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Top tips for Spring Racing and Melbourne Cup Day

In Australia, Melbourne Cup is the biggest racing event in the country with race day meets in all capital cities including Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Hobart, Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra and Darwin. But regional centres also go mad for Melbourne Cup so don’t forget to check your local race track and turf clubs for Melbourne Cup events. Alternatively, check out your local bars and restaurants as they always have Melbourne Cup parties and special events.

Whether you’ve been to the races before or this is your first time, there are a few tricks and secrets to help you have a fun day out.

Your Outfit

Ladies dress fascinator melbourne cup

We highly recommend planning your outfit at least 2 weeks before a big day like Melbourne Cup or Oaks Day. It doesn’t need to be expensive as there are lots of locally sourced clothing boutiques that have dress sales throughout the year as well as big chain stores like David Jones, Myer, Target, Zara and H&M. If you are purchasing a classic cut dress and have the time, you can buy it at the end of the season when it’s on clearance for the following year. It will be a staple throughout the year that you can add a jacket and tights for winter and strappy heels and statement earrings for summer.  Come race day, accessorise to change the look with shoes, jewellery, bag and headwear. There are also lots of gorgeous vintage and pre-loved designer boutiques to find unique statement dresses or you can consider hiring a dress for the day.  

When you are shopping for a dress, if you can’t bend over because it’s too tight and really short then it’s probably not going to suit the races. There are dress codes for different parts of the races like Members, the Birdcage and the Royal Enclosure at Ascot in the UK but as a general rule of thumb if you’d happily wear your outfit to a nightclub it’s probably not appropriate race wear. Dress length is usually below the knee and for Melbourne Cup, it’s floral themed and Derby Day is black and white themed.

With unpredictable weather, as a safe option opt for a dress that has a bit of room and that can easily be teamed with a cardigan or jacket if the weather is cold yet loose enough if the weather is hot.

When choosing outfit colours and fascinators consider complimentary colours for classic timeless looks. These are colours that sit in the same colour family. For example, red, orange and yellow. To make a big statement contrasting colours like green and blue, red and pink and purple and yellow will provide colour pops and a wow factor. As a general rule, if your dress is patterned then your headwear looks great as one block colour. Alternatively, when your dress is plain then your hat can be bold with contrasting statement colours.

Shoes and feet

As true victims of fashion, when matching shoes to an outfit we might not consider the comfort factor of our shoes. As you’ll be on your feet for most of the day and well into the night if you like to party afterwards when your feet hurt after 5 minutes of wearing your heels then they will definitely burn at the races so you might need to reconsider what shoes you are wearing as comfort is important.

what to wear to the races

When buying new heels wear them before your big day to break them in. Try wearing your heels with socks for 1-2 hours every day for a week prior to your day out so that they are stretched and comfortable by the time you need them. On the morning of the races, you can apply a muscle gel, like Voltaren on your feet that helps numb them giving them endurance for Race Day. You can also try some inner sole gel pads for the balls of your feet and apply band-aids or tape to any parts of your feet that may rub for example your little toes.

what to wear for racewear

The other thing to consider is wearing wedges or kitty heels as they are not as high and have more support than regular high heeled shoes.

Emergency items for your bag

As much as a clutch is gorgeous, unfortunately, it’s really small when it comes to storing items that you’ll need on the day. Consider taking a larger bag so that you can pack some essentials like foldable ballet flats, Panadol, band-aids, makeup, deodorant, muesli bar, phone, sunscreen, money, tipping guide, compact mirror and photo ID. You could also consider having one communal backpack for your group that holds all the emergencies and essentials so that you can still carry your clutch.


Ladies Caramel and Black Vegan Leather Headband

The best part of the races is being able to wear a hat or fascinator. When choosing your headwear as mentioned earlier, you can opt for a complimentary colour or a contrasting colour to your outfit based on the statement you are trying to achieve. We find that the colour wheel is really useful to use when planning an outfit as it highlights complimentary colours and contrasting colours easily. Click here for more colour wheel information. 

Depending on what headwear you choose determines how the headpiece is secured to your head.

There may be elastic to help fasten the headpiece or combs to add extra support. Fascinators typically incorporate headbands that are worn behind the ears for extra support which is great for particularly windy or rainy days.

Elastic is designed to be worn behind the ears and towards the back of the head. Use bobby pins that are the same colour as your hair and attach discretely to help fasten securely. Traditionally, a fascinator is worn to the right but you can mix that up and wear it where it feels comfortable.

We have some great tips on matching hats and fascinators to face shape here.

If you are travelling by car consider taking a vehicle that has a high roof like a maxi taxi or a people mover so that your headwear doesn’t get damaged when going in and out of the car.


If bad weather is forecasted, take a transparent clear plastic raincoat with a hood and a clear plastic umbrella to keep yourself dry. Fascinators and hats in sinamay hate water so try to avoid getting them wet. If your fascinator does get wet, use a cloth or paper towel to remove excess water. With wind, make sure your headpiece is secure and be mindful that your dress might do a Marilyn Monroe!


Derby Day races ladies fascinator

General Day

Don’t forget to check the tipping guide before the races to work out your bet in advance and be sure to place the bet well before the race so that you don’t miss out on seeing the race itself.

Remember to keep hydrated throughout the day with water and eat during the day too.

Staying sober at the races

But most of all, have fun, enjoy the fashion and vibe, place a bet or two and enjoy the splendour and fun that is race day.


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