Dress code rules for the Spring Racing Carnival 2021

Avoid a fashion faux pas this year at the races. Here’s our guide to dressing for the Spring Racing Carnival.

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Dressing for the races is a bit different than dressing for a regular cocktail event. The Spring Racing Carnival is a long-standing event that is steeped in tradition. While certain aspects of attending the races have been relaxed, there are still a few rules you need to be aware of – especially when choosing an outfit.

Here are all the strict rules and dress code trends you should know if you’re heading to the races this year.

Major events with specific dress codes


General dress code for the Spring Racing Carnival

Regardless of which day you plan on attending the races, there are a few standard rules for dressing. As an example, here are some dress-code directions from the Flemington website:

“Ladies are expected to maintain a suitable standard in keeping with the dignity of the Members’ Enclosure. Overseas visitors are welcome to wear the formal national dress of their country.

“Gentlemen are required to wear a suit of tailored slacks (tailored chinos acceptable), sports coat or blazer, plus tie and dress shoes. Between 1 December and 31 March jackets may be removed. Overseas visitors are welcome to wear the formal national dress of their country.”

These rules don’t strictly apply in a general admission area. But if you’re in a members’ area, take them seriously!


General rules for dressing at racecourses across Australia

Women

  • Absolutely no denim – no jeans, no denim skirts and no denim jackets.
  • No bare midriffs, including dresses with cut-outs.
  • No untailored pants, including leather pants and legging styles.
  • No shorts.
  • No rips in clothing, even if they are intentional rips.
  • No playsuits or short jumpsuits, although this may only be strictly enforced in members’ areas.
  • No casual jackets like tracksuit tops or duffel coats.
  • No sneakers, thongs, gumboots or other casual shoe.
  • Traditionally, no strapless dresses or straps less than an inch thick are allowed, but this is not a strictly followed rule.
  • Traditionally, no dresses or skirts above the knee are allowed, but again, this is not strictly enforced.
  • Traditionally, all women must wear a hat or headpiece, but this is also not strictly followed.

Men

  • No denim: no jeans, no denim jackets and no denim shorts.
  • No untailored pants, including leather pants and legging styles.
  • No shorts.
  • No rips in clothing, even if they are intentional rips.
  • No casual jackets or untailored jackets like tracksuit jackets, bomber jackets or duffel coats.
  • No sneakers, thongs, gumboots or other casual shoe.
  • No shirts without collars.
  • No jumpers or sweaters without a jacket on top.
  • No cravats.
  • No brightly coloured suits.
  • No caps or beanies.

Who needs to follow these rules?

Everyone attending the races and expecting to be let into a members’ areas will need to follow these rules. It’s expected that all children over the age of 12 should adhere to these rules too.

What will happen if I don’t follow these rules?

There aren’t any actual “fashion police” around, don’t worry! And if you’re just heading to a general admission area, you can get away with breaking a few rules. But if you expect to be let into a members’ area, you will need to follow the dress code. If you don’t, you won’t be allowed in.

Do you need headwear at the races?

There is an expectation that women attending the races will wear a hat, fascinator or headpiece. At most racecourses, there is no strict rule about this (even in members’ areas), so you may not need to. But a headpiece is part of the fun of the races, so why not give it a try?


Spring Racing Carnival major fashion events

Caulfield Cup Day – 19 October

While there is no strict dress code for the Caulfield Cup, a dress trend has developed over the last few years. This particular day on the racing carnival calendar will see many choosing bold fashion statements – think strong colours, colour blocking and matching sets.

Derby Day – 2 November

This day is a strictly monochrome affair. Ditch the colour and pull out your most striking black and white garb. Go all black, all white or mix the two!

Melbourne Cup – 5 November

It’s “the race that stops a nation” and one of the biggest events of the year, so you need to pull out the big guns for the Melbourne Cup. This is the event where you will see gowns, sparkles, sequins and striking headpieces. Take this as an opportunity to be experimental and give that glamorous outfit you’ve always wanted to wear a spin.

Oaks Day – 7 November

Oaks Day is also known as “Ladies Day” at the races, so this is the day to let your feminine side show. Forget blacks and navy tones and grab your pastels and florals. Think pink, yellow, baby blue and lavender. Lace, frills, volume and prints are all very welcome.

Stakes Day – 9 November

This is the last major event in the carnival season and has been coined “Family Day”. The dress code for Stakes Day is more relaxed, so use this opportunity to dress flirty and fun and truly embrace spring.


Where to shop for Spring Racing Carnival dresses


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