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Racing Style exhibition

Oct 15, 2012

Fashions on the Field winners on the final day of the 1966 racing carnivalPresented by the Australian Racing Museum, Racing Style: 50 Years of Fashions on the Field is an exhibition celebrating Australian racing fashion open in the National Sports Museum until June 30, 2013.

Fashions on the Field was created in 1962 to attract more women to the races.

It is now one of Australia’s most prestigious fashion events, seeing more than 4000 entrants in 2011, and is an iconic part of our cultural and sporting calendar.

“The Spring Racing Carnival has long been synonymous with style and fashion,” says Helen Walpole, curator of the National Sports Museum.

“Visitors to the exhibition can trace the evolution of Australian racewear and view key outfits that helped shape both social and dress standards”.

Celebrities, designers and fashion enthusiasts flock to the Melbourne Cup Carnival every year to see the incredible creations dreamt up by racegoers and designers with a contagious passion for fashion. 

The evolution of Australian racewear can be traced through outfits worn by Fashions on the Field competitors.

From vintage classics to daring designs, neutral palettes to bright colours, haute couture to thriftily recycled fabrics, these outfits capture the unique flavour of Australian racing style.

The exhibition shows that although the rules of racewear have changed from a time when a hat, gloves and stockings were necessary attire, the true classics are always in style.

When Fleur Olssen won in 1990 wearing a bright yellow dress and jacket, no one was more thrilled than her mother, Dale Olssen, who had worn the very same outfit in the 1972 competition.

The exhibition showcases more than 30 prize-winning outfits, with mannequins modelling the vintage classics – and sometimes-daring apparel – on a catwalk set up especially for the exhibition.

Fashions on the Field - A Timeline

1960s

• The Victoria Racing Club launches the Fashions on the Field competition (1962).
• International celebrity judges become a fixture of the competition and include Jean Shrimpton and French model Christine Borge (1965), acclaimed fashion model Baroness Fiona von Thyssen (1966), US Fashion publicist and founder of New York Fashion Week Eleanor Lambert (1969).
• The competition’s presentation ceremony is first televised as a “gala event” (1966).

1970s

• Fashions on the Field is replaced by smaller-scale fashion contests after the 1971 competition because of the difficulty in attracting sponsorship during the poor economic climate.
• The Victoria Racing Club’s Fashion Contest is introduced for women who have won contests at race meetings around Australia during the 1972-73 racing season.
• The “Ten Elegant Ladies” contest is held by the Victoria Racing Club (1976 and 1977).
• The “Myer Girl of the Day” competition is held at Flemington Racecourse (1979).

1980s

• The Victoria Racing Club re-launches Fashions on the Field (1981).
• Myer begins its relationship with Fashions on the Field as the major competition sponsor (1983).
• The prize pool increases to over $30,000.
• The number of entrants increases from under 50 a day (1983) to over 200 a day (1986).
• The original price-restricted categories are eliminated and replaced with broader categories.

1990s

• The Victoria Racing Club introduces the “Classic Racewear” and” Young Contemporary Fashion” categories to Fashions on the Field.
• The prize pool exceeds $100,000 for the first time.
• The competition’s categories are divided into “Classic Racewear” and “Classic Hats”.

2000s

• The Victoria Racing Club creates a National Fashions on the Field competition (2005). Finals are held in each state and winners travel to Flemington Racecourse to compete for the National title.      
• Melbourne Cup Carnival attendances soar to over 300,000 each year.
• Celebrity guests including Sarah Jessica Parker and Eva Longoria wow raceday crowds.
• The Victoria Racing Club introduces invitation-only Millinery and Design Awards.
• The judging criteria still demands appropriate racewear, but the definition becomes less conservative in line with the times.

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