Spring racing season is arguably the fashion event of the year, and the fashion stakes are high. The Spring racing carnival is a world of its own with a unique set of rules and long held traditions, many of which were made to be broken. The aim of the game is to steal the show for all the right reasons but where to start?? We’ve got you covered with the ultimate guide to Spring racing fashion, starting with how it all began and some style tips from our expert stylists to guarantee you look your best on the field.
The History of The Races and Fashion
Spring racing season has always been regarded as a highly prestigious and eagerly anticipated event on the annual calendar. The horses, the crowds, the sportsmanship and the fashion all combine to create a spectacular show of glitz and glamour embedded in a long history of sporting culture.
As the spring racing season has evolved, the focus of the event has shifted from fillies to frocks; celebrating the style and the hot-to-trot fashion trends worn on the field by race and fashion enthusiasts combined.
Lets take a look at the vibrant and varied history of spring racing season fashion and all the fabulous frocks and fascinators that have come to adorn the national spring racing carnivals in Australia.
Where Australian Spring Racing Season Fashion all Began
The first horse race was held over a century ago in 1861 at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne. While fashion on the field wasn’t held with as much regard then as it is today, the local papers did describe the carnival goers as a well dressed crowd, parading their fashion best. The Age mentioned in a column that the “carnival atmosphere prevailed with women in bonnets and full skirts, men in beaver hats and frock coats.”
Fashion during this time came at the end of the Victorian era and saw women opting for a more Edwardian style with full-length skirts and princess gowns, corsets, sleeves, bonnets and gloves. Lace detailing and buttoned petticoats added a certain class and sophistication to women’s outfits while men opted for a frock coat ensemble with a full collar, white vest, pantaloons and top hat.
Fashion was not as daring as it is today, but was a reflection of society and status, reflecting society’s attitude to class and etiquette. Both men and women took much pride in ‘dressing to the nines’ to imply their stature and high class.
Fashion changed over the next 100 years as society changed its values especially as to what was expected of women to wear with mid calf length dresses becoming popular, however the hats and gloves prevailed. And it wasn’t just women that were expected to wear hats, men wore their hats everywhere and there were all sorts of hats for different occasions, the races being no exception.
The 1960’s began to see a more daring shift in spring racing fashion, with the introduction of ‘Fashions on the Field’ in 1962 which encouraged the general public to dress to impress as well as enticing women race-goers to attend the event. In 1965 the appearance of British model Jean Shrimpton in a mini dress shocked racegoers and the public, with the hemline sitting just above the knee and the model neglecting to wear a hat, gloves or stockings! Jean Shrimpton commented that she had no idea ‘Melbourne placed such heavy emphasis on conformity.’
Since then, the Melbourne Cup carnival and subsequent spring racing events have been a place to try out adventurous new fashions. The mini dress was a favourite for female racegoers after Jean Shrimpton’s appearance, and saw mid 1960 spring racing season fashion switch to short skirts and dresses, shift dresses, cowboy boots, cropped blazers and petticoats and ‘mod’ style dressing which included synthetic white shift dresses and platform boots. The 1960’s also introduced more architecturally designed outfits and ‘blockish’ tailoring with zipped shifts and suits the favourite, and haute couture designers such as Yves Saint Laurent, Courreges, Pierre Cardin and Mary Quant the preferred designers among men and women racegoers. Toward the end of the 60s and early 70s floaty feminine fabrics, laced gloves and collars, wide-brimmed hats and the introduction of floral, patterned, monochromatic and bright prints donned the fields.
As the event evolved over the next few decades we saw some wonderful and some wacky fashions on the field as women, and men, competed to stand out from the crowd. Today the stakes to be best dressed are higher than ever and the competition is fierce!
The basics of dressing up for The Races
Dressing for the races is as orchestrated an event as the race itself. Everyone wants to stand out on race day, and among the sea of fashionistas and outlandish garbs, choosing a style which will land you in the ‘Best Dressed’ category of ‘Fashions on The Field’ can be a daunting task. Starting with the basics of spring racing fashion is the best place to begin in order to avoid unnecessary fretting over your fascinator!
Styling your race day outfit starts by being familiar with the race meet you are planning on attending. Whether it’s Oaks Day, Derby Day, The Cox Plate, Golden Slipper, Doncaster Day, Caulfield Cup or the Melbourne Cup itself, your outfit should tie in with the theme and atmosphere of that given day.
For example, Oaks Day has long held the tradition of being ‘Ladies Day’, with the dress code calling for all things feminine. Think florals, floaty dresses, lace and frills and splashes of colour. Oaks Day has also been known to be all about the outfit on top of your head! So if you’re choosing to wear some type of headpiece, hat or fascinator, think about styling your outfit based around this garment.
