Without the horses the race doesn’t exist but what keeps crowds turning up in thousands to major race meets around the world? The fashion of course. It’s the months of choosing and selecting the right hat or fascinator, the matching outfit and then the shoes! Is orange the new black? Has the fashion become more important, and focused upon, than the race itself? Is it all about Fashion over Fillies?
Back to where it all began
Since the first time a lady was permitted to attend a race meet, fashion has played a part in racing. Hats and Fascinators have been a large part of the costume required for some of the world’s largest and smallest race meets. From couture to DIY there is a style for everyone. Hats, despite changing in style from bonnets right through to larger brimmed styles, have always remained a popular option. The wearing of fascinators began during the time of Marie Antoinette and has dipped in and out of fashion over the years.
But it’s not all about the hat. Race meets have been places of revolution when it comes to fashion. in 1965 a British model named Jean Shrimpton made headlines by attending Australia’s Melbourne Cup wearing not only a very raised hemline on her dress, but also lacking a hat, gloves and stockings. In an era where a lady didn’t leave the house without these items it caused scandal around the globe. Although as the saying goes there is no such thing as bad publicity. The evolution of race fashions is one that has kept society and gossip columns busy for centuries. Who wore what and who wore it best?
Celebrating the fashions of the field has now become an important part of the day’s running events. From the Kentucky Derby to the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and around to the Grand National one of the most coveted events of every big race day is the celebration of the beautiful creations and designs gracing the women on the field. The most stylish and glamorous compete for the honor of winning the fashions on the field. It’s not only the prestige of knowing that will you now be seen in magazines and televisions nationally, it’s also just reward and recognition for all your hard work in the lead up to the event.
It’s not just about the fillies.
Whether intentional or not, men themselves have carved a dent in the world of racing fashions. Whilst they may stand in the shadows of wide brimmed hats, the architecture and custom of men’s dress is just as important. In Ascot it’s all about the top hat. In case you were wondering the Queen prefers silk top hats or “toppers” as they are more commonly known. The Queen’s preference has meant a scarcity in silk for hat makers in England over the last 12 months. Over in the Southern States at the Kentucky Derby it is all about dressing to impress in whites and brights. To stand out and be noticed. It’s an opportunity to let your hair down, relax and grab a bourbon. Heading “down under” and to the opening day of the Melbourne Cup we meet the signature Blue Cornflower that is worn in a gentleman’s jacket lapel.
So while it may not be the main attraction to race meets, it seems that the excitement of fashion is here to stay. With the advent of social media there is more than ever a spotlight on trends, and even fashion disasters. Whether you are permitted to the private marquees and members lounges to rub shoulders with the rich and famous, or you are arriving through the main gates, there is a commonality that the punters all have and that is the planning and preening that has gone into their fashions on the field.