Celebrating 50 Years of Fashions on the Field during the Melbourne Cup Carnival

They say the Melbourne Cup the race that stops the nation, but for us, it’s the fashion.

With the Melbourne Cup Carnival festivities kicking off this weekend with Derby Day, the countdown is on for some of the most exciting days on the fashion and racing calendar. While we’re excited to see the horses run, what we really can’t wait to see is the fashion.

And this year the racing and fashion worlds come together to celebrate 50 Years of Fashions on the Field, with the national winner being announced on Oaks Day, which this year falls on Thursday 8th November.

It’s amazing to think that 50 years ago, the Fashions on the Field contest was see as an uncertain event that was invented purely to encourage more women to attend the races. Thought up by the Victoria Racing Club, Fashions on the Field now consists of state competitions at racing events during the Spring carnival, where a winner is picked to compete in the national event in Melbourne.

Even Melbourne’s Mayor, Robert Doyle, enjoys the Fashions on the Field events, telling The Age that there’s ‘something very special about the nexus between fashion and racing.’  We agree of course: there’s definitely something exciting about the fashion you see at the races.

So where has it all come from? How exactly has the Fashions on the Field become the premier racing fashion event that it is today?

Here, we discuss five things you might not know about the event…

The swingin’ 60s was when things started to really happen…

After the surprise success of the first fashions on the field competition, racing organisers wanted to inject a little glamour and prestige into the event. Celebrity judges were brought in to add some interest to the event, and their presence hasn’t been without drama over the years. In 1965, British model Jean Shrimpton triggered an international fashion controversy when she attended Derby Day wearing a sleeveless white dress that (gasp) sat above the knee. As the world’s highest paid model at the time, Shrimpton was in town to judge the Fashions on the Field contest, and part of the scandal came from the fact that she did not wear a hat, stockings or gloves. While it’s easy to look back and say that we loved Shrimpton’s look, the growing emphasis on fashion at the races was not embraced by all in the racing world. In fact, many thought that more time should be devoted to promoting the horses, not the fashion.

It hasn’t always been about the Fashions on the Field…

In 1972, the now-traditional Fashions on the Field competition was replaced by the race Club’s Fashion Contest. This was a competition on the final day of racing for the girls who had won contests at previous races throughout the year to show off their looks. In 1972 and 1975-1977, there was a ‘Ten Elegant Ladies’ competition, while stylish couples competed for the ‘Pick a Fashion Double’ prize. It wasn’t until 1981 that the Fashions on the Field event was reinstated.

The partnership with Myer is still relatively new

…but it’s certainly done wonders for the profile of the competition. It was only 29 years ago, in 1983, when Myer came on board as the major sponsor for the event. It only took three years for the event to become known as Myer’s, and today, the competition’s prize money totals nearly $40,000. With local celebrity ambassadors such as Jennifer Hawkins, Kris Smith and Rebecca Judd, it’s no wonder that Myer have taken Fashions on the Field to a whole new level. In just the first three years of the Myer/Victoria Racing partnership, entrants for the event went from 50 a day for each category, to more than 200!

Fashions on the Field is certainly much more than just an attraction for the ladies…

By the early 1990s, the Fashions on the Field event had become an attraction for much more than just the ladies of Australia. Judging panels have included some of fashion’s most well-known, and at the launch of the 2012 Fashions on the Field event at Myer’s Mural Hall in Melbourne, familiar faces included Yeojin Bae, Nadia Coppolino, Sara Groen, ScherriLee Biggs, and sass & bide’s Heidi Middleton and SarahJane Clark.

Australians love to shop for the races…

Each year, Australian racegoers spend $28 million in the lead-up to the Melbourne Cup. According to a recent survey, this includes roughly 63,000 hats, 52,000 pairs of shoes, 28,000 bags and 34,000 dresses. Myer CEO Bernie Brookes told The Age that on the Friday before Derby Day, Myer sells a fascinator or hat for each minute that the store is open. Nothing like the last minute, ladies!

Photos by: sdpmedia.com.au