Think Melbourne Cup Day is just about the horses? Think again! The finery on the field demands just as much attention as the action on the track, so make sure you’re set to stand out on race day with the right outfit and colour to suit you.
Melbourne Cup Day is a long-standing tradition that is just as much about fashion and fun as it is about the horses themselves. The event began way back in 1861 and is well-known for being Australia’s richest horse race. But not everyone is there for the horses; while many amateur punters enjoy a drink and a bet, the race day fashion attracts quite a significant crowd too. The very first Fashions on the Field competition was held in 1962 and drew much attention across the nation. An 18-year-old won first prize, landing herself a new car and a beauty case. The competition has evolved over the decades, gaining more media attention, sponsors and celebrity judges.
But the glamour of race day fashion isn’t just reserved for those entering the Fashions on the Field competitions; women across the nation take advantage of the celebrations and beautiful weather and use the opportunity to frock up in dresses, heels and gorgeous headpieces too. No matter where you’re toasting the race or what you’re doing on Tuesday 6 November, pop on a cocktail dress, a bit of lippy and a little something in the hair.
Race day fashion tips
- Go for elegance. Race day fashion isn’t about showing the most amount of flesh possible and you’re certainly not dressing for a nightclub; it’s about frocking up like a lady and feeling comfortable and confident in your chosen outfit.
- Avoid falling victim to the dressed-down sundress — especially if you’re heading to the track on the day. The race day dress code is generally “smart” or “cocktail”.
- Try on a range of different colours to work out which shades suit you best. Go with the lively spring feeling of Cup Day and be adventurous in bright, bubbly colours or floral prints. Colour blocking is also very big this year.
- Give your outfit a test run before the big day — especially your chosen heels — and be prepared to keep them on for a long day in the sun. Invest in some gel shoe pads if you think they may help.
- Opt for long-lasting makeup. Just like your outfit has to last the distance, so too does your makeup. Also remember to pack back-up supplies so you can touch up throughout the day.
- You’ll see a wide range of headwear on the field, from feathery fascinators to boater hats. Pop into a few different stores to test out which style works best for your face shape and keep in mind the hairstyle you’ll be opting for on the day.
- Don’t let your accessories take over. While everyone loves a statement piece, an over-the-top hat or heels that you can’t walk in won’t be doing you any favours.
- Pack an emergency pair of shoes. Whether they’re lower heels or a fold-up pair of ballet flats, pop a pair of spares into your handbag if you have the space. A long day in heels and lengthy taxi queues at the end of the evening can be hell on your feet, so it’s always best to plan ahead.
But while this race is known to “stop the nation”, it doesn’t also have to start the credit card debt. In fact, the original Fashions on the Field competition aimed to find the most elegantly dressed woman “within economic restraints”. One of the categories even restricted entrants to those who had spent £30 and under on their outfits.
Tips for shopping smart this Melbourne Cup
- Look through your wardrobe for any items you can spruce up. Can you stitch a lace hem onto that old sundress, for example? Or add a floral brooch?
- Consider second-hand. Go with a classic vintage style while saving dollars when you shop at your local second-hand boutique or opportunity shop.
- Borrow. Suggest a frock-swap with your friends and “go shopping” in each other’s wardrobes for the event. (Just make sure you only lend your clothes to friends you trust — and of course take the very best care of your friends’ clothes too!)
- Sew your own. There are plenty of fantastic dress patterns available from craft and sewing stores, as well as a huge range of gorgeous fabrics. Just make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to work on your masterpiece, and avoid sewing the final stitches on Melbourne Cup morning!
- DIY the finishing touches of your outfit. If your sewing isn’t up to par, then reject making a whole dress in favour of crafting your own headpiece or brooch instead. Craft stores have a huge range of headbands and basic millinery supplies on hand — simply mix and match and create something totally unique!