The racing season is one of the few events where a dress code is strictly enforced. It is an opportunity to dress up with great care and the promise of a lot of fun. The two main seasons of the racing carnival are spring and autumn, with autumn running from March until April. Serious racegoers plan their outfits months in advance, especially those who enter competitions such as Fashions on the Field or the Longines Prize for Elegance. Judges award points according to coherence and thought in the outfit, together with a knowledge of current trends.
With autumn in full swing, the time to start planning your racing carnival outfits is now. Dressing for the autumn racing carnival is considerably more complex than dressing for the spring racing carnival. While a level of decorum is encouraged across both calendars of events, and the rules that dictate outfits not be overly tight, revealing, strapless, or midriff-baring remain in place, accessories are harder to come by as they must meet specific standards, warm ensembles are often necessary as the temperature cools, and heels are a whole new ball game as they must not be open-toed.
To simplify the process of selecting the perfect autumn racing outfit, we've compiled a simple guide that should set you on the path to picking the perfect selection of pieces.
Racing Dress Code
Before attending, the first thing to do is familiarise yourself with the general dress code for racing events but also for specific race days. The Races are a big part of Australian culture, with the first Melbourne Cup being held over 100 years ago. Therefore, the racecourse style is steeped in tradition, with several rules to follow. However, many have been relaxed over the years. If you've been invited to one of the autumn racing events, and it's all unfamiliar, try to find out if you'll be stationed in a particular section. For example, if you're in the Members area, you should follow the rules more strictly than in General Admission.
The rules of autumn racing dressing shift slightly according to the change in weather. Unlike spring, there are particular requirements for heels and hats; heels cannot be open toe so try a heeled ankle boot or a pump. For the hat, the straw should be swapped for felt or wool, but headpieces made from metal or leather are also allowed. More structured pieces are also recommended. Because of the cooler temperatures, think carefully about what goes over the top as well – the jacket or coat in this season is just as important as your choice of dress or blouse underneath.
Autumn's darker tones don't have to be dull. Rich navy, plums, fuchsia and sage, are perfect for the Autumn race season. Choose a colour that suits your skin tone and hair. For the accessories, generally, if you suit autumn tones of brown, oranges and greens, then gold works well. If you can carry off blues, pinks and reds, silver might be your favourite. But, of course, black is always stunning, and you can add pops of colour with your accessories.
Choose a shape that suits you and something you feel comfortable in. Remember, the dress length should be no higher than the knee. This isn't the setting to rock a mini - and you will freeze! Any length between the knee and ankle is perfect for the track. The golden rule if you have lots of décolletage and shoulders showing, keep the length of the skirt a bit longer. Asymmetrical hems are also very flattering. If your skirt is shorter, you can opt for a higher neck and long sleeves. Of course, a top and skirt can work beautifully too. Lace is always excellent for adding texture and detail to any outfit.
The majority of racegoers will wear a dress, though some may opt for a jumpsuit. Is that acceptable? The answer is a big "yes", but only specific shapes. First, the legs must be long; no shorty overalls here, please. Pant legs will look best slightly wide and either full-length or three-quarters. A classic pantsuit is also perfect for the races and will generally need a hat rather than a fascinator.
Accessories and Headwear
Make your outfit stand out with attention to detail with carefully selected accessories. Fabulous earrings and a beautiful mini clutch can give your outfit something special. Statement earrings work well if your hair is up. A structured hat or a fascinator with clean lines and colour can complete the look. Ensure the colour in your headpiece picks up the colours of your outfit, clutch or shoes. Another piece to consider is a small wrap. These are perfect for covering your shoulders, keeping you warm, and putting that final finishing touch on your outfit.
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