The Derby Day tradition is that punters front up to Flemington in classic black and white dress. But this year it was the weather that turned monochrome, as the 90,244-strong crowd braved Melbourne’s notoriously fickle spring weather.
However race-goers didn’t appear too phased. By late morning, the car park was bursting with a black and white crowd that would make Eddie McGuire smile.
Derby Day is dedicated to horse racing but it’s evolved into a celebration of Melbourne style, food and frivolity. Every now and then though, the crowds paused to focus on the racecourse or one of the screens as the four-legged stars took off. The largest roar was saved for the Derby race itself, which was snatched off hot favourite Hampton Court by Preferment just before 4pm.
The crowd had thinned considerably after the big race, but those who were left made up for the reducednumber, with the lawn strewn with smashed plastic wine glasses and the occasional abandoned dip container.
Fashion on the Fields started off with a bang, literally, as the wind threatened to knock over chairs and headpieces alike. Co-host Nikki Phillips welcomed competitors to the “wind tunnel”. A wind tunnel it may have been but it was a fashionable one at that.
Competitors took to the stage in a mixture of vintage, designer and hand-made outfits and accessories, many taking style their cue from the 1950s.
Although most attention is directed on Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup, Derby Day is considered the biggest day on the racing calendar by the industry’s elite.
The day is also considered the most sophisticated, with crowds obeying the Victorian Racing Club’s ban on this season’s big trend, the bare mid-rift. Not a belly was on show as racegoers covered up, either to respect the rules or keep warm.
There was only the occasional flash of colour, with the crowd overwhelmingly sticking to the traditional dress code. Of course, it’s not race day without a few colourful characters and those dressed in tracksuits certainly stood out. They may have had the last laugh though, considering how long a day it can be.
Ashley Lara, 23, started planning her Derby Day outfit four weeks ago, when the shops started bring our their annual spring hat selection. That didn’t stop some last-minute decisions, though.
“I did about three dress changes today but everyone decided this was the best to wear, so I stuck with it,” she said of her short-sleeve white lace dress.
“I’m not every warm, though!”
As the rain poured down at lunchtime, picnics on the lawn were either hastily packed up or abandoned as crowds flocked to the few undercover areas. Groups of fashionably dressed but chilly ladies were seen huddled together and trying to keep their dresses from being swept up by the determined winds.
Needless to say the frozen cocktail line was near non-existent.
The Birdcage, the luxury alleyway of marquees that host the famous and infamous, was packed as the fashionably but not practically dressed huddled under cover.
After the main race, the barriers between marquees had broken down, with guests mingling in the alleys and toasting each other’s wins with their complimentary tipples.