All Dressed Up: What To Wear To The Races


From left to right: Louise fascinator via The Iconic, pink pencil dress by Asos, orange dress by Warehouse, Flower fascinator by Asos, blue dress by Dorothy Perkins.

Racing season is in full swing in Australia and before we know it,  it will be time for the iconic ‘Melbourne Cup’. This gets me very excited for two reasons a) it’s a public holiday here in Victoria (I know, if only all fun events warranted a day off, huh?!) and b) it’s the perfect excuse to get dressed up for the day!

If you’re attending one of the upcoming  Spring races – or even just a racing-themed party –  but aren’t sure what to wear yet, here are a few outfit ideas to get your sartorial juices going.

And in case this is your very first time going to a race (I remember how equally excited and nervous I was at the prospect of attending my first racing event!), I also included some extra tips on how to look and feel glamorous throughout the day.

The Outfit

Everyone knows that big racing events are just as much about fashion as they are about the actual race. However, behind all the fun and glamour, there are also a few boring realities to keep in mind such as the fact that you’ll probably be on your feet for long periods of time,  may have to sit on the grass, and will be in the sun most of the day. So ideally you’ll want to choose an outfit that not only looks fabulous but also feels somewhat comfortable (or that you can at least breathe and sit in).

Dresses are the traditional choice for racing events so this is your golden opportunity to rock a gorgeous frock. If you’re planning on sitting on the lawn then pick a dress that’s at least mid-length (flashing everybody is never a good look, on or off the fields). Feminine dresses with a touch of old-school glamor are perfect for this kind of event and you also can’t go wrong with pastel colors, floral or even polka dot prints. Peplum dresses are another popular choice. Just avoid heavy fabrics as you might get too hot.

Also, it’s always a good idea to do a bit of research on the event beforehand to see if there are any particular dress codes or traditions associated with it. For example, ‘Derby day’ is usually all about B&W ensembles whilst people usually wear more colorful outfits at the ‘Melbourne Cup’.

No matter what outfit you choose though, please don’t be one of those people who turn up at racing events dressed as if they were going to a rave. It just isn’t appropriate and it will make you stand out for all the wrong reasons. If you really feel like wearing something different then how about wearing a gorgeous two piece suit or even a jumpsuit instead?

racewear post3(2) From top left to right: Orange midi dress by Zalora, B&W dress by Karen Millen (via Asos), Pink dress by Oasis (via The Iconic), Floral dress by Warehouse, blue maxi dress Little Mistress via  Asos, peplum dress by Asos.

The Accessories

A racing attire wouldn’t be quite complete without a fantastic hat or at least a fascinator. I’ve rounded up a few of my favorite pieces below but you could also get your craft on and make one yourself! And don’t worry about looking silly or going OTT. My friend once bought a cheap Target hat which she then proceeded to cover in My Little Poneys, fresh flowers and glitter and EVERYONE wanted to steal it at the party we went to!

If you choose to wear a big hat then I’d say keep the jewelry simple but if you’re going for a more subtle headpiece then feel free to pick bolder pieces.

When it comes to choosing a bag, a small clutch is always a great option. Even more so if it includes a chain – better keep those hands free for champagne glasses and yummy canapes instead.

The other thing to take into consideration is of course the shoes. High heels are great and all but sinking two inches deep into the grass with every step you take isn’t. So unless you’re living it up in one of the private VIP areas or on the grand stands, I’d suggest wearing some nice block heels, wedges and even fancy sandals instead. Or at least bring a larger bag and pack some flats for later on in the evening…

accessories From left to right: pink necklace by Forever New,  earrings by Forever new, pink clutch via Nordstrom, Hat via Morgan and Taylor,  blue bracelet by Modcloth, white shoes via Nordstrom, pink fascinator by Asos, Pearl necklace by Kate Spade, Fascinator via The Iconic, yellow clutch via Myer, Shoes via The Iconic, Orchid fascinator by Crown and Glory, black clutch via The iconic.

The make up

Since racing events usually last all day and sometimes even go into the night, you’ll need to ensure that your makeup stays put (see here for more pro tips). Make sure to use good primers and to opt for a foundation that can sustain the heat and longwear. Also, don’t forget to pack a powder to tame down the shine throughout the day and your lippy for quick retouches.

Putting on generous amounts of sunscreen on your face and body before you get ready is also a must!

Finally, don’t forget the number 1 rule of attending any event:  take it easy on the alcohol. You’re not a racing horse, so pace yourself, and sip on your champagne like the classy lady you are!

Have you ever attended a big horse race before? What did you wear? Do you have any additional tips? Please let me know in the comments!


  • Great post lady! and just in time :-) I love the races, but being in Melbs you’ll definitely be right in on the action! x

  • Good tips! I didnt know you may end up actually sitting on the grass at these events. Here I was thinking it was all under a nice big tent with wonderful seats. Perhaps gives me more reason to make it to a race this year

    • That’s what I used to think before I went to my first racing event too! I had all those glamorous images in my head (I blame My Fair Lady) but unless you’re sitting in a VIP area or in the stands nabbing a seat can be a bit tricky. You never know though, if you arrive early then you might get lucky! Also some people just go for pretty picnic style look on the lawn which can be very nice. x

  • Beautiful post as always lovely. I (of course) love the fuschia Oasis dress, and also the peplum dress from ASOS. I can’t believe your friend made a My Little Pony fascinator – that’s EXACTLY what I was planning to do for the Adelaide Cup! X

    • I could totally imagine you rocking a ‘My Little Poney’ hat MJ, it would look fabulous on you!!!! Please send me pics so I can feature you in my ‘Pretty In the City’ column. xx

  • I love all your pics! Funnily enough I actually have those earrings from Forever New – they’re super sweet! Ooh I would love the yellow clutch!

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