The Melbourne Cup is the race that stops the nation but it’s also the biggest day on the fashion calendar for many keen racegoers.
From finding the perfect hat to making sure the pocket square matches the suit, Fairfax Media found four representatives of Flemington’s fashion tribes to talk through their outfits for Tuesday.
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Snake charmers, a yacht and a perfumery, we take you inside the most exclusive areas at Flemington Racecourse.
The fashions debutante: Angela Clark
Regardless of the Cup Day forecast, Angela Clark will be wearing the Myer Fashions on the Field outfit she has been planning for months.
The 47-year-old accountant from Brisbane is competing on the country’s biggest fashion stage after years watching her friends from the sidelines.
“I have been a little bit shy to try it at the beginning,” she says. “It took me a while to get an understanding of what’s involved. I thought one day I have to try and today is the day.”
Clark picked up her outfit by an Italian designer on a recent holiday.
“It’s a bit busy – blue, black and white – [my friends] told me it should be three colours, but no more than three colours,” she says.
She will team it with a dark blue shoes she bought in America and a headpiece in co-ordinating colours by Queensland’s JAR Millinery.
Clark will square off in the daily racewear competition against hundreds of women all vying for the state final on Oaks Day. The state finalists will compete for hundreds of thousands of dollars in prizes, including a new car, on Thursday.
“I am so excited, I just want to have fun,” Clark says. “It’s not about winning, it’s about having a new experience.”
Clark, who migrated from Russia to Queensland 15 years ago, says that despite the weather forecast, she wont’ be adjusting her look.
“I have been told it’s going to be a bit chilly but that doesn’t scare me at all. I am not taking warm clothes as I want to look pretty and enjoy my time.”
She says her advice to women thinking of competing is to have the right height shoes and make sure their clutch is packed with essentials such as cash and lipstick.
Ben Carbonaro says it’s all about adding flourishes of colour on Cup Day. Photo: Luis Ascui
The dapper dude: Ben Carbonaro
Ben Carbonaro is mad about the races – he has memberships at five racecourses – but he also loves the social and fashion aspects of the sport.
“I’m just looking forward to meeting new people, seeing some of the same old faces again, just generally enjoying the day. It’s such a big day in the Australian sporting calendar,” he says.
In his day job at the AFL’s Umpiring Department, Carbonaro, 32, often wears tracksuit pants and a T-shirt. So on race days, he relishes the opportunity to dress up.
“I like to be a bit bold with my shirt choices, but for the races I like to dress up, it’s something special. It kind of affects my personality, too,” Carbonaro says.
Carbonaro, of Hampton, is also a regular on the Fashions on the Field circuit and recently came runner-up at the Moe Cup. Last week, he made the finals at the Bendigo Cup.
This Cup Day, he’ll be on the sidelines, choosing to enjoy the day without the pressure of competition.
His go-to look is chinos and a jacket, his signature hat and the Melbourne Cup flower pin, a yellow rose.
“I always add something bold and colourful with my tie and pocket square,” he says.
“I’ve always liked people who are prepared to be confident and make a statement and not look like everyone else; it can mean colour, it can mean clashing prints – they’re probably the two things that stand out to me the most.”
He encourages other guys to break the mould.
“Don’t be afraid to wear something flamboyant, it’s all about confidence and it’s all about how you wear it. Just remember that you’re not going to work, you’re going to a track – so bold is OK.”
The juggling mum: Caitrin Kelly
Going to the races five months pregnant – and sober – is a whole different experience, says mother of one Caitrin Kelly.
“Not drinking you see a very different side to it. I enjoy the racing, I enjoy the fashion, I wouldn’t be able to just stay at home,” she says.
The Irish native, now based in Mornington, says she planed her outfit quite late as “you literally don’t know what size you are until the morning you wake up”.
“[Two years ago] I was quite heavily pregnant and I attended all four days … that was hard going, just being on your feet all day,” she says.
Kelly, 32, arrived in Australia on Derby eve 2012 and while she’s a nurse by training, she has worked as a track rider for some of Ireland and Australia’s top trainers, including Gai Waterhouse. This year, spurred by her exploding collection of hats, she and some friends started Paris Lane, a millinery hiring service.
“Everyone wants a new look each time, especially with social media,” she says. “It’s just not cost effective, especially for the girls like us who go racing all the time.”
On Tuesday, she’s wearing a Thurley dress from Fiona’s of Mornington, headpiece by Sydney milliner Cynthia Jones-Bryson and her “trusty” nude heels.
“The members area is a lot smaller [due to the grandstand construction] so we will be outside a lot more,” she says. “If we are not on grass there is a lot of walking from the Birdcage to where The Park [precinct] is.”
While Kelly loves racing fashions, she’d prefer to be in the audience than on stage in Fashions on the Field.
“If you’re going to commit to Fashions you’re going to miss all the racing action,” she says.
Jill Heinz initially bought her Cup outfit for her son’s wedding. Photo: Darrian Traynor
The grand dame: Jill Heinz
With a grandfather who was a jockey, racing is in Jill Heinz’s blood.
She has been attending race meets since her teenage years but said it was in the 1970s when she really started noticing the fashions.
“We went to quite a bit of trouble, we probably looked ridiculous but we thought we looked great,” she says.
Heinz has visited racecourses around the world and said the fashions at Melbourne are a cut above the rest.
“I have been really disappointed in Paris and this year in Ireland. People in Melbourne dress much better,” she says.
As a regular racegoer, Heinz’s mission is to look elegant but not over the top.
“You have to be comfortable and be suitable for the weather. You need a jacket, shoes that look gorgeous but don’t kill your feet. Something elegant. You’re going to the races not a cocktail party – I don’t really go for the strapless or short dresses,” she says.
“I’m in my late 50s so I am not trying to dress up like these gorgeous girls do. I love catching the train out – coming back it’s always interesting to see how people look.”
Heinz initially purchased her dress for her son’s wedding but when she chose something else, it ended up in her impressive racing wardrobe, including about 20 hats and headpieces.
“I had a beautiful wide-brimmed black and cream hat made about four years ago for the Derby and the weather was foul. I think it took three years before I got to wear that hat,” she says.
“It’s only really expensive if you don’t wear the outfits again. I probably spend more on a dress for the races than normal attire. It would be foolish if you spent more than you can afford. I don’t think I am too extravagant.”