WORDS Joshua Brosnahan PHOTOS Sarah Rowlands

If anyone is best qualified to judge Cup Day fashion, it’s Maria Wright.
Since the late 90s, Maria has entered in cup day fashion competitions at Addington, Riccarton and all over Australasia.

Maria has multiple wins under her belt, including her coveted Overall Winner – Best Dressed Lady at Addington Cup Day in 2015 and Overall Winner for Fashion in the Field at Riccarton Park four times. She has also won Hat of the Carnival – Trentham Cup Day Wellington twice.

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Maria Wright knows her stuff.
“My first Fashion in the Field was at Addington in 1997 where I placed in the
top 10. The following year I was the overall Fashion in the Field winner at Riccarton. That’s how it all started. My goal was to get a win at Addington, so I kept competing.”

While other people may dedicate a few days or a week towards their outfits, Maria says her preparation is much longer. “I start from scratch each time. I think it runs all year, if I’m being honest. I’m always thinking of ideas.”

Maria’s mother, Gloria is a dressmaker by trade and will start on Maria’s outfit the month prior to the event. “She’s had major input into a lot of the garments. I will conjure up a crazy idea and and she will try to make it. Many of the ideas I come up with she will refine, to make it wearable. My garments have always been a team effort with Mum right from the very first competition – for more than 20 years now.”

Maria isn’t the only one committed to the long haul.

“There’s a handful of people who have been competing alongside me for the past decade. There are some really serious competitors. Everyone wants to do well and to have that winning outfit.”

“There are a lot of competitions throughout Australasia, so after Cup and Show Week here, there’s always something to aim for, to look forward to.” Her bucket list included the Melbourne Cup, where she describes the experience as ‘daunting’.

“It was on a huge scale. You might have 10 outstanding garments at a Christchurch meeting, whereas in Melbourne you’d have 300.” Maria made the semi-finals in Melbourne, and in a last-minute snap decision she found herself competing on Oaks day. She came third – an impressive feat for a Kiwi on holiday.

Maria has now stepped aside from competing, choosing to be involved on the other side of the competition, contributing as a judge for Fashion in the Field at Riccarton Park. She also works on millinery, for the likes of Trelise Cooper and Bronagh Key.

Daughter Charlotte, now 10 months old, is a priority in her life. When asked if she would like Charlotte to follow in her footsteps, Maria ponders for a brief second.

“I certainly wouldn’t push her in that direction. If she did want to get into it, I would love to be involved. That connection between mum and I is so special. It’s bonded us together, and it’s been so much fun.”

Joshua Brosnahan