The Derby Day dress code traditionally follows a black & white colour scheme for women, and is the most prestigious day of the Melbourne Cup carnival. Dress classically, with tailored lines and structured dresses with the hemline falling just below your knee for an elegant silhouette.
Essentially, if you are attending either of these prestigious days, it would be best to wear the most haute couture pieces you own or can find. This would also be a perfect time to seek advice from a stylist; GlamCorner offers complimentary styling advice for all our clients, and is a great option if this will be your first time attending the races.
Dress to flatter
The importance of dressing to suit and show off your figure and shape is paramount. Selecting a shade and style of dress which complements your skin tone and accentuates your best bits is a no-fail way of ensuring you are comfortable and looking your very best. Avoid selecting patterns or colours that are ‘on-trend’ or in fashion, and stay true to your own individual taste and style.
It’s all in the finer details
Let’s face it, you don’t think about spring racing fashion without first thinking of all those amazing fascinators and fabulous hats! Coordinating your outfit around your head piece can be a mission in balance however; it is important not to let your accessory overpower your outfit. If your hat is crazy and fun, keep the rest of your attire more subdued to avoid looking tacky. Shoes are an important accessory in your ensemble too! Make sure to take your time selecting a shoe which complements the colours, tone and fabrics of your outfit. Matching your shoes to your bag or clutch is always a great way of outfit coordinating. Alternatively the accessories can be the main focus of an outfit, if so select shoes and a bag or clutch in bright colours and bold styles which really make your dress pop.
Fool-proof Spring Racing Fashion styles
Every year, no matter the trend, there are always classic styles and palettes which never go out of fashion and have proven to stand the test of time.
Floral prints are always a winner at the Spring Racing Carnival. Florals just scream Spring and are always a feminine choice, teamed well with bouquet inspired fascinators and floral coloured accessories.
Gelati-inspired colours and pastel prints are fabulous for spring racing fashion dressing. Embrace spring’s sweetest candy colours by opting for dresses with gorgeous soft hues. Think mint, candy cotton pink, lemon yellow and peaches. These soft hues are both timeless and lady-like, and pop with complimenting accessories in a bolder hue. Try mixing your pastel pink dress with a darker hue of pink fascinator and pumps for a perfectly pretty look!
Even if you haven’t played with colours since you were young, opting for bright pops of colour in your spring racing outfit can easily take you from race weary to race ready! Adding some daring bright colour to your outfit or even incorporating bright blooms in your fascinator or complimenting a neutral dress with neon coloured pumps is a simple way to make a statement.
Monochrome is always a classic and fail-proof colour scheme that is forever chic and timeless. Black & white is effortless and can be easily accessorized for understated glamour.
Hats and fascinators
While race fashion trends have come and gone over the past century, hats and fascinators have always remained a must for ladies fashion. It was throughout the 1960’s that women began to be more daring with their race headwear as hats were no longer part of the everyday wardrobe. This trend of bold headwear has only blossomed over the past few decades and today a statement headpiece is as essential, if not more so, as a killer dress.
The royal wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011 reignited a fading interest in headwear. Many of the female guests completed their outfit with a statement headpiece which brought headwear back to our attention. Whether you loved or hated the choices of these guests, there was no denying that they were daring pieces. With everyone from Victoria Beckham to Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice flaunting a striking headpiece, it showed that a statement hat is all you need to make headlines.
Headwear for the Spring Racing Season
Throughout the Spring Racing season, there are some events with dress codes to follow while others allow you complete creative freedom. That said, no matter what the racing event, you can’t go wrong with an elegant look. Leave your night club styles at home and give a nod to old world glamour or contemporary chic with your outfit. Your headwear should complete your look so here are some of the most popular Spring Racing events and tips for the headpieces you’ll be wearing.
Also known as Ladies Day, this day is all about femininity and elegance. Opt for a soft colour palette like the 2016 Pantone Colours of the Year Rose Quarts and Serenity. These two romantic shades will be winners for Oaks Day and are beautiful when paired with gold or silver. Work with either a structured fascinator with height and a sinamay base or opt for a floral style with soft mesh detailing like the Morgan and Taylor Dana Fascinator. These looks are perfect for the femininity of Oaks Day.
This style is perfect for a classic elegant look but if you’re more contemporary chic, opt for a sculpted fascinator like the Morgan and Taylor Chanel Fascinaor. A structured style like this will complete a sleek and sophisticated outfit.
The highlight of the Spring Racing season calls for a colourful and often daring outfit. This is the event where you can show off your creativity with colour so go for a bold statement like the Caroline Fascinator by Morgan and Taylor. Pick up colours from your outfit for the shade of your headpiece if you’re after a coordinated look or choose a complete contrast colour and make a statement for the day.
