An Etiquette Guide to Melbourne Cup

Frocks, fillies and faux pas – the dos and don’ts on race day
The event that almost single-handedly keeps milliners in business is looming. And if there’s one Cup Day phenomenon that draws even more attention than ostentatious hats, it’s exhibits of less-than-classy behaviour. 

So how do you balance having a good time with maintaining race day etiquette? And how do you look classic without looking conservative? Here’s your list of the most common Cup Day conundrums to help keep you from crossing the line – even if it gets a little wonky as the day goes on.

Cup vs Catwalk Fashion is a major part of Melbourne Cup, but Cup Day fashion isn’t supposed to be fashionable. What? That’s right, it doesn’t matter how many designers sent mini skirts or denim jackets down their runways last spring, the races is about time-honoured dress. Denim is a definite “don’t”.

Heels vs Flats Normally we’d endorse comfort over fashion, but on Cup Day the old adage “pain equals beauty” makes a hard-hitting comeback. Taking your heels off is one of the biggest field faux pas, so if you don’t think you can walk around in a pair of pumps all day without slinging them over your shoulder, then stick to kitten heels or take a pair of flats. Fancy Flats do pairs that can be folded up discreetly into even the daintiest of race day handbags.

Classic vs Contemporary Stick with classic styles and match them with a little contemporary flare. Play around with different textures and prints, and try some colour blocking (tipped to be race favourite this year!)

Natural vs Fake Tangerine can be a fantastic Cup Day colour – for a dress! But sporting a sunset-hued fake tan is one of the biggest disasters seen on the field. If you’re going for the bronzed look, get a spray tan a couple of days in advance – or channel your inner Nicole Kidman and go ala-natural. And don’t forget the sunscreen- if there’s one colour less flattering than orange, it’s red!

Hats vs Fascinators If there’s one day a year you can get away with a Princess Beatrice-inspired head piece, it’s on Cup Day.  But that’s not to say ‘bigger is better’. If an extravagant hat isn’t your style, a simple fascinator or pretty headband can do the trick. Choose something that’s comfortable – like your heels, they’re not meant to come off!

Water vs Wine Keep hydrated with water, not champagne. A glass of bubbly might seem like one of the classiest accessories around, but don’t get excited and ‘over-accessorise’. Alternate sparkling wine with sparkling water to retain the elegant disposition you arrived with. And when you’re drinking champagne, always hold the glass by the stem.  

Betting vs Bluffing Even if you don’t fancy yourself as a punter, it’s always fun to throw some money down on Cup Day. Read the form guide in advance and polish up on track talk – learning the lingo is half the task! And if all else fails, strategically position yourself near some seasoned race-goers – who knows, you might just overhear a winning tip.

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