Race ready: What to wear at this year's Melbourne Cup Carnival

It's one thing to take a chance with your bet at the Melbourne Cup, but when it comes to your look – make sure you always pick a winner.

The trackside code

While race season is one of the few times gents get the opportunity to have some fun with their wardrobe – a flourish here, a detail there – there is a long tradition of dress codes attached to each of the major races that the serious punter is wise to consider when selecting his outfit.

"The races suit should have a certain energy about it," says Matt Jensen, CEO and founder of M.J. Bale. 

"It should say, 'I'm here to play, now let's go have some fun'. My advice is always do your research on the dress codes and craft your look according to the time-honoured tradition, then put your own spin on it. Accessories like ties, pocket squares, lapel pins, or unique shirts can all be simple but effective differentiators."

From the traditional flower you should sport on your jacket to the colours required on each day, here's a simple guideline to nailing racing style this Melbourne Cup Carnival:

Derby Day

The opening event is also the most formal and a strict dress code of black and white is expected from guests.

Here, subtle cues and features are what make all the difference while maintaining a luxe and understated approach.

Let texture and print do the talking: opting for contrasting patterns in your accessories and shirt – such as polka-dot print tie and pocket squares teamed with a check shirt – can add eye-catching detail.

As far as your suit goes, pay attention to the finish of the fabric. While the simple elegance of a black suit can do no wrong, fabrication can make the difference between blending in with every other gent or making a standout statement.


Your official flower for Derby Day is the cornflower.

Melbourne Cup

The main event this day calls for an outfit that makes a big statement. Don't be hesitant to pick an adventurous hue for your suit such as plum, chocolate or moss green.

"In terms of colour, the Melbourne Cup is open wide (often like the race itself)," advises Jensen. 

"I think we will see lots of natural tones - grey, stone, soft blues."

Your accessories for the day can be as equally bold, but for a more elegant touch go tonal: darker or lighter versions of the same colour as your suit.

Keep in mind that the traditional flower for Melbourne Cup is the yellow rose, so choose a colour palette that will be complemented by this finishing touch.

Oaks Day

Also known as Ladies Day, Oaks is a chance to flirt with prints and pastels especially pink, grey, and powder blue.

The Prince of Wales check in grey is one of the most popular choices on the day, teamed with pink or blue ties and pocket squares.

Socks are also one of the most overlooked way of lifting up an outfit – go for a lighter shade and ditch the more traditional oxford or brogue for a relaxed loafer.

The official flower for Oaks Day is the pink rose.

Stakes Day

After the formality of the previous events, Stakes Day is a chance to theoretically loosen your collar.

Separates made up of contrasting blazers and tailored pants are a popular choice in shades of navy, white or even an eye-catching plaid.

While a pocket square isn't necessary on this day, choose a tie that compliments your jacket.

The classic red rose is the flower to sport in your lapel.

Check out the gallery above to see what you should be wearing to this year's Melbourne Cup Carnival.