, as felt is strictly for autumn,'' says Winter.
This season hats should be big or small, but nothing in between. Smaller headpieces and larger hats are the most popular shapes.
''Women are choosing smaller sculptural headpieces over fascinators these days, or if they are confident to do a hat, they are bigger than ever before,'' Winter says.
''Women are touching on the '40s and '50s couture when it comes to the larger styles. The side sweep hat has made a comeback which complements the peplum dresses that are in fashion at the moment.''
With smaller headpieces, women are making a statement with a fashion-forward twist.
''We are experimenting with modern textures, lace, horsehair, silks and studs,'' says Winter.
Jonathan Howard, from Hatmaker in Paddington, opts not to sell fascinators at his Sydney shop. ''I do headpieces and hats. This season we are seeing larger-style hats but smaller headpieces are also on trend because they are easy to travel with and women like how they are practical.''
The Melbourne milliner Molly Kasriel, who designs for labels including Fiona Powell and Morgan and Taylor, says women choose smaller pieces because they are a safe option. ''They suit everyone,'' she says. ''They are easy to wear.''