Derby Day, the first event on the 2019 Spring Racing Carnival calendar, is famous for its high-glamour monochrome dress code. The most elegant of all Spring racing events, the focus is on beautiful lines, tailored structure, exciting patterns and textures, and fantastic fascinators.

Are you going to Derby Day this year? If so, there are a few things you need to know. Like all Spring Racing Carnival events, Derby Day fashion rules dictate a high standard of dress. Your outfit should be tasteful, elegant and only in tones of black and white. If you’re going into the members’ area, avoid mini shirts, midriff-baring tops, strapless dresses and anything overly-casual. 

Why black and white?

Model (left) wearing Morgan & Taylor – Large Straw Hat & Keepsake – Gone Again Blazer
Model (right) wearing
Pasduchas – Dynasty Pantsuit

Interestingly, the black-and-white Derby Day theme was never an official dress code; it evolved organically, starting sometime in the 1960s. One theory is that it stems from an advertisement for James Buchanan and Co Black and White brand whiskey that appeared in a 1960 edition of Australian Women’s Weekly. The advert offered a £200 wardrobe to the wearer of best monochrome outfit at the Melbourne Cup VRC’s centenary carnival.

Another theory suggests Derby Day’s dress code was inspired by the famous Ascot scene in the Audrey Hepburn film My Fair Lady. A third school of thought is that it harks back to the Earl of Derby’s official racing colours – black with a white cap. Whichever theory is true, Derby Day is now the place to show off your best black and white race day finery. 

Your Derby Day fashion inspiration

To help you choose the perfect monochromatic outfit for your day at the races, we’ve got seven gorgeous styles to fill you with Derby Day fashion ideas.

Talulah – Idol Midi Dress – Camille Floral


This beautiful fit and flare midi dress is perfect for Derby Day with a vibrant on-trend monochrome floral pattern, flattering mid-calf length and feminine frill sleeves. Pair with the Allegra Floppy hat in black by Morgan and Taylor to add a touch of glamour. This dress is also available with a square neckline in mini length if you prefer to show a little more leg.

Keepsake The Label – Chime Gown


You’ll be sure to turn heads in this stunning pure-white midi dress with a sheer overlay skirt and embroidery detail. Classically styled with a square neck and v-back, it would look fabulous with this Parker Boater hat by Morgan and Taylor. Alternatively, pair with a Meghan Crown by Heather McDowall in white for additional drama.

Rebecca Vallance – Pipi Midi


Classically fitted with a sexy side-split, this LBD midi ramps up the glamour with pearl details on the single-shoulder silhouette. Soften the look with a Gretchen Scrunchie by Morgan and Taylor, or go for extra drama and structure by donning the Tamia Fascinator.

By Johnny – April Frill Mini Dress


Bold horizontal stripes are softened by an on-trend frilled hem on this flirty little mini, which features a straight neckline, bodycon fit and a back zipper. Pair it playfully with the Jada Beaded Hair Bow or Daniella Oversized Hat by Heather McDowall.

By Johnny – Bold Stripe V Gather Mini Dress


Combining a trendy flounce hemline with popular stripes, this sleeveless mini with a fitted silhouette will cut a dash on Derby Day. Contrast the strong, straight pattern with the feminine Meghan Crown by Heather McDowall.

Zimmermann – Ruffle Dress


Polka dots and frills are hot this spring, and they look sensational on this romantic printed midi dress. The flared skirt has multiple layers of asymmetric ruffles to create extra movement, and the waist tie is detachable. Complete your look with Heather McDowall’s beautiful Louise hat, which features delicate lace detail and a wide brim.

Talulah – The Icon LS Mini Dress


This ultra-chic mini dress heroes texture with crocheted lace flowers over a slip lining, while the scalloped hemline exudes femininity. Let the dress do the talking by matching it with the understated Piera Bow by Morgan and Taylor, or add a touch of whimsy with the Louise hat in white and black Heather McDowall.

Derby Day styling tips

When dressing for Derby Day, remember to use the monochrome colour scheme to your advantage. If you’re wearing all black or all white, play with texture and shape to create visual interest. Embroidery, ruffles, lace detail and sculptured sleeves or hemlines all add something extra to a one-tone outfit. If you’re rocking a pattern, choose a vivid contrast of black against white to really make your look pop. 

Perfect your look with the right accessories

Heather McDowall – Louise Boater & Zimmermann – Ruffle Dress

For all-day comfort, complete your outfit block-heeled shoes that won’t sink into the racecourse turf. These versatile open-toed sandals by Billini are both elegant and practical for a long day at the races.

Top off your race day outfit with tasteful metallic accents on your jewellery and an elegant black or white clutch.

For even more Derby Day fashion inspiration, check out the GlamCorner range of black and white looks. Read our blog post on races hairstyle tutorial looks by Natalie Anne for hair tips!

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