What to Wear to Derby Day

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The Spring racing carnival is upon us and all I can think about is what am I allowed to wear to Melbourne Cup? What to wear for Derby day? I’m not even thinking about the rest of the Spring racing calendar yet. I always attend the fashion events, I’m not a fan of the actual horse racing but I love getting dressed up with friends and having a good day! I honestly wouldn’t even be bothered if there wasn’t a horse race.

We all know there are rules for the dress code but no one seems to be 100% sure on them! Here’s a blog post with all of the rules and old school etiquette you need to know for the races.

The Flemington website claims ‘members have a strong tradition of dressing smartly and appropriately, taking into consideration true racing style’. Their historical pride contributes to their high standards for dress. It sounds a bit like going to Grandmas house for Sunday dinner.

Derby Day falls on November  3rd this year. As one of the first big carnival days, I’m always so stuck on what to wear. The colour palette is strict, only allowing black and white. Some people opt for grey but it’s risky if you’re attending an official event at the Birdcage, I’ve heard they can refuse your entry!

Men, as always are required to wear a suit with tailored pants and a blazer. Pin stripes could be fun. Strictly after December 1st, men don’t need to wear a jacket until March 31st. Obviously Derby day is limited to black or white. Pretty simple stuff.

For women, it can make it even harder than usual when you’re limited to specific colours! I’ve brainstormed my best tips for dressing on Derby Day and how to get the most out of your outfit, even enter fashions on the field if you’re into it!

Tips for What to Wear on Derby Day:

1. Create Interest with cut and texture.

Avoid a boring black outfit by wearing a dress with an interesting shape. This is a day you can experiment outside of your comfort zone. I love the look of these trends at the moment:

  • A midi length dress. Modest styles are most welcomed on Derby Day!

  • Balloon sleeves

  • A low back cut

  • A cinched waist with a belt or bow

  • A large neck bow to add a dimension to the outfit. This can look so elegant when done correctly.

  • Lace details

2. Go comfortable and affordable. Wear something you already have.

You can definitely work with a little black dress that might already be in your wardrobe. Experiment with adding points of interest to a tailored dress that you can easily wear to the office too! A statement white clutch and wide brimmed hat with strappy heels (black or white would look good) will always create a classic look and is a super simple option to wear that’s comfortable too.

3. Venture outside of your comfort zone

Personally I have been loving wearing white recently and it might be a good option if you’re heading out for a warm day. A tailored white dress can create a bold look for your race day. Again, experiment with sleeve length to stand out from the other dresses and incorporate a complementary or contrasting fascinator or hat.

Wear a POWERSUIT. Everybody loves a well tailored suit. It’s comfortable, it’s practical and it can create a really beautiful silhouette. You’ll feel amazing all day if you wear a powersuit. I’m thinking about wearing a white one for Derby Day!

Ideas for Fascinators/Headwear:

(Fascinator trends for 2018)

  • Wide brimmed hat, the wider the better. Whether it has a sturdy or soft brim, both look good. Floppy brims tend to look alluring and mysterious while sturdy brims tend to look polished and professional.

  • A large bow wrapped around a hat and tied up at the back. This is so cute.

If you’re looking at a fascinator that’s two toned, just be careful that it doesn’t look to busy. It can take away from the rest of your outfit!


  • My pick for 2018 is pearl accessories and gold earrings, the bolder the better.

  • Headband fascinator - You can’t go past this style for comfort and convenience. Don’t worry about catching your head on anything for the whole day! Pearls or pearl-look fascinators always look beautiful.

  • Veils are popular for Derby Day to make a statement  

  • If you’re wearing a patterned dress, wear minimal accessories and opt for a classic and uncomplicated fascinator. I’d recommend a wide brim hat. If everything looks too busy, it can take away from the dress! Plus let’s be honest, complicated accessories are so uncomfortable.

  • Shoes: I would wear a single colour shoe. Make the choice between black or white


When you’re trying to piece an outfit together like this, I often forget what makeup I’m going to do because I’m so focused on everything else.

If you’re looking for convenience, book in for a makeup appointment at MECCA or the MAC counter for the morning of Derby Day. You should probably call now because appointments will go like hot cakes! I’ve had my makeup done multiple times at both counters and always loved the final looks. I’ve never had to touch up or fix my makeup after visiting either of these counters. That’s the kind of service you need on a big day!

Makeup Ideas for Derby Day and Melbourne Cup:

  • A bold winged liner with bold brows, nude lip colour

  • Dark smokey eye and nude lip colour/gloss

  • Bright bold lip colour and natural eyes, maybe a bit of mascara. This will always look good with a monochrome outfit

I hope this helps you decide what to wear for Derby Day! I’d love to see what outfit you put together.