Signature Wardrobe Race Meeting Outfit 1895
Victoria Racing Club Carnival Race Day Outfits. The illustrated Australian news December 2, 1895, via State Library Victoria

Spring is here, the Racing Carnival is off and running, and if you haven’t before, it’s time to think about a Signature Wardrobe Race Meeting Outfit. This outfit is for horse races, but it gives me the idea I should do another for dog racing.

Climate/Location/Activities

If you’re attending a Melbourne race meeting, you’ll be outside and most likely have a bit of all four seasons.

There’ll be walking, standing, and maybe some jumping if your horse comes in. If you’re lucky some chair sitting, and if not some ground sitting. There will also be drinking with one hand and hors d’oeuvre eating with the other.

Presence

While you do of course want to look glamorous, comfort should be your keyword for the day.

As horse racing was (and still) an expensive sport enjoyed by royalty and the super-rich, the dress code is very formal – lounge and above. Some more traditional tracks will refuse entry if they do not think you are appropriately dressed, for example, wearing jeans, shirts without collars, and sneakers. Or if they think you are displaying too much skin, for example, your belly button.

Hats are almost de rigeur because they were once indicators of wealth. You will get into all but the most exclusive tracks without one, but why not go the whole hog. (Sorry to mix animal metaphors).

As an aside, you could check with the track to see what their code is; many publish on their websites.

Clothes

Wear clothes that are comfortable, and these are often very simple in style and unembellished (i.e. not studded with “jewels” or sequins). Generally, a knee-length dress, lightly tailored, with an inch or two of ease. Natural fibres will wick sweat away and be more comfortable on a hot day, perhaps a soft linen (or blend) that has passed the creasing phase.

You could, of course, wear a lightweight suit, though some tracks might not let you in with a pantsuit.

You might like an additional layer for warmth, but bear in mind if you are not wearing it, you will be carrying it.

Underclothes

Practical and supportive everyday undies. If you are concerned about visibility, choose a lined dress or wear a petticoat. If you are not wearing stockings, you might like to consider a longer brief for thigh rub protection.

Shoes

Even if you are perfectly comfortable in 5″ (12.75 cm) stilettos, consider wearing something lower with a broader heel that offers greater stability and won’t sink into (or get stuck in) the grass.

Accessories

My feeling is that these should remain simple, in keeping with the scale and elegance of your dress as well as comfortable to wear all day.

Similarly, a small light handbag in keeping with your dress. Ideally, something that can fit a bottle of water, but remember you’ll be carrying it all day so leave the tote at home (unless your picnic is in there as well).

And of course your hat, which similarly is best in keeping with the scale of your dress, though I know many women prefer to go all out with a big hat. A big hat requires more fixings to keep in place and could be blown away on a windy day. Fascinators are less expensive, but can still be expansive in scale.

Grooming

I’m still thinking simple and elegant. An updo in keeping with the size, scale, and placement of your hat. Which may not make much sense, but if you look at the picture, you can see that the women’s hats are resting on their hair. If the hair was set lower, closer to the nape of your neck, the hat could sit at an open angle framing the face. If the hair is set higher, the hat could perch at an angle to overshadow the face. It’s worth looking at some pictures women wearing hats in the old days for ideas.

Light daytime makeup and a fresh fragrance.

Wrap Up

In some ways, getting dressed for the races is a bit like getting dressed for your wedding – you may never wear any of it again! Try to be a little bit practical with your purchases, and consider how you can get the best value from them. Perhaps a simple straw boater you could wear to the beach or the tennis. Or shoes that might be good for the upcoming round of stand up Christmas events.


 

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