Melbourne Cup: What to wear to the races

Melbourne Cup Races Fashion fascinator dress up hats

The Melbourne Cup is ready to stop the nation for another year. While it’s Australia’s premier horseracing event, it’s also a competitive day in the fashion stakes.

Why it’s a day to dress up

The Melbourne Cup can be traced way back to 1861, and the very first winner won not a cup but a gold watch. The next two winners received a cash purse as the major prize.1

Back then, horse racing was known as the sport of kings, since it was (and still is) an expensive pastime. With money comes prestige and expensive fashion. Still today, there are strict dress codes for those who enter a members’ enclosure or marquee at Flemington Racecourse.

For more than 50 years, Melbourne Cup race day has also included a strong fashion element, with a Fashions on the Field competition, and the race now attracts global fashion celebrities and sponsors.

Get set to impress on race day with these latest seasonal trends.

Flemington dress regulations2

“Ladies are expected to maintain a suitable standard in keeping with the dignity of the Members’ Enclosure.”

No joggers, thongs, jeans, shorts, torn clothing, midriff-showing outfits, leggings, or denim.

“Gentlemen are required to wear a suit, of tailored slacks (tailored chinos acceptable), sports coat or blazer, plus tie or bow tie and dress shoes with socks. During the period between 1 December and 31 March, coats may be removed.”

No joggers, thongs, jeans, shorts, torn clothing, uncollared shirts, fluorescent suits, beanies, or cravats.

Fashion ideas for her

Let’s start with headwear, because nothing says Melbourne Cup like a fabulous hat or fascinator. Be bold and creative with headwear – something that says “art” more than “hat”. Bigger is better this year, too, with many a celebrity wearing a giant sunhat by French designer Jacquemus throughout this year’s European summer.

Hemlines are longer rather than shorter at Flemington, with bright colours and florals always on-trend. Lavender is this season’s hottest colour, and stripes clashing with spots, florals and colour blocks have been popular on runways.

Full skirts and flowing summer dresses in delicate fabrics will also see you winning in the fashion stakes. Add an oddly structured clutch or dainty shoulder bag and your fashion domination is complete.

Fashion ideas for him

While men can still dress boldly during the Spring Racing Carnival, tradition and heritage are a little more obviously present in race-day wear for men.

Dress to impress on Melbourne Cup Day by starting with the basics: brown or black dress shoes are the accepted standard of the day.

A linen suit or slim-fit style suit – perhaps striped – works well. Dark suits or lighter, neutral tones can be matched with a light dress shirt. Accessories are the time to go bold – why not try a colourful print, pocket square or socks?

Remember that the Spring Racing Carnival has a flower dedicated to each day. For Melbourne Cup, it’s the yellow rose. If you’re planning to wear a flower, make sure it’s the right one!

Ready to celebrate?

Whether you’re amid all the action at Flemington, celebrating at a city restaurant event, sipping a glass of champagne in a boardroom or holding your own race-day function, be sure to go with the spirit of the day and dress to impress. Most of all, enjoy the day – and the food, fun and sweeps – as it’s one of the most iconic and important sporting events staged in Australia, and brings Australians together.

Visit the Lifestyle Spotlight for more lifestyle news and articles.


  1. 1866 Melbourne CupNational Museum Australia
  2. What to

Real Insurance is an award-winning provider of income insurance.

Income Insurance Request a Free Quote