The Spring Racing Carnival Menswear Form Guide


When it comes to dressing up and adding flair to a look, few occasions offer as much opportunity as the Melbourne spring racing carnival, where sport meets style by the side of the track. But don’t mistake flamboyance for an anything-goes approach – each day on the carnival calendar is governed by a set of sartorial guidelines, including the colours and styles to wear, all the way down to the exact flower to be worn on a lapel pin.

“The designated dress codes of the carnival give a unique flavour to each day and help tie them together as an event,” explains Gary Davey, director at men’s suiting brand Anthony Squires. “We feel racing is a sporting and cultural event steeped in aristocratic tradition, and that a gentleman should respect the conventions that make it special and dress to a standard that enhances the experience for all involved.”

Understanding the dress codes makes it far easier to put together a winning look for the day, and there is enough scope between them to find one that best matches your own personal tastes. As Davey notes: “Style is not always about adding or changing – done well, simplicity can be the most stylish thing of all.”

Below, our day-by-day guide to dressing for each day on the carnival calendar.

Derby Day

Spring Racing Menswear Guide

He wears Ted Baker

The dress code: Black and white is the traditional code for Derby Day, but shades of grey – from palest dove to deep charcoal – are also creeping in.

The flower: A cornflower

The best advice: This isn’t the day to push the envelope. “Derby Day has traditionally been a strict dress code,” notes Davey. “Respecting traditions shows a refined sense of occasion and contributes to making the spring carnival one of the premier events in the world.”

Melbourne Cup

Spring Racing Menswear Guide

He wears Sand

The dress code: Colour, prints and bold details are all acceptable on this festive day out, so feel free to add some flair or flamboyance to your look. Prefer to nod to tradition? A blue suit will do it.

The flower: A yellow rose

The best advice: If you’re going to make a statement, the Cup is the day to really go for it. “Use it as an opportunity to show off your unique personality with a fun printed shirt, a bright coloured chino or a patterned silk pocket square, says Chris Vogelpoel, menswear design manager at Country Road.  “It’s all about the little touches that make a big impact.”

Paul Kanat, director at Ted Baker Australia, loves to “Show some attitude in a checked suit plus floral print shirt plus vibrant silk tie and pocket square combo.”

Respecting traditions shows a refined sense of occasion and contributes to making the spring carnival one of the premier events in the world.

Gary Davey, director at Anthony Squires

Oaks Day

Spring Racing Menswear Guide

He wears Anthony Squires

The dress code: Also known as Ladies’ Day, this is the time for softer colours, such as grey suits, and pink shirts or accessories.

The flower: A pink rose

The best advice: Experiment with something new. The racing carnival is a time to embrace the fun side of getting dressed and to show your personality through your personal style. “Don’t be afraid to try a product that you haven’t tried before,” says David Jones menswear buyer Matt Wagner-Smith. “The races are all about standing out and making a statement – stick to the basics of the day and add your own flavour.”

Stakes Day

Spring Racing Menswear Guide

He wears Country Road

The dress code: A more relaxed approach to dressing is key on the carnival’s family day – try a sports jacket and neat chinos.

The flower: A red rose

The best advice: Have fun with your look. “Stakes Day is certainly a lot more relaxed being the last day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival,” says Wagner-Smith. Vogelpoel agrees, suggesting that in place of a matching suit, you could try “styling tailored separates together in a range of colours, prints and fabrications.”

Need more men’s style advice? Find out about using a David Jones stylist