Spring Racing Carnival season is upon us, and from afar, the path to a smooth sailing season may seem like a simple one. It's not always as simple as it seems though–if it were, every gentleman would be a clear contestant for best-dressed. To survive Spring Racing Carnival season, and to come out on top, we’ve put together a couple of pointers for fashion etiquette on the field, and an express dress-code guide for some of the headlining events of the season.
Part One: Fashion on the Field—Rules Not to Break
The list of crimes against fashion is endless: Wearing the same tired old suit to the races that you wear all year to the office; ill-fitting off-the-rack suits that do your body no favours at all; suits made of inferior cloth, or (shudder) polyester; or even no damn suit at all. Below are our pointers on what to bring, and what to leave home this Spring Racing season.
1. Avoid an Ill-Fitting Suit
Fashion guru, Jeff Lack says the biggest mistake men make when it comes to race day, is wearing a suit and shirt that don’t actually fit.
“Enjoy the made-to-measure experience at least once in your life,” he says. “A day at a major race meeting should be the best you look, outside of your wedding day, so make an effort; find a beautiful pocket square, and put some thought into your colour combinations.”
2. The Shoe Game
Shoes are another consideration, especially as you are going to be on your feet for what can be a very long day. Lack advises wearing a pair that are broken in, while being well maintained and polished. Plus, now that the VRC (Victorian Racing Club) has relaxed their dress rules, men no longer need to wear socks with their shoes. “I don’t believe everyone should go sockless at the races,” says Lack. “If I’m wearing a tie, and I’m not wearing loafers, I will always wear socks.”
3. The Hat on Your Head
While hats for the Spring Racing Carnival are traditionally made from straw, the more relaxed approach by the VRC means felt is also acceptable nowadays. “Even a flat cap can be a cool approach with a bit of personality,” says Lack. “Remember, not everyone has a head for hats; it’s all about the length of the face and getting the right balance.” What about top hats? “Keep them for Royal Ascot.”
4. Bring Your Manners
Lack says even if you’re the best dressed man at the racetrack, the most important thing to remember is your manners. Be a gentleman at all times, not just around your mates, but also around any women at the event. “Don’t go over-board…over drinking, over gambling, or over anything, is just plain ugly. Have fun but make sure you are sober enough to remember the day. Show some respect for yourself and for the heritage of the sport.”
Part Two: Turning Heads for the Headliners
It’s important to be aware that each of the major race days of the Spring Racing Carnival has its own distinctive dress code, and sense of etiquette. Avoid a one-size fits all approach.
W.S Cox Plate Race Day (Saturday, October 27)
An important day in the racing calendar—Australia's second richest weight-for-age race is held at Moonee Valley in Melbourne each October.
Cox Plate Race Day is probably the least restrictive in terms of fashion and tradition. Gentlemen (including children 13 years and over) are simply required to wear a collared-shirt and tie, tailored trousers and either a suit coat, sports coat, or blazer. So, if you’re ever going to bring out the navy window-pane suit, or the pale blue linen sports coat with tailored cream trousers and camel coloured loafers…this is the day.
Derby Day (Saturday, November 3)
A race for three-year-old thoroughbreds under set weights, run over 2,500 metres. About the closest to the Ascot experience we get in Australia, the Victoria Derby has been part of the scene since 1885. Known for its strong sense of tradition, and monochromatic dress code, this is not the day to bring out the purple mohair suit. It is, however, an opportunity to show the crowd that black, white and grey need not be dull, if worn well and punctuated with elegant accessories. Time to put a fresh interpretation on the past.
The Emirates Melbourne Cup (Tuesday, November 6)
Needs no introduction; the race that stops the nation, one of the world’s great staying races (3,200 metres) is held at Flemington on the first Tuesday in November.
Many fashion crimes have been committed at Flemington since the race was first held in 1861; most of them involving badly fitting suits and nylon fabric.
The most important date on the racing calendar, the Melbourne Cup has become the platform for fashion-forward men to flex their sartorial muscle. On a day this big, your best accessory is self-control (unless you want to end up in the Daily Mail the next morning). It’s important to consider the amount of scrutiny that goes into the evaluation of a Melbourne Cup outfit, hence one might want to avoid swinging for the fences with an overtly creative ensemble. Keep it subtle with the suit, and liven things up with a well-paired tie and pocket-square combination, and complete the look with a yellow rose on your lapel. Another subtle way to differentiate yourself from the pack is by experimenting with more obscure tie-knots. Every gent is going to be sporting a Windsor, or a Four-In-Hand knot, so try something original like an Old Bertie, or a Double Four-In-Hand.
The Emirates VRC Stakes Day (Saturday, November 10)
The final day of Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival features the Group 1 Emirates Stakes, a Weight-For-Age event held over 2000 metres.
Also known as Family Day (but don’t let that put you off) you can loosen your tie a little, while still wearing a classic suit with a bolder shirt (may we suggest a bold check?) and colourful pocket square.
Note, this is still not an excuse to go off-the-rack, or wear a novelty beer hat.
To Tie It All Up...
If you’re going to be heading to any of the Spring Racing Carnival events this year, you’re going to need to dress for the occasion. The main ingredient in all of these race-day outfits is the correct fit. Off-the-rack simply will not cut it within such a fashion forward arena, InStitchu can help you put your best foot forward, with a custom, tailored suit and shirt guaranteed to turn a few heads.
Book in for a showroom appointment today to get your Spring Racing Carnival attire ready. Enjoy a traditional, old-world tailoring experience and work with your personal Stylist to craft your one of a kind garment while you enjoy a whisky on us. With your choice of hundreds of customisation options and Woolmark Certified 100% Australian Merino wool, linen, cotton and cashmere fabrics, our Stylists will get you looking Spring Racing ready in no time.
It's time to back a winner.