destination styleFriday, April 28, 2017

Autumn Racing: 7 race day dresses to wear all year round

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Fashion isn’t always known for a love of outdoor pursuits but, twice a year at least, this all changes when Australia’s semi-annual racing carnivals become the hottest ticket on the social calendar. Race-day dresses sky-rocket to the top of shopping wish lists around the country – along with the shoes, bags and, of course, the millinery to match.

While Melbourne’s spring racing carnival has a rich, decades-long history of celebrating style via its Fashions on the Field events, the autumn carnival arrived on the scene comparatively more recently. What’s more, with the majority of important autumn events held at Sydney’s Royal Randwick and Rosehill Gardens racecourses, the event has quite a different feel to the Melbourne carnival.   

 

The most glaring difference: whereas each important date on the Melbourne carnival calendar has its own dress code – black and white for Derby Day; something ultra-feminine for Oaks (aka Ladies) Day, and so on – Sydney is much more free-form. There’s no denying this is a city that loves the chance to dress up and party so if there’s any overarching guideline it would simply be to have fun with autumn racing fashion, while being mindful of the traditions of the sport. 

 

The good news about this laissez-faire spirit is that with some careful planning, your race-day gowns are no longer one-day wonders, but can be worn throughout the year. Here are seven dresses that look as good in the office, at cocktails or during a girls’ dinner, as they do track-side.   


Long sleeves

 

A lightweight long-sleeved dress is the Holy Grail of wardrobe options, a style that easily transcends seasonal change, time of day and almost any occasion with only a quick switch of accessories. The perfect race-day dresses presented by Chloé for FW17 were a classic example of this – a straight shift style with billowing balloon sleeves and rendered in the most exquisite prints – they could be worn with low-heeled Mary Janes (as they were styled in the runway show) just as easily as with flat sandals or knee-high boots. 


Dark florals

 

Florals are no longer a strictly warm-weather proposition, as an entire hothouse of darker versions will attest. Black, burgundy and navy are all showing up in a veritable gothic garden of printed dresses and have a more formal feel than the average floral frock. These are no-brainer race-day outfits, particularly on chillier days, when they look glamorous with a deep burgundy lip and the highest of heels. Post-carnival, try throwing a hoodie on top for a more casual look. It’s a neat styling tip direct from Vetements, that signals an iconoclastic approach to fashion.


Feather accents

 

There’s something quite fanciful about a feather-trimmed frock, as a whole host of designers showed for FW17. For his J.W. Anderson line, designer Jonathan Anderson fashioned entire skirts out of feathers, while Raf Simons added little feathery bouquets to the décolletage of his feminine frocks at Calvin Klein Collection. Whether a little or a lot, feathers easily go from autumn racing carnival to winter parties – and can even be worn again, come Melbourne Cup time in November.

 

Ruffled details

 

It’s true that there’s something distinctly summery about a ruffled dress, but that only serves to make it an excellent choice for autumn racing fashion. This might sound like a sartorial contradiction but wearing ruffles in autumn is unexpected and non-conformist, both signs of great personal style. What’s more, a ruffled dress has built-in longevity, giving you even more wardrobe mileage when the weather does warm up again. 

 

Asymmetrical styles

 

The shoulder has been one of fashion’s chief erogenous zones since 2015, but for FW17 it comes with an asymmetric twist. A single long sleeve, as seen at Jacquemus and Proenza Schouler, makes a dramatic statement in race-day gowns and will continue to be a style stand-out at weddings, cocktails and more formal dinners.  

 

Polkadot prints

 

Designers were feeling dotty for FW17, with polkadots of all sizes on runway repeat. In black and white, they look graphic but chic, capable of being worn for autumn racing fashion, right through to spring’s Derby Day. In the dead of winter, a polkadot dress can even be layered over a thin cashmere turtleneck, a styling trick favoured by many of the showgoers at Paris Fashion Week.

 

Knife pleats

 

A pleated day dress sounds so ladylike and yet, in the hands of certain designers, it also has the potential to be quite edgy – futuristic, even. At Valentino for FW17, pleated frocks were dressed down with a pair of knee-high boots in a tone-on-tone shade (the icy blue and pale lemon versions were particularly eye-catching). This is a look that could be worn in more creative offices or at after-work drinks, while the same dress teamed with a pair of block heels is a spot-on choice for race-day dresses.  

 

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