It’s the other great competition at the track – and as hotly contested as the races. Here’s how to ace Fashions on the Field.
First up, what exactly is it?
The first Fashions on the Field national competition was held in 1962 and the format remains the same today: best-dressed winners of state finals, held at the country’s major racing carnivals, compete in the National Final on Crown Oaks Day during the Melbourne Cup Carnival. Every major race day has a FOTF comp for men and women, and the biggest are judged by prominent fashion designers, celebrities and commentators. The finals are staged in a grand two-storey enclosure at Flemington in a feast of fashion that’s as eagerly anticipated as the big races.
Seven of the national final winners in the last 12 years wore original creations; dresses designed and made by themselves or friends and family. Those who wore store-bought ensembles personalised them with flair.
It’s not unknown for a muted outfit to score top honours in FOTF, but bright colours have dominated recent national winners’ outfits. The tradition for colour began with the very first FOTF national winner, Margaret Gaudion, who rocked a stunning watermelon-hued frock with matching parasol and wide-brimmed hat topped off with pastel pink blooms. It would still look fabulous today, which brings us to …
The uniqueness of a gorgeous vintage dress is guaranteed to catch the judges’ eye, but make sure it’s altered to fit if necessary. In 2010 Jaydee Menagon was national winner with acuter, horse print vintage frock, but she had it adapted to suit racewear requirements. And that’s another important point…
Know the rules
Every carnival has its own dress code but generally, covered shoulders and modest-length skirts are preferred. If your look screams ‘after dark,’ it’s a non-starter. Certain race days have a colour code, too ; for example, Derby Day at Flemington Melbourne Cup Carnival is traditionally black-and-white.
A killer hat
Your hat doesn’t have to be huge, but it needs to complete and complement your look perfectly. Winners have always spent time getting the hat just right, and it helps to choose a quality, creative milliner such as Nerida Winter, Neil Grigg, The Hatmaker or Suzy O’Rourke.
Keep it sleek
Stay away from tacky gimmicks and instead ensure your overall look is impeccably assembled, with all accessories harmonising. With so many extras available – gloves, jewellery, bags, stockings- it’s tempting to decorate yourself like a Christmas tree. So make every accessory earn its place, and if in doubt, remember the immortal words of Coco Chanel: ‘before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.”