Welcome to your very first race day. It’s neither a wine tour nor cocktail party, so how does one dress for such an occasion? Well, the newbies are easy to spot – short hemlines, an afterthought headpiece, obvious fake tan and apparently sore feet. But that won’t be you.
You will remember this day with pride and a sense of timeless elegance, even if you are a little frightened by the social snaps of pristine beauties from previous years. You can book in a blow-dry and your makeup if that’s not your proficiency, but as for style, we found you the very best in the business.
Celebrity stylist Lana Wilkinson is here to help you put together your first racing outfit. And if fashion heavyweights like Nadia Bartel, Elise Knowles and Megan Gale trust her, so will you.
Citing her tan as a touch too dark at one of her first Derby Days, Lana recommends that if you are altering your skin tone, opt out of orange, as your beauty routine could make or break your outfit. “Ensure your hair and makeup also elevate your look and compliment your millinery,” Lana said. “Less is more during the day and remember millinery is an additional accessory; also ensure all three are age and event appropriate.”
Lana encourages racegoers to experiment with accessories they usually would not be game to incorporate. “It’s the one time of the year you get to really style the statement pieces, whether that’s a striking shoe, bold millinery or a fabulous bag,” she said. “For me, it’s all three of those things that make or break a race day outfit.”
This year, Lana predicts turbans, boaters and fedoras will still be popular, but bejeweled hair pieces, headbands and bows will be big as trends move from traditional millinery to hair accessories. “Choose millinery that compliments your overall look,” Lana said.
“It’s all about balance,” she said. “Wide-brimmed hats, statement headpieces, crowns and fascinators will always turn heads, but the key to getting it right is to curate your look based on your build, what flatters you and your face shape most and keeping your overall outfit in balance.”
But where to start when picking a milliner? Lana’s favourites include Suzy O’Rourke, Nerida Winter, Viktoria Novak, Lady of Leisure, Jill Humphrey, Kim Fletcher, Melissa Jackson, Sylvy Earl and Ann Shoebridge to name a selection.
And at the other end of your ensemble, your shoes. “Detailed stilettos or block heels with an emphasis on the ankle are on point this season,” Lana said. “From ruffles, to buckles and loose ties, our ankles have never been more accessorised.”
“The kitten heel has never been cooler, with sleek versions of the ladylike staple from Phoebe Philo at Celine, a logoed version at Dior and a party shoe from Miu Miu,” she said. “A great alternative to those of us that can’t stomach the pain at a race day; comfort is very much fashionable right now!”
“Good racing style is respecting tradition but showcasing your interpretation of fashion, trends and style to your look,” Lana said. “Anything that could be worn to a nightclub, large cutouts or incredibly short hemlines, should be culled for a race day.”
A sample of Lana’s favourite labels - Acler, Maticevski, Rebecca Vallance, Australian Fashion Labels, Dion Lee, Yeojin Bae, By Johnny and Scanlan and Theodore – will never disappoint with their endless race day options.
Lana says this racing carnival season will embody romance, featuring plenty of primary colours such as red and cobalt blue, as well as pinks and pastels, bold stripes and effortless glamour. “Frills (or ruffles) are huge this season both in terms of proportion and popularity,” Lana said. “It’s all about the flounce.”
“Australian designers like Aje, Acler, By Johnny, Zimmermann and Alice McCall have the trend covered,” Lana said. “The styles that will be most popular will be those that balance femininity with a little sleekness,” she said. “Think asymmetrical dresses, one-shoulder tops and voluminous skirts; prints and rich hues of deep olives, golden yellow and fuchsia will also be big trends.”
Lana knows pink and blush florals will continue to shine this year – a good option if you are looking to play it safe for your first round of racing events. “Not ground breaking, but the shade is everyone’s friend and perfect when paired with white or nudes in the summer months,” she said. “If you’re looking to make a subtle statement, it’s all about walking the line in bold stripes and/or bold colours.”
Lana seeks styling inspiration via Instagram, Pinterest, fashion magazines and archival images online, but if you’re looking for a race wear muse, research Lana’s favourites Nadia Bartel, Jessica Gomes, Elyse Knowles, Anna Heinrich, Rebecca Judd and Megan Gale.
Racing doesn’t have to be in your blood for you to look like an equestrian heirloom, so consider carnival attendance your new tradition. Dress for your legacy and make room in your wardrobe for a whole lot of hat boxes.