A Melbourne Cup Day like no other

The most historic and prestigious race in Australia is no doubt the Melbourne Cup, and 2020 promises to be unique.

For diehard racing fans, Melbourne Cup Day is all about the on-track action. But for many attendees, checking out the trackside fashion is up there with watching the race itself.

Due to the ongoing pandemic restrictions, the showcase event of the Victorian Spring Carnival will be like no other.

Myer Fashion on your Front Lawn
Over the years the cup has produced some great racing and fashion moments, and the fashion competition has been a highlight of Australia’s fashion calendar. This year the competition is going ahead, only virtually.

Entrants will compete in all the favourite categories including high fashion (women’s and men’s racewear), innovative hats and millinery, most creative new designers and more. Entries have now closed for the Myer Fashion on your Front Lawn but the ‘just for fun’ categories are open over race week.

These four all-new categories are open to everyone and are more focused on having fun and letting your creative side out.

Mad Hatters: have some DIY fun with headwear, if it can go on your head it’s accepted!

Cup Week Costumes: from fancy dress to your most elaborate race-day outfit, let your imagination run wild.

Family Ties: the category for fashionable families (pets also accepted).

Lounge in Style: think the most stylish garden party you’ve ever witnessed. Don’t forget to put your own spin on it.

The competition will run during Cup Week from AAMI Victoria Derby Day, Saturday 31 October until Kennedy Oaks Day, Thursday 5 November. Winners will be announced on 7 November.

About the Melbourne Cup
The race was originally run on a Thursday between its creation in 1861 and the year 1875 when it was officially decided it would be run on the first Tuesday in November. It has kept this tradition ever since (apart from during World War II when it was run on Saturdays). ‘Fashions on the Field’, however, wasn’t held until 100 years after the first race, in 1962.

The Melbourne Cup was declared a public holiday for Victoria in 1877 and has been dubbed ‘the race that stops a nation’ for very good reason. Every year, Australia-wide, pubs, restaurants and workplaces hold lunches, fashion competitions, office sweeps and games based around the event.

It also seems to be the date that allows fascinators and bowler hats to make their annual pilgrimage out of the wardrobe and onto the streets to be adored.

Have you picked your outfit yet? There’s still time. Even if you’re not celebrating on the field, perhaps you’re attending a party or even just dressing up for yourself. There’s no reason not to don those statement-making shoes or take your outfit up a notch with a captivating fascinator.

Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind if you want to follow the rules this year, if not, I recommend wearing well… whatever you want!

A brief history of Melbourne Cup fashion
The Victoria Racing Club added the fashion contest to the program in 1962 in a bid to attract more female attendees to the otherwise male-dominated event. Three years later, British supermodel Jean Shrimpton was invited by textile company DuPont to travel to Melbourne and be a judge of the 1965 competition. She received an enormous fee of £2000 for her two-week visit; even more than the £1500 sum paid to The Beatles for their 1964 Australian tour.

Jean Shrimpton was there to promote DuPont’s new acrylic fabric Orlon. However, she sparked controversy when her Cup Day white mini dress sat 10 centimetres above her knee. The daring hemline was not intentional, the dressmaker had simply not been supplied with the correct amount of fabric to complete the original design, but it’s now considered a pivotal moment in women’s fashion.

The introduction of fashion to the Melbourne Cup Carnival has been instrumental in cementing the success and longevity of the cup; hordes of men and women turn up to enjoy the glamorous, social aspect of the event.

The iconic race has certainly become a day to see and be seen.

What to wear
Typically, this day is all about having fun with your outfit, and with the new Myer Fashion on your Front Lawn categories, this is more evident than ever. This is the day to be fashion-forward while still keeping that race-day elegance, opting for bright colours or a statement headpiece will certainly attract the gaze. If you want something a little more subtle, choosing a basic colour from your dress and matching accessories to that colour is a great way to go. More subtle colours will bring your outfit together so think about nude tones like beige, grey, white or metallic.

Alternatively, you may want to create contrast by using a bold, bright colour like orange or yellow for your accessories, but remember neon shoes can be difficult to pull off, you may end up looking more Ronald McDonald than Ronnie Corbett.

Hats and fascinators
When finding a hat or fascinator for the day, remember that they are typically made to be worn on the right side of your head and depending on the style tilted slightly forward.

Some people prefer a hat in summer for coverage and protection as the temperature rises so be sure to dress for the weather.

Black and white are always in vogue, especially on Derby Day, but the Spring Carnival is more known for its vibrancy and courageous colours. If you’re feeling daring, you can opt for bold and bright but the most important thing is that your dress fits you well and you’re comfortable wearing it. 

Avoid hefty bags and opt for a shoulder clutch or purse carrying just the essentials. Accessories are a great way to create contrast in your outfit, but they don’t all have to match, just look at how the whole outfit fits together. 

Melbourne Cup style for men

Steer away from navy and black suits to avoid looking like you’re heading to the office. Linen, wool-linen, light colours and prints are made for the spring season.

Don’t forget about comfort and fit either, a race day suit should look elegant but also feel comfortable.

Men are avoiding the plain white shirt (with the exception of Victoria Derby Day) so you have plenty of colours to choose from. Make sure your shirt and tie go together though!

If you want to stick with a white shirt, a cutaway or spread collar and a light pattern can make you stand out a little more.

Leather Oxfords are a popular choice and can be worn again and again, but be sure to give them a quick polish before race day.  Loafers (suede and Horsebit) are also a viable option during the Spring Carnival.

Accessories are not just for women, why not experiment with lapel pins or a pocket square?

What’s your favourite thing to do on race day? Will you be dressing up? Will you be snapping a pic and entering the Myer Fashion on the Front Lawn competition?

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Ellie Baxter
Ellie Baxter
Writer and editor with interests in travel, health, wellbeing and food. Has knowledge of marketing psychology, social media management and is a keen observer and commentator on issues facing older Australians.
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