What to wear to the races this year
Wondering what to wear to the Cup this year? We’ve made this guide to the Melbourne Cup dress code so you can dress to impress.
Parading the latest in fashion became more egalitarian with the introduction of Fashions on the Field in 1962. The competition included categories for outfits that had cost £30 and under, and £50 and over. This kept the Cup’s fashionable traditions alive across economic and societal boundaries.
These codes are celebrated and encouraged, and this all adds to the sense of occasion. But they are not actually official codes at all. For example, Derby Day’s signature theme appears to have evolved from a competition in 1960. Sponsored by whisky-maker James Buchanan and Co. the competition offered a prize for the best black and white ensemble.
Instead of specifying hem length for women, the VRC bans casual attire. It also allows women to wear pants, though jeans, jodhpurs, tracksuits, leather pants, untailored pants, and shorts are forbidden. This strikes the balance between freedom of expression and maintaining the high standards of the event.
Why have a Members’ dress code?
Like many exclusive clubs in Melbourne, the VRC continues to uphold its dress code. Despite some protest.
It is also in part due to the high standards of enforced elegance that celebrities continue to attend the Cup. Yes, they are paid to be there, but the Cup is locked in a prestigious cycle. It is the place to be seen, and so people who are someone, are happy to be seen there. And because these somebodies are there, it remains the place to be seen.
The Members’ dress code maintains a certain standard and gives a sense of occasion. This means the Cup’s reputation for elegance has remained since its earliest days, in a world where anything remaining the same for very long is rare.
Melbourne Cup dress code for Members
The Victorian Racing Club (VRC) dress code is strictly enforced for all members’ areas. This includes the Birdcage and Members’ Carparks.
When Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt attended Oaks Day at Flemington in 2016 he followed the race day dress code to perfection. Bolt donned a promotional cap for his mock race against friend John Steffensen. Bolt then removed his cap for time in the Crown marquee, in keeping with the members’ enclosure dress regulations saying men cannot wear peaked caps or beanies.
Most of the VRC rules are aimed at preventing a look that is too casual or revealing. Interestingly, there is one rule that prevents overdressing. Cravats are not considered acceptable attire. Sorry Matt Preston.
Another rule used to stipulate that gentlemen could not wear shoes without socks. However the VRC has updated its rules citing “new style trends”, and now allows race-goers sockless in the members’. (You can read our comments on why this might not be the best idea here.)
Actually, I’m pretty sure officials turn a blind eye when it comes to Matt Preston’s signature style. He’s been seen in the Members’ Enclosure before, with some very colourful cravats. Preston is a celebrity Masterchef brand, after all.
Melbourne Cup dress code for General Admission
Of course, that just covers the restrictions for VRC Members and guests. What about the implied Melbourne Cup dress code for us General Admission racegoers?
By the next year, all the bright young things were copying Shrimpton’s look – causing the longer dresses to look dowdy and outdated by comparison.
And so we have arrived at a time when even the unspoken rules no longer apply…. But that doesn’t mean you should wear your onesie.
Hats or fascinators are still customary for the ladies, and the official flower for ‘the race that stops the nation’ is a yellow rose.
So whether your aim is to meet the Melbourne Cup dress code for the Members’ areas, or you just want to look stylish on the day, here are some tips on what to wear.
Melbourne Cup dress code for men
Tailored and semi tailored suits are your opportunity to display your excellent sense of sartorialism. Add a yellow rose and you are ready for the Cup.
Vests with jackets provide a more relaxed look acceptable for the Members’ enclosure.
Sports jackets worn with tailored trousers (including dress chinos) are a perfect look for the grounds. But you’ll need to add a tie if you’re heading to the Members’ sections.
Whilst other days in the Spring Racing calendar are more sedate, Cup Day is a day for colour! So make sure you have some fun with a perfectly co-ordinated shirt.
Lift your outfit with well co-ordinated, statement accessories. Think ties, bowties, and pocket handkerchiefs in matching or complementary colours.
Of course, no outfit is complete without the perfect watch.
You can’t go wrong with a pair of elegant leather dress shoes (or non-leather for the vegans).
Melbourne Cup dress code for women
Celebrate spring in a floaty floral dress, or…
… prepare for the unpredictable Melbourne weather. Combine a tailored jacket with a skirt or pants.
Co-ordinate a blouse with the perfect skirt and accessories. You might just be in the running to win Fashions on the Field.
You can choose accessories in contrasting colours. As long as they complement and complete your outfit.
Ladies and Gentlemen – think classic. Keep it simple and source an outfit that is made from quality fabric. Preferably a natural fibre like wool, silk, linen or cotton. Choose something that fits you perfectly, and that you feel comfortable wearing. Having quality garments tailored proves a far better investment in the long run than owning a wardrobe full of cheap clothes that aren’t flattering and don’t fit. You can look your best on any budget with a little planning and smart, careful, investment.
Jon Michail, Image Consultant | Personal Branding Coach | Business and Personal Branding Strategist | Author | Group CEO and Founder, Image Group International |
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