There certainly is something special about leaving the house in a wide brimmed hat or in a tall fascinator so embrace the tradition and dress up!
The ‘what to wear for race day’ dilemma is upon us and so to the pressure of occasional dressing and finding that perfect frock for the spring carnival racing season.
Choosing a dress for the races comes down to having fun and choosing styles which push the boundaries, but also sticking to a certain level of appropriateness. Your dress needs to fit the criteria of the dressing guidelines set out on the official race day style guide which stated officially, “Ladies are expected to maintain a suitable standard in keeping with the dignity of the Members’ Enclosure.”
Although there is no strict dress code for general attendance, patrons are expected to carry this same air of dignity in their dressing. This is the perfect excuse for you to dress up to the nines and choose an outfit that is unique and special!
With spring in full bloom, the obvious choice to style accordingly comes to mind. Floral prints and patterns, soft hues and pastel palettes are a worthy investment and always a timeless choice of dress for the races. Shape-wise, choose styles with floaty layers or a tiered dress like this gorgeous Self Portrait dress available for hire, as these are so soft and feminine and perfect for Oak’s Day which has long been held as ‘Ladies Day’.
Derby Day calls for black & white – the traditional attire for this prestigious day. Monochrome is always a classic choice, and perfect for the race day novice because all you really need is a classic LBD (Little Black Dress)
To avoid being lost in a sea of black, consider going for the more modern trend of wearing white on white. Conversely, try a black dress with a white headpiece or reverse it with a white dress and black hat and accessories. Channel your inner Audrey Hepburn and try a demure midi dress with wide brimmed hat and a string of white pearls on the neck.
Derby Day is the most elegant of race occasions, so it’s best to leave the short hems and bright colours at home and opt for structured dresses and tailored skirts.
Race day is all about colour! Go bright and bold with citrus hues or neon shades and opt for a headpiece and accessory in a contrasting colour to make heads turn. Dresses with plenty of punch and personality are perfect for Melbourne Cup day. If you aren’t game enough to go completely bold, try a bright pink blazer or crop jacket over a white dress or add colour in your shoes and accessories.
Metallics are an edgy choice of dress for race day. Whether gold, silver or bronze is your element of choice, each look ground-breaking paired with nude heels and matching metallic accessories. This Wayne Cooper Mermaid shift dress embellished with sequins makes a stellar stand-out number. To avoid looking more robo-chic than glamazon, choose dresses with an iridescent shimmer and make sure to keep the accessories neutral. Go for gold in a glittering golden dress like this one from Tadashi Shoji, featuring delicate corded lace embroidery and cap sleeves. It is the perfect statement dress for the races! Finish with a touch of metallic eye shadow or lip gloss and you’re as good as gold!
Clutches & Accessories
Now that you have selected your spring racing carnival frock, it’s time to begin looking at accessories which will complement and accentuate it.
The use of accessories in your race day outfit cannot be overlooked. In some cases, your accessories are what makes your entire outfit and so it is always fun to select pieces which will help to emphasize its best bits.
Many women question whether a fascinator or hat is necessary – well the answer is absolutely, YES! this is the only time that you can dress as fancy and as daring as you wish, and accessories can be a great gateway into doing this.
First and foremost, there aren’t many restrictions when it comes to having as much fun as you can with your ensemble and chosen accessories. But there is a risk of going too OTT. It really is fascinating to see how one hat or a single clutch can instantly transform an outfit; however sometimes it is not for the better.. so make sure you approach the task of selecting a head piece tactfully and carefully.
The easiest way to choose the perfect accessories is to have your dress picked out first. It makes it so much easier to accessorize an outfit as opposed to choosing an outfit based on accessories. From here, you can easily choose your shoes, headpiece and clutch by selecting a complementing colour scheme or fabrics & materials.
Select a clutch or fascinator in the same texture or colour of your dress
Remember that jewellery is part of your outfit
Selecting accessories to complement your ensemble can be made simple and effective by choosing statement pieces such as a large pendant necklace, delicate pearl earrings or layered rings. The trick is to stick with only one statement piece, making sure that it blends in with your chosen outfit and complements your head piece and clutch. If you have a very showy fascinator or hat, perhaps stick to more delicate gems in the same colour as your accessories. If you have a small headpiece or none at all, you can go a bit more adventurous with a large necklace or chunky bracelets.
Choosing Shoes: The do’s & don’ts
Shoes are often the last accessory we pay attention to when selecting an outfit. But how often have shoes, despite appearing a minor accessory, completely transformed an outfit? Have you ever noticed someone rocking a fabulous dress, but internally scream when you see the shoes they’ve paired with it?! Yes, people notice your shoes and so it’s important to be mindful of what you put on your feet.
