Perusing the racks is an overwhelming exercise when you're looking for the right outfit for the races. Thankfully, this year’s Stella Artois Caulfield Cup Carnival has narrowed the field by settling on a dedicated New York theme. But if you’re still stressing out about dressing up, we’ve enlisted stylist Kate Gaskin to share her expert advice on what trends to adopt for carnival kick-off on Saturday October 12.

Gaskin has more than 16 years’ experience in the fashion industry working across editorial, advertising and runway, and was fashion editor at the Age’s (Melbourne) Magazine. Today she’s a freelance “jack-of-all-trades” working with clients such as Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Week, Melbourne Spring Fashion Week, Mimco and David Jones.

Point being, normally you have to pay for Gaskin’s expert eye. But because we want you to look nice, you can have her advice for free – which might be handy as Guineas Day (October 12) and Caulfield Cup (October 19) are fast approaching.

Here are Gaskin’s insider tips on how to put together an ensemble for the Caulfield Cup Carnival.

Tailored to suit
For the gents, it’s a given. But for the women, Gaskin’s advice is to connect with the Wall Street-vibe of suiting up. “Whether it be strong power suiting or soft tailoring, it’s a key trend for the season,” Gaskin says. “That’s a New York, big-city business aesthetic that’s coming through.”

There’s no one way to do suiting, either – you have options. “There’s oversized jackets with exaggerated shoulders, paired back with skirts and shorts for a different take on suiting,” Gaskin says. “Then there’s soft tailoring, which is the more feminine take on it, or streamlined to the body tailoring.”

Go bold, or go tonal
Gaskin says there are two ways to approach colour at the races this season. Bright and bold is one, with a strong ’70s flair. “The Marc Jacobs collection that’s just shown at New York Fashion Week is quite reflective of that,” Gaskins says.

Then there’s neutral on neutral. Matching sets in beige, mustard, cream and rust palettes are perfect for upcoming track outfits; Australian designers Bianca Spender and Viktoria & Woods are doing this tonal tailored look. “That was seen on the streets of New York Fashion Week,” Gaskin says. “A lot of head-to-toe neutral dressing.”

Theatrical accessories
Naturally, accessories are an important piece of the puzzle when assembling your race-day look. “Your attire could be really pared back but you can add a theatrical element to it through millinery and big statement sunglasses,” Gaskin says. “I think the ’70s trend is still quite strong at the races: chunky heels, oversized millinery and brims, and flowers.”

Small, statement bags are still in the mix, but a larger, structured handbag is on point. “Like a ’50s silhouette – what you’d imagine with a Dolce & Gabbana shape,” she says of the gold clasp, top handle and neutral design, also found at Oroton and Celine.

When it comes to shoes, your options are stark opposites – one more practical than the other. “The strappy, Bottega Veneta-inspired heels around at the moment will be everywhere,” Gaskin says. “Then the chunky ’70s-influenced shapes are strong, which is good for a big day out at the races.”

Top hat
The headband is still an easy choice for race-goers, but Gaskin urges us to think bigger. “I think people are a bit more prepared to take risks now, and go a bit bolder with their millinery to complement the look,” she says. “To complement that tailored and structured suiting, you can finish it off with a top hat. There are some quite masculine takes that are classic top hats, and there are more feminine ones with tulle and pearl detailing.”

Classic print, different silhouettes
Floral is always a given for spring. This age-old rule still applies, but the cut has changed. This year, the highly fashionable are looking to designers such as Dion Lee and Camilla and Marc. “The last few summers hemlines have been quite short,” Gaskin says. “But the [latest] silhouette is a lot more ladylike.”

We’re talking a return to the mid-calf-length dress, A-line sharp skirts and cinched-in waists. They can also encompass cuff sleeves, collars and zips through the middle. “It’s a bit of utilitarian influence,” Gaskin says.

Dress sense(ibly)
While most just dress to impress for race days, Gaskin advises that while it’s important to keep trends in mind, one should ultimately wear what you feel confident in. “There’s nothing worse than seeing someone trying to wear a trend that isn’t them,” she says. “If bold colour isn’t your thing, maybe go for something more pared back and accessorise with a bold-coloured bag or hat.”

Really, the only unforgivable faux pas you could commit this season is to dress inappropriately. “Don’t wear an outfit you’d wear out clubbing to the race track,” she says. “Keep it classy and chic.”

Kate Gaskin wears clothes provided by David Jones. Guests at Caulfield Cup Carnival have access to the David Jones Fashion Stable, which hosts twice daily runway shows and personalised beauty pampering in the Inner Circle. You can also visit the Chandon Bar and the Dyson Style Stakes, which allows race-goers to experience a professional photography studio and win race day prizes. More details.