Spring racing carnival fashion form guide

Spring Carnival racing fever grips the nation

Amongst the colour and the fashion, Australian racing crowds are considerably younger than ever before. Produced by Tim Martin with additional footage from the Australian Turf Club

Spring racing carnival is a tailor-made excuse for Australian men to flex some sartorial muscle.

The growing number of gents participating in Fashion on the Field contests is proof that a winning outfit is just as important as picking a winning filly.

Part of the appeal could be that men are embracing the opportunity to break away from the working week's more conservative strictures and step out in something more adventurous.

Gents with a desire to do a bit of well-earned peacocking or who get caught up in the competitiveness of the season can overlook the Sport of Kings' traditional aesthetics.

Several of the top-line events have their own enshrined dress codes. Here is the definitive guide on how to successfully decode spring racing's sartorial guidelines.

Derby Day

Derby Day

Renzo suit; Lucca trouser; Agnelli Shirt; DB Rose Brocade Tie; multi pattern pocket square from Dom Bagnato.

The first event out of the gate is AAMI Derby Day on Saturday, October 31. Considered the most formal of the main events, it's the style benchmark for the season. It's also the day on which men are invited to enter Myer's Fashion on the Field.

Traditionally, male attire consisted of a grey morning suit, peacock vest and pinstripe pants, finished off with a top hat and the flower of the day – a cornflower – worn in the lapel.


Melbourne-based tailor and experienced Fashion on the Field judge Dom Bagnato says while some of the old guard stick to the more formal top and tails, contemporary interpretations of Derby Day dress code have simplified and men are now encouraged to choose an outfit based on black and white.

"A modern way to approach Derby Day is to take your cue from the colour palette," Bagnato says.

"It doesn't have to be black, but a charcoal or dark grey worn with something white. As long as these two colours are worked into the outfit, that to me is a great modern interpretation of traditional Derby Day menswear."

Cup Day

Melbourne Cup.

Pale blue check merino Chatton suit; cotton Grenier shirt; vintage silk tie; cotton pocketchief from MJ Bale.

Next up is the jewel in the crown, the Emirates Melbourne Cup on Tuesday, November 3. Like Derby Day, traditional Melbourne Cup garb involved a combination of tops and tails, while the official flower to wear is the yellow rose.

However, in keeping with the more celebratory nature of the day, Melbourne Cup is now seen as the event where men are encouraged make strong fashion statements by wearing suits in bold colour or patterns in a striking design teamed with eye-catching details such as contrasting accessories.

Oaks Day

Oaks Day.

Renzo suit in slate blue/grey tonic weave suiting; Lucca pant in slate blue/grey tonic weave; Milazzo shirt; Candy Flowers tie; DB silk pochette from Dom Bagnato.

Also known as 'Ladies Day', Crown Oaks Day on Thursday, November 5 is all about pastels.

Light grey suiting with details in pink, pale blue or green is the perfect palette to build on. If you're attending the event with your significant other, as is tradition, then choose accessories that compliment her outfit either in the same colour or pattern. The official flower for the day is the pink rose.

Stakes Day


Quad Check suit in blue combo; Stretch Five shirt; Juniper regular tie from Calibre

Wrapping up the carnival on Saturday, November 7 is Emirates Stakes Day, traditionally the more family-oriented event and the most relaxed of the four major races. While no tradition theme is set for this day, attendees are still advised to dress according to Members Enclosures guidelines.

A perfect outfit for Emirates Stakes Day may consist of a blazer and shirt teamed with tailored slacks. This understated look is finished off with the day's official flower of a red rose and a brightly coloured tie.

Honourable mention: Caulfield Cup

Caulfield Cup.

London double breasted suit, Jax shirt in white, tie and pocket square by Farage

While not one of the big four, the Caulfield Cup on October 17 still deserves honourable mention.

Official stylist for the Melbourne Racing Club, Lana Wilkinson describes the Caulfield Cup as less formal than Derby Day and a little livelier than the Royal Oaks and the perfect day to bust out one's inner dandy.

"The dress code and guidelines from Caulfield to Flemington are very different. It is a lot more traditional at VRC," Lana explains.

"[Caulfield] is where you can play with the way your suit is put together. It's the perfect event for something like a three-piece suit. Maybe team that up with a really fun spotty shirt, and if you're really bolshy, finish it up with a bow-tie."

Final word

Cup Carnival style.

London suit and Constantine vest in window pane check; Jax shirt in grey; tie and pocket square from Farage.

There's an expectation that, when it comes to working a winning track-side look, a few risks are to be taken. But it's important to keep in mind that just because it's in trend, doesn't mean it's going to let you in.

Here are some final touches to your look that no man should overlook.

  • Always wear a pocketsquare. It's a small detail that adds a lot of impact and completes your outfit.
  • Always wear socks – despite what the runway tells you, and unless you're in General Admission, spring carnival is not the time to flash some ankles in the name of fashion.
  • Finish the look with the right footwear – polished, well-kept shoes are the anchor to a great suit. Choose brown for lighter shade outfits but stick with traditional black for Derby Day.
  • Grooming. A quick trip the barber ahead of schedule will keep your locks looking tamed and suitable respectable for the VIP area.