Zoom make-up, virtual gown fittings: welcome to Brownlow 2020
Like many things about football, and life in general, this year, the Brownlow Medal is one dose of improvisation, one ounce of celebration and a hefty teaspoon of relief – that there were even matches to play at all.
While the Crown entrance, which is usually a sea of silk and journalists on Brownlow night, will be deathly quiet, small team functions will take place in Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth. There will be a medal at each site to allow for a number of outcomes.
Some functions only got the nod in the past week, sending stylists and designers into a frenzy to ship dresses up in time for the night.
In Melbourne, where restrictions against social gatherings are still in force, a number of the leading contenders for the medal will watch the count at a COVID-safe studio. Sadly, due to existing restrictions, their partners will have to stay home.
Officially, the AFL's dress code is "cocktail/lounge suit" but by all accounts it will be a mixed bag on Sunday, depending on the venue and people in question. Emma Hawkins, wife of Geelong's Tom Hawkins, will wear a polished yet relaxed outfit by Viktoria & Woods, while Talia De Marco, partner of Brisbane Lions captain Dayne Zorko, is going in a dress by Melbourne couturier Oglia-Loro.
De Marco, an event manager, has worked remotely with Melbourne stylist Meggy Smith to pull together the last-minute look for Sunday, with the dress only arriving in Brisbane shortly before the weekend. With no plan B, it was, fortunately, a perfect fit, she says.
"We couldn't go custom like we would have liked to but we'll save being extra for next year," De Marco says.
Smith says remote styling has had its share of challenges, particularly the delays to post and couriers caused by COVID-19. Still, she says she's happy to be "working and creative".
Brit Selwood, wife of Geelong captain Joel Selwood, says she's looking forward to a very different kind of Brownlow.
"Everyone is approaching it really casually," she says. "We are just really excited to celebrate the year that it's been because it's been a tough year for everyone in the AFL."
Selwood took leave from her job as a special-needs teacher to move to the hub for the past 11 weeks, taking the opportunity to complete an AUSLAN course. On Sunday, she will wear a Dion Lee dress she picked up at the Gold Coast boutique and do her own hair and make-up.
"I'm really enjoying that it's about the boys and there's no fuss about what the girls are wearing, who's got what stylist."
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Melissa Singer is National Fashion Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.