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So many of us get the racing look wrong

Date

Myf Warhurst

The spring racing carnival in Melbourne can be a hazardous experience for a frock-wearer.

The spring racing carnival in Melbourne can be a hazardous experience for a frock-wearer. Photo: Angela Wylie

It's Melbourne Cup time and I have to be honest, the whole nags, fashion and etiquette business confuses me. I've been to a few race meets over the years and no matter how much I try, I just can't seem to catch spring racing fever. I catch horse flu.

I had a last-minute invite to the Cox Plate last weekend. Great, but the closest thing I have to a hat is my Richmond footy club beanie from 1982.

Hats look great on others but I feel stupid in them and they look stupid on me. We have nothing in common.

The compromise was a hair band decorated with what looked like peacock-coloured chook feathers. My intention was old world glamour. The result? More like dead pigeon stapled to a tiara.

My shoes were also wrong. I ended up walking barefoot with them in hand before I had even entered the track. And I hadn't even had a drink. Not a good start in my attempt to behave appropriately at the races.

Melbourne weather also makes things tough. The day called for a summer dress, but the last part of it was spent holding said dress down so the wind didn't blow my skirt up to expose the industrial strength underwear I had worn in order to get away with the dress in the first place.

The reality is, some of us who try so hard to get it right end up just looking like we just tried too hard. We take a bet each way and end up on the nose.

Commentators are always banging on about what's acceptable race behaviour and attire. I love tradition, but rules make me feel a bit like being back in high school. Back then I didn't like being told how long my school uniform should be and I don't like it now.

So when I'm at the races I feel like if I'm caught out doing the wrong thing, that I'll be given bin duty at lunchtime.

In England, dress standards at the races are now enforced. Our racing carnival has similar aspirations. Yet one of the main celebrity drawcards in the Birdcage this year is Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee, a man who met his now ex-wife Pamela Anderson by licking her face.

Tommy's not known for style and restraint. He's known for hard partying and surrounding himself with ladies with tandoori tans and bazoombas that are, frankly, cantastic! Does anyone else get mixed messages here?

Sex And The City's wardrobe designer Patricia Field copped flak last year for wearing a strange hooded outfit to race day. But what did anyone really expect? This is the woman that tried to tell us that lead character Carrie's Y-front undies were a good look.

It is not the people who blend in who make an event memorable, but those who don't. Be honest, who doesn't look at the photos of those who forget the rules the minute the starting gate opens? The couple caught doing a bit more than pashing in the crowds. The women channelling Maria Venuti. The lady who couldn't wait for the ladies' loo and instead chose to use the men's urinal. C'mon, you've all seen her.

For all those who get it right, so many more get it wrong. That's what I told myself at the end of my day at the races, as I hobbled up the road sans shoes, shivering, waving my hand and yelling out to already occupied taxis. I was a walking races ''don't'' cliche.

In light of that - blokes, feel free to slip on a Gazman suit. And ladies, slop on too much fake tan, and a revealing spaghetti-strap nightclub frock. Because without you, the whole thing wouldn't be half as much fun.

I'll join you. At home. For some reason I haven't received my invite to the Melbourne Cup this year …

Myf Warhurst's column appears in The Age's MelbourneLife section each Friday. http://twitter.com/MyfWarhurst

9 comments

  • The bit I love is the VRC telling us not to wear stiletto-heeled shoes, then the photo in this morning's media of the "Fashions on the Field" finalists from around the country - every single one of them is wearing stilettoes!

    Commenter
    Sophoife
    Date and time
    October 30, 2009, 8:36AM
    • Myf is awesome! Always look fwd to Myf's comments and this is no acception. The races are for the beautiful rich and the wannabe e-taggers.

      Commenter
      Family Man
      Location
      Flemington
      Date and time
      October 30, 2009, 8:45AM
      • High quality people who carry themselves with eminence dont care what you dress like, or look like...its about how we interact, how we treat each other...what amazing qualities we can recognize, and bring out in one other...

        The End.

        ps. you always look stunning. :)

        Commenter
        FinBot
        Location
        ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha
        Date and time
        October 30, 2009, 9:19AM
        • aaah I love the races - you see all the ads on the teev for Cheap Suits - one retailer was flogging a WHOLE MENS SUIT for $38! jeeepers - clearly this is meant to attract the grunge that goes to the races to dress up, drink up and make fools of themselves. Bonus is - they can get two uses out of the suit by wearing it to their inevitable court appearance ;)

          love yer work Myf

          Commenter
          cheap e nasty
          Location
          melbourne
          Date and time
          October 30, 2009, 9:44AM
          • Dress for when you have got your drunk on. Shortish skirts and plunging necklines might be manageable at 11am when all is clear but by 4pm after a few bottles of champaign...not so much.

            Commenter
            clapped out
            Location
            Sydney
            Date and time
            October 30, 2009, 10:43AM
            • Ah, as you can see from my location, I've had plenty of exposure to racing fashions. I have to agree, Myf, nothing says "class" like a figure in a frock staggering along the footpath, shoes in hand.

              One piece of advice, Ladies. Put a shoe in each hand, rather than both in the one. Clearly they're throwing off your balance.

              Commenter
              ihf
              Location
              Randwick
              Date and time
              October 30, 2009, 1:08PM
              • e-tagger is a term I got from an ex-girlfriend. It just means people from the outer suburbs. Chapel St on a Friday night is full of them. Like any of these terms it's not always true just a stereotype. :-)

                Commenter
                Family Man
                Location
                Flemington
                Date and time
                October 30, 2009, 2:02PM
                • By the way, what's an e-tagger? Over here, being an e-tagger is just a short trip to the RTA away...

                  Commenter
                  ihf
                  Location
                  Randwick
                  Date and time
                  October 30, 2009, 2:10PM
                  • Dearest Myf, I'm sure that you've been made well aware by now that you're a breath of fresh air in an aforementioned-brushed world, but please let me add my little puff.

                    There is not a marquee you'd look out of place in, not a dress you'd shame, no company that would regret yours. And as for suggesting that a beanie was all you'd suit (despite the unfortunate colours)? Ridiculous.

                    I, and my friends (and anyone else who appreciates real and lovely people) would be stoked to hang out with you. Dress up, kick arse and tell some magnificent tales afterwards.

                    Commenter
                    andrewb
                    Location
                    Melbourne
                    Date and time
                    October 30, 2009, 3:27PM
                    Comments are now closed
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