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Raceday style guide: how to dress well for the races

I personally gave up attending the races years ago, and yet while I don't miss the races themselves, I definitely do miss curating my outfits each year.


Fashion and style have always been synonymous with the races, from the early Parisian couturiers who saw the events as the perfect place to showcase their latest designs, to the Royal Family who established Royal Ascot in 1711, one of the most glamorous yet traditional races, and finally to the millions of men and women for whom the races prompts them into sartorial action each year.


So if you're one of the many who'll be heading trackside this year, here is my fail-safe guide to help you create your very own stand-out race day style.


Know the rules

The races are the perfect opportunity to experiment and have fun with your outfits, but make sure they are in keeping with the dress codes. Both Flemington and Caulfield have Style Guides that you can consult so you know the levels of dress and standards expected. Even if you aren't in a corporate or members area, you should still maintain modesty and dress in smart day wear. Leave your Saturday night party wear at home.



Each day is different

Whatever race you're heading to, decide appropriately for the occasion by understanding the atmosphere and them of each day first:


  • Caulfield Cup - while there is no set theme, think modern or classic Spring dressing

  • Derby Day - traditional black and white colour scheme

  • Melbourne Cup - the most distinguished of all the days, opt for something that befits a formal occasion and add some colour and personality

  • Oaks Day - ladies day, so the perfect place for Spring florals, lace, pastels and more feminine designs 


Choose sophistication and elegance

When Jean Shrimpton turned up to Derby Day in 1976 with her mini dress a shocking 10cm above her knee, it caused an outrage and scandal amongst race goers and the press, both here and around the world. Heaven knows what those same racegoers and media would think of some of the outfits that make it through the turnstiles today. While the way we dress has significantly changed since the 60's, one thing hasn't, and will never, go out of style - sophistication and elegance - two things that Jean had in spades, even with her mini dress and bare legs.

The races are no place for bare midriffs or ample skin anywhere on show.