Black and white ... Nicole Kidman dressing accordingly at Derby Day. Photo: Getty Images
DERBY DAY is a race day marked by compulsory black-and-white fashion. Ahem. Who says? I come from a horse-racing family of many generations and it's always been a mystery to all of us.
Many believe this dress code, for what has become the Victorian racing carnival's most dressy day, has some sort of cultural heritage. But in fact, it has never been part of the Victorian Racing Club's dress requirement for Derby Day. Indeed, it seems it originated from a marketing ploy - for whisky.
The editor of Fashion & Flemington, Emily Power, said the earliest reference she could find to the black-and-white dress code was in a 1960 Australian Women's Weekly magazine advertisement. A £200 wardrobe was offered to the racegoer who wore the best black-and-white ensemble to the Melbourne Cup during the VRC's centenary carnival. The competition was sponsored by whisky-maker James Buchanan and Co for its Black and White brand.
Since then, other companies have jumped on the bandwagon and on Saturday it was a sea of black and white, with women going out of their way not to break the monochrome code.
Director of the Melbourne Fashion Festival Sue Lloyd-Williams believes the colour combination was inspired by the film, My Fair Lady.
''Derby Day has always been more of a tailored look, it's the day where everyone gets the most dressed up but it has never been compulsory to wear black and white,'' the former VRC deputy chief executive said.
The VRC's art and heritage curator, Penny Tripp, said that racegoers now liked to distinguish between carnival days: ''Derby Day has become black and white, the Cup is all about colour, Oaks Day is feminine and ladylike and [Emirate] Stakes day is a more casual, family day.''