Militant about millinery: racewear rules
Fashions on the Field, Cup Day 2011

More than 70,000 hats and fascinators, 27,000 handbags and 60,000 pairs of shoes; that's what goes into preparing fillies of a different variety to cut-a-dash trackside.

The headpieces, bags and shoes - plus more than 57,000 dresses - meant sartorial spending reached $43.8 million ahead of last year's Spring Racing Carnival, according to Racing Victoria.

But as the popularity of frocking-up for a day at the races has risen, so have hemlines; along with other fashion habits that haven't traditionally been considered appropriate when you're stepping out for a day at the races.

Fortunately help is at hand.

At the launch of the 2012 Victorian Spring Racing Carnival, milliner Kerrie Stanley and Caulfield Carnival fashions on the field judge Sarah Willcocks provided some guidelines for racegoers on how to look their best.

"It's got to be suitable for daytime and you've got to have a bit of flare and a bit of personality as well," Willcocks said.

"I don't like nightclub dresses. Anything that looks flammable, that's an automatic cross from me."

Stanley also added the key colours for 2012 are neons.

And while the bold colour-blocking styles of 2011 are still popular, the look can be updated for 2012 by pairing one block of colour with another that provides a sharp contrast.

"Last year was colour blocking, this year it's tonal clashing," Stanley said.

"It's really all about colour, explosions of colour."

In autumn of this year, the Sydney fashion judges were quite strict when it came to the seasonal appropriateness of fabrics and colours.

For headpieces, the rule was straw for spring and felt for autumn.

But in Victoria, the race clubs aren't as militant about their millinery.

The Melbourne Racing Club's Almila Erturk said a felt hat in spring would not necessarily be an automatic disqualification for a fashions on the field entrant.

However, if you want to turn judges' heads, a hat or headpiece is mandatory.

Previewing some of this season's headwear trends, Stanley showed a chic fascinator she had crafted from plastic.

It was a daring departure from tradition but Willcocks said plastic is a material that complements the season's high-frequency colours.

"Plastic is very modern and it's very much in now," she said.

"I think you can be a bit experimental especially during the summer and spring races."

Laser-cut leather was also popular in Sydney's autumn racing fashion and is another example of how ladies (and gentlemen) pushed the boundaries of tradition.

When judging the outfits this year, Willcocks says she will be looking for men and women who can do just that, while still playing within the rules.

But her final tip was a little more conventional.

"Have a hemline that we can't see up your skirt on," she said.

"That would be a good thing for the judges.



- Consider this season's neon colours

- Pay attention to details and accessories

- Experiment with colours that clash and contrast

- Let your personality shine through

- Ensure your shoes are clean and comfortable


- Wear spaghetti straps or bare shoulders - it is best to keep your shoulders covered at the racetrack

- Choose dresses that are too short or tight - the racetrack is not a nightclub

- Forget to finish your look with a hat or fascinator

The West Australian

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