Race Day Fashion: Lessons Learned From Carnivals Past

The Autumn racing season is just coming to a close. It’s time to review everything we’ve learned about race day fashion!

Choose Classic (and Classy!) Over Trendy. There’s a time and place for short, tight, and lurid outfits, and the track is decidedly not it. Race day fashion is all about graceful, timeless femininity. It’s no coincidence that fashion photos taken years ago still look good today.

Carefully consider the race theme, but don’t get too hung up about it. Mary Lou Ryan, cofounder of Bassike, has a good rule of thumb: “Look for a dress or outfit that you’d love to wear to a beautiful dinner or an intimate wedding.”

Of course, don’t forget the other basics of dressing: no scuffed shoes and no stains. Clothes should be properly pressed — wrinkled outfits defeat the whole purpose.

Finalists Longines Prize for Elegance Golden Slipper 2016 | Race Day Fashion: Lessons Learned From Carnivals Past | Track Mode by Nina

Finalists for the Longines Prize for Elegance at the Golden Slipper this year. Winner is Tanya Lazarou, far left. Image: Longines

Plan Ahead (And Don’t Leave Your Headwear as an Afterthought). As soon as you know that you’re attending an event, start doing your research. What’s the theme? What’s the weather going to be like? What are the ground conditions? Is it going to be muddy or dry? Is it in the spring or autumn?

Pinterest is a good place to start. There are many, many excellent race day fashion inspirations, and you’ll start seeing trends. You will understand “the look,” despite the very wide variety of options.

Find out where the dresses are from — if it’s a celebrity or a famous blogger, they will usually tell you. Start listing your favourite designers and milliners, and explore their works. You might see a piece that no one has worn before, and that’s extra points for originality!

You may have fallen in love with a certain fascinator. That’s okay. In fact, it’s a perfectly good place to start building your outfit.

Gigi Hadid at the Melbourne Cup 2014 Image by Popsugar

Gigi Hadid at the Melbourne Cup 2014 Image by Popsugar

Balance it Out. If your dress is quite elaborate and/or attention-grabbing, make sure that the rest of your outfit is pared back. Mute your hair, makeup, and shoes. Same goes for millinery: if it’s meant to be the centrepiece, put the rest of your outfit in a supporting role. You don’t want the different elements clashing or competing for attention. It creates clutter, and that’s never a good look.

Another way to achieve balance is by mixing classic and trendy. For example, you can wear a classic dress and accessorise it with whatever is edgy this season.

Jesinta Campbell | Race Day Fashion: Lessons Learned From Carnivals Past | Track Mode by Nina

Jesinta Campbell at Caulfield Cup 2015. Image: Vogue Australia

Be Yourself. Yes, you’ve heard it many times before, and the phrase has become trite beyond belief. But you know what they say about cliches: they are cliches because they’re universally true.

While race day fashion is, admittedly, all about appearances (it’s a carnival, after all), it’s much more than that. Pared down to its most fundamental essentials, dressing for the races (as is the case with dressing for anything), is about making yourself feel good. It’s about you.

What this means: wear something that makes you happy, something that makes you look good, and something you’re comfortable walking around in all day. It’s a celebration, and you should be nothing less than joyful. Have fun! You may not win any prizes, but if you manage to pull off looking good and feeling good at the same time, you’re a winner in my book.

As a side note, one of the most sought-after qualities of a prize-winning race day outfit is uniqueness and originality, so that’s always a good thing.

Want more tips on race day fashion? Read up on which hairstyles to try and autumn lip colours you should wear.

Nina O'Brien Royal Randwick | Race Day Fashion: Lessons Learned From Carnivals Past | Track Mode by Nina

Yours truly, having a blast at the 2016 Royal Randwick Race Day