Derby Day: how to stand out from the monochrome pack

Supermodel Naomi Campbell (left) was among the best dressed at Princess Eugenie's wedding.

Supermodel Naomi Campbell (left) was among the best dressed at Princess Eugenie’s wedding.Credit:PA

The first time I attended Derby Day, in 2004, I wore a lemon pleated dress and a fascinator that I made from bits and bobs I bought from Spotlight – gee, what happened to that clever (and thrifty) 24-year-old?

Fast-forward 14 years and, given my job now requires me to spend much of my time in the members' area, I am pretty bound by the black-and-white dress code.

Last year, I wore an all black look, including a dramatic lace skirt and a perspex crown that the milliner, Danica Erard, and I dubbed "Shards for the Darbs". It was quite a piece and should have come with its own insurance policy, given its tendency to spear indoor plants and the odd piece of mesh on another racegoer's hat.

The point is, my nod to "Victoriana with a rock-chick twist" was my way of thinking outside the box on a day that can feel a little "groundhog-ish", unless you're prepared to take some risks.

Think big

When everyone is wearing the same colour palette, it's not a time to be a shrinking violet. Rebecca Lau, of White Runway,  suggests a big hat as a simple way to stand out.

"Derby day is not a time to play it safe, go extravagant and over the top with a larger than life headpiece," Lau says.

Go fierce over feminine

Lace is fine for the track but to make a statement on the opening day at Flemington, Lau prefers "sharp and structured".

Victoria Lee stood out in ivory at the Caulfield Cup.

Victoria Lee stood out in ivory at the Caulfield Cup.Credit:Paul Jeffers

"A straight-cut midi [dress] with a structured shoulder will ensure you stand out from the crowd," she says.

Otherwise, go for something unexpected, like a maxi dress.

"Who says you can't go to the races in an evening gown? Turn up the glamour in a full length black gown with a side split and some killer heels."

Spotted: Nadia Fairfax at Derby Day 2017.

Spotted: Nadia Fairfax at Derby Day 2017.

Wear clashing patterns

Mixing prints is one of the key runway trends that suits the "kitchen sink" mentality of dressing for the races. Start with a spotted top, add a striped skirt, throw in a floral bag and, presto, you've got a killer look with very little chance of someone else turning up in exactly the same.

Accessories are a great way to introduce bold patterns with a small footprint, which also means you are less likely to tire of them. From St Xavier has a gorgeous clutch with a "labyrinth" print, or else consider a pair of spotted earrings from Sportsgirl for on-point polka dots for less than $20.

Do something unexpected

If you're known for wearing a particular style, like off-the-shoulder dresses, surprise your crew with a high-necked dress, or if you always wear strappy shoes, opt for an embellished ankle boot.

Another idea for millinery is to go for fresh flowers, to add a great conversation piece to your outfit. Services such as Melbourne's Posy Chic offer special race-day services but you will have to book early and make sure you are home to receive it. The other risk is if the weather is really warm, some headpieces can wilt by mid-afternoon but a good florist will take that into account when choosing the blooms.

Get the look

Guess, $180

Guess, $180

Sans Beast, $199

Sans Beast, $199

Angelina Alvarez, $250

Angelina Alvarez, $250

Alias Mae, $200

Alias Mae, $200

Camilla, $649

Camilla, $649


Alias Mae:

Angelina Alvarez:


From St Xavier:


Sans Beast:

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