Spring Racing Fashion 101

Emma Read

Fashion Stylist

Tis the season for fillies and frocks, not necessarily in that order – which comes with it a sea of dress codes to navigate. Fear not, ladies, as we’ve taken all the guesswork out of it and whittled down all you need to know before the Birdcage beckons.

Derby Day

Traditionally monochromatic, it doesn’t matter if you’re black, white or both given the timeless simplicity of this dress code. If your comfort zone doesn’t stretch much further than a little black or white dress, you’re in luck – think of it as the base palette to bring a little personality in with your accessories. A smattering of pearls and a femme headpiece brings a little Breakfast At Tiffany moment back with an fit and flare dress (hourglass and pear shapes, we’re looking at you), or make it modern with metal hardware accessories and a graphic headpiece back with something a little more structured and shapely (best if you’re looking to create a few curves on the day).

Don’t feel restricted to a dress, either – Derby Day’s colour code lends itself beautifully to separates. Play up your upper or lower half in a print or lighter tone depending on what you want to highlight, then use the masking powers of black tailoring elsewhere to keep it chic and simple.



Ginger & Smart Atmos dress, $649, and Glacier skirt, $459


Manning Cartell Eye Spy black cutout dress, $599


Witchery structured peplum top, $99.95


Tony Bianco Dixen heels, $199.95


Nerida Winter Sweet Jane boater, $220


Gregory Ladner pearl headband, $19.95, David Jones

Oaks Day

We know it better personally under its Ladies Day moniker, and fashion-wise it’s time to turn up all that is womanly – lace, florals and muted tones make up the palette.

Whilst girlishness is a given, there’s a whole spectrum of how far you can go here. Should you be well versed in the art of ladylike then Oaks Day dressing is your haven, but those of us more masculine or minimal in taste tend to struggle – so bear in mind you don’t need to be restricted to a floral extravaganza here.

Make a subtle nod to the order of the day in soft nudes or blushes back with rose gold or copper accessories, in a silhouette you feel comfortable in (hourglass and pear, think A-line or fit and flare shapes, while narrow body types or wide shoulders can stick to curve enhancing features like draping or wrap styles). A structured lace over a floral is another refreshingly modern approach to femme without going overboard.


Zimmermann sueded wrap dress, $580


Seed Miranda cut out clutch, $59.95 


Manning Cartell Raw Intent white dress, $749


Witchery asymmetrical dress, $169.95


Country Road peplum top, $179, and Natalie heel, $189


Hatmaker Lucette head piece, $390


Mimco Stratosphere head piece, $149

Melbourne Cup

It’s the ‘race that stops a nation’, so naturally it’s only fitting the dress code for Melbourne Cup is equally as show stopping. Bright colour, bold headpieces and anything personality-plus is on call, so now isn’t the moment to be shy – thankfully, tone-on-tone and colour blocking are simple to master.

Work your body shape to the max in structured silhouettes – pigmented tones go from eye-catching to blinding with the smallest hint of too much volume, so streamlined is your best bet. Hourglass and pear shapes work best with curve-enhancing paneling (bonus points for a v-neck) whilst narrow and wide-shoulders work best with softer details, like peplum hems or belted styles. If you’re colour shy, go the separates route – pick a top or bottom in a bold tone and temper it back with white to really make it pop.



Scanlan & Theodore crepe knit top, $400, and bonded lace skirt, $400


Ginger & Smart Manhattan dress, $749


camilla and marc Tori layered dress, $650


Valentino patent leather pumps, $990, net-a-porter


Nerida Winter Kitty headpiece, $275


Rosantica Atena headband, $384, net-a-porter


Mimco Lovely medium pouch, $99.95

And the accessories…

They’re your make-or-break, ride-or-die selections, so don’t underestimate the power of a good hat, shoe and clutch to really bring it home.

A few styling notes to keep in mind:

– Your dress and your headwear should be considered as a total look, and not compete with one another. In order for them both to work in complete harmony, best to pick one or the other to start with then shop with said item to make sure it works 100%. There’s nothing worse than running out the door feeling like you’re more suited to a fancy dress ‘do.

– When in doubt, make it nude. Black accessories tend to sit quite heavily against bold colour and pastels, so turn to darker neutrals for Derby Day only.

– Choose one to two pieces of statement jewellery when accessorising, and keep a suitable amount of airtime in between (for example, a statement necklace and earring is too busy in the one arena).

– If you are buying new heels, break them in the week before – it’ll save you plenty of painful blisters in the long run.


Follow Emma: Website | Instagram

feature image via pinterest

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