Anne Adams opens her hat box and reveals a lifetime collection of racing millinery

Anne Adams is a familiar face at Eagle Farm’s race meetings and she has been to all the ‘majors’ in Sydney and Melbourne with husband Barry, as well as to many country meets in between. So, it’s no surprise that her lifelong connection with racing also has developed into a love affair with vintage millinery and she is the proud owner of a collection of hats that would be the envy of any fashionable racegoer.

To say she has an interesting collection is an understatement. “I have a feather hat from (US department store) Saks Fifth Avenue and a Christian Dior spring hat circa 1950, and all sorts of hats in between as well. You can tell they’re old, but they’re timeless,” says Adams about the collection that reflects the elegance of a bygone era but would not be out of place in the Fashions on the Field ring today.

Growing up as the daughter of a racehorse owner and breeder in Toowoomba, Anne’s self-confessed obsession with hats began at a young age. “My dad bought his first racehorse when I was about eight or nine so I’ve been going to the races all my life. I’d come down from Toowoomba to Brisbane and stay with my grandparents and go to the races. My mum made all our clothes and she learnt millinery and made hats as well. From that age I dressed up and even when I got married we used to take our children to the races occasionally.”

Adams now has more than 60 hats in a purpose-built walk-in wardrobe at her Hendra home. “The wardrobe is about the size of a bathroom. I have a hat stand and boxes; I also have some hat boxes that belonged to my husband’s grandmother, as well as some hats that belonged to my mother-in-law. I did have some of my mother’s hats but through the years they couldn’t be salvaged,” she says.

Adams admits she doesn’t splurge often on her hats but delights more in sourcing them from vintage shops at home and on her travels. Among her favourites are a bowler hat and a top hat hand-made in Britain in the early 1900s with the original owner’s initials embroidered inside. “I give them a dust off with a little light brush and they still look as immaculate as when they were made,” says Adams.

Versatility and quality are the two key things Adams looks for in her hats, with an eye on their longevity. But she’s not averse to ‘recycling’ her hats, changing accessories to give them a new look from season to season and sometimes lending them to friends or giving them away to others.

To help keep them in good condition, she stores them in hat boxes that are collector’s pieces in their own right.

Adams loves new hats too and she knows she can find something unique at Racecourse Road retailer Savida, a stockist of local designer Pam Cameron’s Ascot Hats. “I do have a quite bizarre one of hers I wore to Auckland Derby Day in March which looks like fireworks,” says Adams, but she admits ‘Over The Top’ is not normally her style and she generally favours classics that never go out of style.

As seen in bmag issue 257