The Queen is dead, long live the Queen – of the Brownlow, that is.
Just as our newly crowned head of state is still finding his style rhythm, the rising stars of the AFL – and their partners – are still adjusting to life in the Brownlow spotlight, one of the biggest nights on the Australian fashion calendar (apologies to the Dally M).
After more than a decade of dominance by a cohort of women recognisable by their nicknames alone – Bec (Judd), Nads (Nadia Bartel), Brit (Selwood), Jessie (Murphy) and Ruby (Keddie) – a new generation is emerging.
While many partners prefer to share their support from behind the scenes, including in their day jobs and as mothers, there will be plenty of fresh faces on the red carpet on Monday night. One of the newest names is Georgina Lamont, a business banker with NAB and the partner of North Melbourne full-forward and All-Australian Nick Larkey.
Lamont, who is wearing a custom design by Cassandra Renee that is under wraps until Monday, says she’s nervous but excited about her first Brownlow. “I love camping, being out in nature – this is so different, so that’s why I am so excited about going,” she says.
Stylist Meggy Smith, who is dressing Lamont and several other guests, hopes the Brownlow will gradually adopt a greater sustainability focus to reflect the shift happening more widely in fashion. “It’s the quality of these pieces from the designers that allows these pieces to endure, often allowing them to have a second life,” she says.
As for trends, Smith predicts that quiet luxury will continue, with a focus on texture and the use of mixed materials to create intrigue.
Ahead of Monday’s red carpet, we asked a panel of 20 fashion insiders, including editors, stylists, designers and photographers, to nominate their all-time favourite Brownlow looks. Here are some of their top picks:
Bec Judd, 2008: J’Aton Couture
Although everyone talks about Judd’s 2004 red dress, her black-and-white dress from 2008 kicked off a longstanding relationship between Melbourne designers J’Aton and the wife of Carlton and West Coast legend Chris Judd.
“More so than the red dress, this [gown] shifted the role of the red carpet – it became a platform to promote some of the most exciting design talent in the country.” Anna Byrne, freelance editor and 12-times Brownlow red-carpet veteran
Jessie Murphy, 2018: Oglia-Loro Couture
Unlike her husband Marc’s former club Carlton, Murphy is one of the red carpet’s most consistent performers of the past few years. Usually favouring ice blue or neutrals, this pink ballgown was a standout, especially with the perfectly undone hair.
“She looked like Brownlow Barbie, which is the highest compliment, and so relevant now. The cut, the colour, the texture, the perfect low-key hair and makeup to match – flawless.” Emily Taylor, freelance editor
Jesinta Franklin, 2014: Steven Khalil
Franklin, the wife of retired Swans and Hawthorn legend Lance “Buddy” Franklin, often attended the Brownlow from a distance, but her looks still made a huge impact on red carpet folklore.
“Structured, timeless and understated. The dress of my introverted dreams. Not too loud, but still noble and classic.” Tanya Macheda, photographer and former picture editor of The Age
Max Gawn, 2022: YSG Tailors
Historically – unfairly, perhaps – the Brownlow focus has been 99 per cent on the female partners, but there are plenty of players with an interest in fashion. Last year, Gawn and Gold Coast’s Touk Miller both channelled some 1970s’ vibes in velvet tuxes. More please.
“It’s always nice to see the blokes make an effort. [The velvet was] also a cute homage to – and improvement on – the 1977 Brownlow winner Graham Teasdale’s brown velvet suit.” Sarah Abo, co-host of Today
Ruby Keddie Ward, 2016: Cappellazzo Couture
The combination of super-stylist Lana Wilkinson and couturier Sonia Cappellazzo is responsible for some of the Brownlow’s most memorable looks, but this one crowned Keddie, the wife of GWS’ Callan Ward, as one of football fashion’s new guard.
“Very chic, super stylish, and makes a statement in a fresh, cool way.” Sarah Abo
Laura Blythe, 2022: vintage Valentino
Naturally, there’s always more attention on the players’ partners but Laura Blythe, the wife of outgoing AFL boss Gil McLachlan, has had several standout red-carpet looks over the years, and isn’t afraid to mix things up between classic monochrome glamour, and softer neutrals and pinks. Last year, she also gave a massive nod to sustainability, in the form of vintage Valentino.
“[Blythe] delivers a masterclass in black tie dressing for the next generation and will be sadly missed on the red carpet when Gil departs.” Kate Coughlan, senior PR manager, Victoria Racing Club
Nadia Bartel, 2019: J’Aton Couture
Revenge dressing came to the red carpet in the form of this ice-blue ballgown for Bartel at her first Brownlow since splitting from Geelong great turned commentator Jimmy Bartel. The influencer and owner of fashion brand Henne had been one of the red carpet favourites for years, her absence keenly felt in recent times.
“An elegant and super sophisticated choice, [and the] thigh-high split making it a show-stopping moment on the red carpet.” Lana Wilkinson, stylist
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