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Anyone for the races?

The Australian Melbourne Cup is only just over a month away and those planning to attend will be starting to plan their outfits of which a hat is an essential element. The right hat will not only complete your outfit it will add a glamorous flourish and they are an essential part of the traditional etiquette that surrounds many race meetings.

The first and most important point is give yourself plenty of time to find the right hat and outfit by starting at least a month in advance.

When it comes to your hat try on a variety of styles and experiment with the way you place the hat on your head. One rule of thumb is the crown width should not be narrower than your cheekbones. This will ensure a good visual balance. 

Don’t feel obligated to match your hat exactly to your outfit. Complementary colored hats can look just as stunning as a fully coordinated ensemble and trimming your hat with flowers is a great way to add extra pizzazz. However, if you’re wearing a floral printed dress, it may be best to keep your hat flower free.

The following four international race events all have a rich traditions and a history of fabulous fashion, and with it we’ve included a quick how-to and etiquette guide when dressing up and picking the right hat for each race day event.

Australian Spring Racing Carnival

Held in November this is one of the most-awaited sporting and social events in Australia for the summer season. Selecting what to wear for the Melbourne Cup is not as simple as wearing your favorite cocktail or little black dress, each day of this event has its own unique set of fashion traditions.

Derby Day

Theme: Black and White

This day marks the start of the Melbourne Cup Carnival. This is the day when you can bring out elegant striped or polka dot black and white pieces.

As for your racing hat of the day, stick to the black and white theme while opting for a more understated hat. Try a modern pillbox hat or a fascinator with a geometric or architectural design.

Emirates Melbourne Cup Day

Theme: Bright Colors and Bold Prints

Today is the day to be more audacious with your sartorial decisions. Have fun with your outfit today and get playful with vibrant hues and patterns. The Emirates Melbourne Cup Day is your chance to make a major fashion statement and to embrace and show off your love for color. Get creative and express your personality with your various options for color and prints today.

Your hat choice should, of course, complement your ensemble of the day. If you are wearing a striking print or color, it is best to coordinate your hat with that to avoid looking too busy. You can still be daring with your hat choice though, provided that it matches the dominant hue of what you’re wearing. Given the elegance of the occasion, solid color hats (no hats with patterns, please) would be your best option.

Crown Oaks Day

Theme: Feminine and Ladylike

Crown Oaks Day is when the Myer Fashion on the Field parades happen. So this is the day to dress to impress. Bring out your Sunday best and the more feminine the better. Think delicate florals and dreamy pastel palettes. Midi skirts, structured pieces, and fit-and flare frocks are silhouettes that you should look for.

Your hat today should reflect the ladylike and traditional atmosphere of the day. Vintage-inspired hats in pastel colors are a great option, and so are floral headbands. Floral headbands are easy to style and coordinate with your looks and are considered a great option for your hat accessory of the day.

Emirates Stakes

Emirates Stakes Day also known as Family Day comes with a more relaxed dress code. That’s not to say you’ve got a license to get too casual though, you are still at the races after all. However, feel free to choose clothing that allows for a bit more movement. Look out for floaty fabrics and breezy silhouettes.

Contrast your more relaxed look with a hat that is made for the races.

It is also important to note that there are traditional flowers worn by men in their lapels for each day.

  • Derby Day: Cornflower
  • Emirates Melbourne Cup: Yellow Rose
  • Crown Oaks Day: Pink Rose
  • Emirates Stakes Day: Red Rose

To up the style of your hat even more, you can pin some flowers on the brim.

MelbSpringCarnivalTop Row: Image 1, Image 2, Image 3. Bottom Row: Image 1, Image 2, Image 3.

Royal Ascot UK

Held in Nine and considered the major highlight in the British social calendar, a day at the Royal Ascot races will surely necessitate an ensemble worthy of the Royal Court. Established by Queen Anne in 1711, the Royal Ascot is a major institution in British Culture as well as one of its richest traditions. Potential for rubbing elbows with members of the Royal Family is high, and a celebrity sighting or two, of course. The dress code of this major event depends on where you’re seated. Keep tradition top of mind, as the Royal Ascot places tradition above all else when it comes to its fashion. So above all else, keep your sartorial choices on the elegant and conservative side.

Royal Enclosure

The most prestigious seating during the event, hats are required in this area. Fascinators are strictly prohibited, however you can wear headpieces with a base covering of at least 4 inches. Given the strict rules for dressing, you can probably tell that this is a formal event in which you should bring out your sartorial best. Bearing in mind the dress code, of course. Dresses or skirts cannot go above the knee and straps should be at least an inch in length. Formal daywear is the suggested dress.


Just like at The Royal Enclosure, the dress code here is formal daywear. Royal Enclosure dress rules still apply. In this section, however, you are permitted to wear fascinators, hats, and headpieces. You are still required to wear your headwear at all times.

Silver Ring

No formal dress code is required in this seating area, but the conservative code of dress still applies even though you can wear more relaxed clothing. The Royal Ascot is not the place for short hemlines and strapless numbers. You can still get into the spirit of the races with a hat, but you need not wear a large one. Opt for a classic pillbox hat that complements your relaxed yet sophisticated look. Also important to note, replica sport shirts are not allowed during this event.


Dubai World Cup Carnival

Dubai is an emerging fashion capital. With all the top fashion brands setting up shop there and a market that is hungry for fashion, it is no wonder that the Dubai World Cup Carnival is becoming a fashion destination and event all its own. Just like other prestigious race events, the Dubai World Cup Carnival attracts people from the world over. The Dubai World Cup Carnival is similar to the Royal Ascot when it comes to their seating area corresponding to a certain dress code.


Since Dubai World Cup Carnival is more modern, the dress code for the grandstand is standard race wear. It is not required to wear formal attire, but you should still aim to dress to the nines. Traditional hats or fascinators are encouraged. Revealing attire, nightclub outfits, and evening gowns are prohibited.

Parade Ring/General Admission

These two sections are more dressed down, but it will be a mistake to go too casual. No jeans, T-shirts, sneakers, flip-flops, and shorts allowed. You can still wear a hat to get into the race day spirit, but it is not required in this section.

DubaiCupSource: Image 1, Image 2, Image 3

Kentucky Derby

The most awaited social racing event in the United States is the Kentucky Derby. Colonel Clark, the founder of the Kentucky Derby, had a vision to create a racing event akin to those in Europe. He wanted to recreate that same upscale and luxurious feeling, and thus the Kentucky Derby was born. Dressing for the Kentucky Derby is all about opulence and lots of color. This event is also seen as the perfect opportunity for fashionistas to showcase the latest of spring fashions.

Like other race events, hats are a huge part of the fashion during the Kentucky Derby and at the Derby: the bigger the hat, the better. Whether you’re sitting pretty at the VIP box or the field, you should never be caught without a hat. From the simple and elegant to the fashion forward and fantastical, there is more leeway during this event as to what kind of hat you’re going to wear. You can be as creative and daring, as you want, it’s all up to you. Just make sure that you head wear matches what you’re wearing. And remember, going to the Kentucky Derby without your statement hat is a major faux pas.

 Kentucky Derby

 Top Row: Image 1, Image 2, Bottom Row: Image 1, Image 2


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Thank you.
Ann Reinten AICI CIP

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