Fashion secrets of the Ladies Day winners at Fairyhouse and Cheltenham Festival
Emma Hanratty, from Crossmaglen, and Yvonne McAvoy, from Dungannon, both won prestigious best-dressed titles at race meetings at Fairyhouse and Cheltenham Festival recently. Karen Ireland caught up with them
When avid race- goers and style queens Emma Hanratty from Co Armagh and Yvonne McAvoy from Co Tyrone lifted the top prizes for their attire at two of the most prestigious events in the horse racing calendar, we wanted to find out a little more about their winning fashion.
Emma Hanratty (25), from Crossmaglen, is a seasoned competitor when it comes to enjoying a day at the races.
Together with her friends, the Co Armagh mum-of-one goes all out to claim a prize or a place in the best dressed competitions at the race events.
Of course, it helps tremendously when her future mother-in-law, Rosie Farrell, owns one of the province's leading boutiques, Rosie's Closet in Newry - where Emma has her pick of over 1,500 dresses.
Having won the Dundalk races best dressed title in July, Emma was a sure bet to get noticed at Fairyhouse Racecourse over Easter when a record number of would-be fashionistas signed up to compete for the best dressed crown.
"The theme was Centenary Glamour, reflecting 100 years of fashion in Ireland, so I instantly knew I wanted something emerald green," explains Emma, who wowed the judges in a stunning green and gold dress and matching cape and head piece from Millinery by Mairead's in Silverbridge. "I saw the dress in the shop and then I had a cape made to match it - with £5 gold lace which I bought from eBay. My shoes were from Penneys so it was very much mix and match," she reveals.
She thinks her lucky charm this time round was her four-year-old son Oliver who was attending the races along with his mum, and dad, Shane Farrell (25), for the first time.
"This was the first time we brought Oliver along - and I won - which was fantastic," adds Emma, who collected a £6,500 voucher for Carton House as her prize.
As well as helping out in the shop in Newry, Emma also works as a hairdresser and admits she is obsessed with fashion. "I think working in an industry where you help people to look good, you want to look good yourself. I love style and shop in boutiques as well as the high street. I love River Island and Topshop and, of course, am a big fan of Penneys."
Emma is already searching the racks in Rosie's Closet to find her outfit for an outing at Aintree next week, which she will attend with Shane's sister Kirsty.
"If I hadn't won I'd have worn the green again. Now, though, everyone has seen it so I have to look for something different," she reveals.
"I think Northern Ireland has definitely upped the stakes in fashion. We can hold our own in other areas now and stand out. There are so many fabulous independent shops here and so much choice.
"At the races you tend to see the same faces competing all the time. It is great craic and a fabulous day out - and the style is unbelievable," adds Emma, who has been placed in the top three best dressed at Fairyhouse last year and also in the top 10 at Cheltenham.
"It is also a great opportunity for us girls to showcase the style available at Rosie's Closet."
When she is not competing at the races, Emma has a busy life as a working mum.
She admits she wouldn't be able to do it without the support of her mum Maria, who she still lives at home with.
"My mum is fantastic and working in the shop, Oliver gets to come back and forward with me. I only work four days so I have a good balance as I am at home with him for three days a week. Shane and I have been together for six years and we had Oliver four years ago, but he still hasn't got round to proposing. We are trying to get a house this year so maybe something will happen then," she jokes.
What is certain is you can bet she will be one stylish bride.