Race days should be classy.

Race days should be classy. Photo: Ken Irwin

Le sigh. How many times have racegoers been implored to please not mistake a Melbourne Cup Day racecourse for a nightclub? Which is to say: put it away. Put away the back fat, the stripper shoes, the butt cheeks, and those kinds of frocks that stop mid-thigh with a draped detail that can only imply crotch curtains, like the groin area is ripe for unveiling.

Granted, a lot of women do race day style oh-so-right. And so down at the races we see a wide spectrum of modes of dress. In any one area the garb may swing wildly from demure, chic, sophisticated to tacky town via bum and boob city.

Why on earth is there confusion about this? If it wobbles, keep it under wraps. Feel free to flash whatever you fancy at your drinking hole of choice when you're somewhere else. But at the races, choose a hemline endowed with enough length to preserve some mystique about what lies beneath. Shirk this at your peril. Pick a scandalous length and you'll have to spend your day self-consciously tugging at your hem - if you've chosen something stretchy it will inevitably spring upwards again. No tube dresses, please, and go easy on the Lycra and elastane.

Nicole Kidman and George Colomaris at the Swisse marquee.

Nicole Kidman drew some inspiration from Eliza Doolittle. Photo: Angela Wylie

In no way do I suggest you need enough fabric to pass muster at a nunnery. You may be as sexy and provocative as you like, just don't reveal all. How about a tantalising glimpse rather than an explicit show?

On the subject of hats, you must wear yours with conviction.

That means no dopey little bunch of flimsy feathers hot-glued to a headband. Fascinators, pfft. There's a reason they were banned from the Royal Ascot races. You need a topper that the Fashions on the Field judges can actually see. The bigger, bolder hats tend to be the crowning glory of a winning ensemble. Your hat idols should be Anna Piaggi, Isabella Blow and Anna Dello Russo. Think sculptural, eccentric, slightly mad. There are so few occasions in which you can put something that will provoke shock and awe on your head; embrace them. Bring the drama and excitement, be the rare and exotic creature.

Finally, you must carry yourself a certain way around a racecourse. Not with shoes in one hand and booze in the other, rather, in the manner of Eliza Doolittle post-Henry Higgins makeover. With grace.