Spring racing carnival season calls for shoes that are practical. Let’s be honest, no one will feel or look comfortable wearing stilettos which sink an inch into the earth every time they take a step; this is a racecourse, remember! Choose shoes which are stylish yet also can last you an entire day on the field without having the urge to kick them off and go barefoot (not a good look!) If you are worried about your feet surviving the entire day then do think about taking a second pair of shoes with you; purchase those foldable ballet flats that you can store in your clutch.
Flats, kitten heels, wedges or pumps with a thicker heel are all safe and stylish options. You don’t have to go sky-high to be fashion-forward.
Lately, gladiator and strappy sandals have made a major comeback and when paired right, can make a striking look. If your ensemble is quite bohemian, then these would be a great option. Grab a pair in a chestnut or tan colour and pair with a white lace frock.
Lastly, if you are worried about breaking new heels in, think about investing in some gel cushions or heel guards and store some in your clutch for those blistering foot emergency moments.
You’ve got the dress, you’ve chosen the accessories, so now it’s time for the icing on the cake. Hair and makeup is one of the most important elements to any spring racing carnival ensemble, and it should further complement and up the ‘wow factor’ of your race outfit.
Making your makeup last is the name of the game when it comes to a race-ready face. Opting for long-lasting cosmetics will save you having to retouch or looking drab come the end of the day.
Set Your Foundation
In the words of makeup artist Napoleon Perdis, “not to prime is a crime!” and he’s right, especially if you want your gorgeous makeup to last the distance. Using a primer gives your makeup something to stick to while also creating a smooth and even base. Use this before your foundation to get a flawless base and coverage!
Choose long wear foundation, keeping in mind the colour and tone of your skin. Remember, if you are getting a spray tan for race day be sure to choose a darker foundation to match. A mattifying setting powder is also a great option for makeup longevity, and can be lightly dusted over the face after blending in your creams to set the face.
The Eyes Have It
Selecting waterproof mascara and eyeliners to shield against budging and smearing throughout the day is a must! Panda eyes is not a good accessory! If you have the money, consider opting for false lashes. These instantly oomph up the volume and glamour and can be simply applied over your existing lashes, and kits can be found at any pharmacy or beauty store for reasonable prices. They save a lot of hassle and when applied correctly, last until you take them off.
Eye shadows in neutral tones are always a safe option. Bronzes and chocolates always look classy and natural, but still glamorous enough to make the eyes pop. Instead of a black eyeliner, consider opting for a dark brown for a more subdued look. Remember, the races is an outdoor event and the harsh light of day can emphasize any imperfections and harsh lines considerably. Stick to neutral tones and creamy formulas to avoid makeup cracking and to reduce emphasizing fine lines.
Trends & Tips
1. Spring racing screams dewy skin. Blending a liquid foundation with a bit of illuminator or with your daily tinted moisturizer is a simple way to achieve glowing skin without having to use shimmer powders or highlighters which can oftentimes look more disco than diva.
2. Try using cheek, lip & eye tint creams to easily blend natural and flattering colour to your face. If you are fair-skinned, opt for a dusty rose shade or a petal pink. Darker skin tones look fantastic with coral tones and deep pinks. Have a look at the best and worst lip & cheek tints for 2016, as voted by thefashionspot.com.au.
3. Contouring has reached cult status with the likes of Kim Kardashian introducing us to the tricks of creating the illusion of a more defined and symmetrical face. Contouring the cheekbones, under the chin, the temples, forehead and nose with a darker foundation or powder can completely transform your look and is a winning combination with a structured dress or LBD.
4. The smokey eye has always been synonymous with sultry, glamorous sex appeal. This would be a fantastic option for anyone who is wearing a headpiece with a veil across the eyes or a black and white dress worn on Derby Day.
5. Bold and bright lips are a spring must have! Coral reds, fuchsia pinks, watermelon and frosted pink tones look amazing with the pastel palette of spring racing, while a bold red lip will lift an all-black ensemble. Just remember if you are going for a bold lip, keep the rest of your makeup subdued. A neutral shade in the eye crease and lashings of mascara is all you need on the eyes when rocking a show-stopping pout.
Now you’re equipped with our expert style tips to help you nail your ultimate Spring Racing Carnival look head to toe, you’re ready to take the field by storm! Rent the perfect dress for your Spring Races event along with accessories and a fascinator for a fraction of the retail cost at GlamCorner. With over 1,500 designer dresses to choose from, we ship your Race day outfit directly to your front door. Go get em’ girl!