Sunday best with cute factor

THERE were no fake tans, tiaras or tantrums. Well, a couple of the mums were fuming when their little darlings failed to make it through to the finals of the Kids Fashions on the Field, but that's because they'd spent big on outfits better suited to starlets and harlots than little girls.

As one ''annoyed'' mother complained, her voice dripping with scorn and disbelief: ''Did you see what the others were wearing?''

Indeed we did. Of the 617 entrants, including entire families, most had apparently glammed up modestly for the track, both in tone and budget.

Junior Girls finalist Lucia Panetta, 6, of Kingsville, stood out sweetly in a $10 dress from Target, a $10 lacy cardigan with puff shoulders, blue and pink flowers in her hair, and silver shoes and bag. Before hitting the stage she said simply: ''I'm happy.''

Her mother Amanda Brocklebank noted: ''It's good to see no make-up. People are keeping it natural which is part of a fun day. There are a lot of vintage looks and home-made looks, which is nice. It's good to find something in the wardrobe and jazz it up.''

Bobbi, Ben and Indi Edwards, of Thornbury, won the family competition with improvised outfits that were lovely and chintz-free. They'd entered as a family because Indi, 5, was too young to enter the Junior Girls comp. ''She wanted to be in it,'' said mother Bobbi, ''but because she was too young I told Ben he had to man up and take one for the team.''

''It was a bit daunting,'' said Ben, colour-co-ordinated with the family in a pale-blue suit.

Indi wore a pink lace frock that cost $40 and lace socks. Bobbi took a three-year-old dress and cut it down to a skirt. ''We kind of made do with what we had at home.''

The overall effect was a family at a 1950s church picnic. And this, says judge Barbara Licuria, wife of former footy star Paul Licuria, is precisely what the Kids and Family Fashion of the Field are about. ''Sunday best. That's a true saying. It's like the old-school feeling. You get your best clothes out and go to the races, that's what it's meant to be about.''

Regarding the Junior Girls competition, which could well have attracted beauty-pageant-style horror tots, Ms Licuria said: ''There's definitely a cute factor we're looking for. But it has to be age-appropriate. This section goes up to the age of 12. A lot of the girls look stunning, but their heels are a little too high. You want to see cuteness. You want to see ballet flats.''

Of the boys, many of whom sported porkpie hats and shiny grey suits, she said: ''Again, there's cuteness. But it has to be race-wear appropriate. One boy was in shorts and sunglasses and looked uber-cool, but it wasn't race wear.''

Winner of the Junior Boys was Cooper Dahaas, 11, of Bittern. In a dapper navy suit with white piping ''bought in Thailand'', a bright-red bow tie, sneakers and, of course, the winner's red sash, Cooper was ''feeling good''. Hoping to play AFL one day, it wouldn't be a stretch then to do a spot of modelling. ''Maybe,'' he says.

Junior Girls winner, Charlie Kibbis, 10, of Geelong, found her simple A-line dress in soft pink and yellow checks on the internet. Her mother Jackie had cut a piece from the dress and fashioned an orchid headband. The outfit was finished with simple yellow flats. Jackie, looked equally fab cheering her daughter on in a pink silk dress and pink shoes. ''They're not just pink shoes,'' Jackie chided. ''They're Alannah Hill.''

This story Sunday best with cute factor first appeared on The Age.