Racing season is upon us and while many are eager to back the winning thoroughbred, others are just as excited about getting dressed up for the occasion. The Spring Racing Carnival, now in its 152nd year, is an iconic Melbourne tradition. Ever since British model Jean Shrimpton made international headlines in 1965 for wearing that mini skirt (sitting just above her knees, it is a far cry from the minis of today) at the Melbourne Cup, fashion has become a highlight of the races.

Melburnians have few occasions where they can experiment with formal daywear and have some fun with statement headpieces. It is all about dressing smart, keeping those hemlines slightly longer and opting for classic styles while still letting your personality shine. Traditionally, Derby Day has a black and white dress code but rather than wearing all black, going for strong geometric patterns will give the look a bit more of a daytime feel. For the other events, it is a great excuse to play with colour.

Bearing in mind that you might be sitting on a picnic rug, make sure that your dress is not too tight. Two-pieces, such as a blazer and shorts, look really smart and are also a more comfortable option. Because it is usually warm at the races, make sure you go for breathable fabrics; natural fibres—cottons, silks and linens—are best.

There are some really amazing headpieces around at the moment so there really is no need to look daggy. It is not just about wearing a crazy fascinator for the sake of it. Local milliners Richard Nylon and Jonathon Howard of Hatmaker make some incredible pieces, while online retailer Net-a-Porter have some really cool options – Eugenia Kim’s crowns are particularly great.

Every element should work together; it is not just about the dress or the headpiece, so try not to leave shoes to the last minute. It is also a good idea to wear them in to avoid blisters. Other accessories like an interesting clutch or jewellery are a great way to give your outfit some oomph.

Below are a list of our racewear dos and don’ts


• Keep it classy

• Dress with the weather in mind. If it’s cold, take a jacket

• Play with accessories

• Have fun with it. Dressing smart does not have to be boring.

• Wear in your shoes to avoid blisters

• Work the official race-day flowers into your look, like putting yellow roses in your hair for Melbourne Cup.

• Wear breathable fabric


• Wear stiletto heels – you will sink into the ground.

• Wear a too short or too tight dress. If you can wear it to the nightclub, it’s generally not appropriate for the races

• Be afraid of colour – unless it is Derby Day

• Wear a lot of make up. You don’t want to worry about reapplying

• Wear too much fake tan

• Forget to wear sunscreen