How to Be Best Dressed on Race Day

How to Style your Race Day Outfit

Just what is it that separates a great outfit from truly show-stopping spring racing carnival fashion? To find out, we asked some of Australia’s leading designers for their tips on how to take your style to the next level.

One thing they all agree on: to look your best, you must feel comfortable and confident in what you wear. “We believe that a standout look is when a women has dressed for herself and no one else. She knows who she is and she owns it – confidence is the key!” say Lauren Gocher and Melanie Purcell, directors of SNDYS.

Here are four other guidelines to help you perfect a polished spring racing look for every day on the racing calendar.

Take a (calculated) risk

“I think the most fabulous race day looks always come with a little risk taking,” says Helen O’Connor, creative director at Thurley. “It’s a time to experiment and have a little fun, so challenge yourself and your personal style and try something new if you want to stand out trackside.”

This advice rings particularly true for Caulfield Cup, the first official date in the Melbourne spring carnival, which sets the sartorial bar for the remaining events to come. O’Connor recommends experimenting with strong silhouettes to push the fashion envelope. “This season I predict strong architectural shapes, asymmetry and exaggerated frills will feature heavily.”

Jodie Mckenzie, head designer at Minkpink, agrees. “I also think that playing with separates can create more dynamic outfits – pants or midi-skirt combos feel super fresh and a newer take on race dressing.”

Don’t forget the details

“It’s not just about the dress, every small detail matters,” notes Melinda Butina, senior designer at David Lawrence. “If the dress is classic go for bold accessories and if the dress is bold go for understated trimmings for a modern look. Remember polished nails, perfect earrings and great shoes.”

While these are wise words for every day in the carnival, they take on new meaning at Derby Day, when the strict black-and-white dress code means that accessories become a core way of elevating a look, and making it truly unique.

As well as the right shoes, handbag and sunglasses, Witchery head of design and creative, Gavin Gage, reminds of the importance of selecting the right piece of millinery. “There is such diversity in head wear today that can finish a look beautifully. A hat, a fascinator, a boater, a crown. Differentiating your statement look through the finishing touch of a headwear piece plays with the rules while living within the guidelines of race day.”

The most fabulous race day looks always come with a little risk taking

Clash patterns and prints

Print is back in a big way this season, and the Melbourne Cup is an ideal time to build a show-stopping look around this trend. “The spring racing carnival signals the start of the warmer months and with that, a focus on colour and print is key. Combine texture and tones, prints and patterns for a vibrant race day look,” advises Anthea Crawford, design director at her eponymous label.

Florals are a key component of this year’s print trend – either mixed together or clashed with animal print. Henrietta Rix is co-founder and creative director of Rixo, a brand that’s made its mark with vintage-inspired one-of-a-kind printed dresses and separates. Her advice: “Go bold! Don’t be scared to play with colour or clash prints – it’s our favourite way to wear [it].”

Get the balance right

While the racing carnival is a time to pull out all the fashion stops, a winning look also shows some restraint, especially when there’s a more ladylike dress code, as at Oaks Day. Johnny Schembri, director of By Johnny, cautions that, “There needs to be balance when choosing an outfit. If it’s short, then it should be covered up on top; likewise if the garment has a bit of length, you can get away with more skin. It’s all about balance.”

This extends also to hair and makeup, says designer Rebecca Vallance. “I always love to be ‘done’ in a totally ‘undone’ way. Don’t overdo it. Less is always more in all respects at the races.”

Top image: Rebecca Vallance dress

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