I’m one week out from Derby Day, the first of three race events I’m attending and (if I get my outfits ready in time) competing in Fashions on the Field.

This is what’s on my plate:

  • Saturday October 31st- Derby Day. Black and white theme.
  • Tuesday 3rd November- Melbourne Cup. No theme, but obviously something bright and fresh for spring.
  • Thursday 5th November- Oaks Day – Ladies Day. No theme.

So what exactly is involved in the week leading up to Spring Racing Carnival?

Getting ready for Spring Carnival

Join me over the next 7 days as I prepare for the year’s most prestigious Fashions on the Field event. Click here if you are interested in seeing what our past 12 Fashions on the Field national winners wore.

Saturday 24th October – 7 Days to Go

I don’t know if I even woke up this morning because I’m not sure I slept. My mad cat was in my bedroom last night, trying to get out. I couldn’t let him out because my Derby Day Dress is lying on a table and I was terrified he’d decide it’s a good place to sleep. So, instead, I opted for never-ending scratching and clawing to save the dress.

Mind you, the dress is in no way finished and I’m not sure what it is I’m saving! It worked really well in my mind: white, fitted, midi-length, with cut out panels of mesh and a whole bunch of cute white triangles which would be sewn on in different places to look like they were floating. Easy right?

Now suffering post triangle trauma disorder.

I sewed the triangles on.
Unpicked them.
Sewed them on somewhere else.

White spring racing fashion triangles homemade

Spring racing carnival homemade white triangle pinning

Spring racing carnival homemade white triangles embellishments

Decided no triangles and would put mesh panel in instead. Drove to Spotlight.
Mesh panels discontinued line.
Went to Lincraft.
No mesh. Bought an elastic trim instead.
Got distracted and went shoe shopping.
Went home- elastic trim no good.
Thought about beading instead.
Kept thinking.
Stopped thinking.

Overall, today has been a disaster. I have achieved nothing!

Tomorrow will be better. I’ll have a good night sleep and tackle the triangles in the morning.

Sunday 25th October – 6 Days to Go


More coffee.

I think I managed five hours sleep, worrying about having an ugly dress.

Stayed up late pinning on all the thigh panels triangles. Again! Then I tried it on and it’s okay. I don’t love it yet. I’ll have to get my milliner and my friend-slash-designer on board for some seriously quick advice. Self-doubt is a killer.

But for now I have to get ready for work (retail) and I really can’t afford to lose the day, but I suppose I have to pay for all this somehow (Hi-Ho Hi-Ho). Praying for a quiet day at work so I can think about outfits all day, rather than assist pesky Sunday browsers with their whimsical Sunday needs.

To bead or not to bead?

DIY homemade racing outfit embellishment

Monday 26th October – 5 Days to Go

So tired.

I woke up super early this morning to work on a new idea. Another new idea. Sometimes I think I’m better off not sleeping at all because when I do, I wake up with another new idea and they are driving me crazy and making me late. For everything.

At some stage during the night, I decided not only did the Derby Day Dress need the triangles, but it also might need some circles. So, at 4am – after only going to bed at 1am – I got up, drank a bunch of coffee and got to work. By 8am I had hand sewn all the little triangles onto the mesh thigh panel.

A few days prior I had cut (well technically hammered) and painted a bunch of little leather circles which I now glued onto a sample mesh panel to go around my waist. Possibly. I’ll test it out tomorrow.

White Circles DIY homemade hammer paint races

FOTF DIY homemade races white

Then I went to my day job and muddled through work in a no-sleep coma, worrying about all the things I have yet to do:

  • find accessories for ALL three outfits
  • find shoes for ALL three outfits
  • meet Andrew for Melbourne Cup Day bodice fitting ( I already have the skirt)
  • make decisions on 3 hair styles, 3 nail colours, 3 makeup looks
  • get hair coloured
  • a thousand other things I won’t list here or you will slip into a coma too

At least the Perspex bags I ordered arrived today!

Bag Niclaire see through races

Another long night and early morning for me. Meeting my milliner in the city at 7am means I’ll be up at 4:45am. Sleep is for the weak, right?

Tuesday 27th October – 4 Days to Go

A bright and early start this morning. Well, perhaps not that bright. Definitely early.

I battled the morning traffic up to Brisbane to meet with my fantastically fabulous milliner Christie from Christie Millinery. Not only is she making me a gorgeous hat for Derby Day, the blessed little soul spent three hours pinning all my triangles on!!

I can’t wear the dress and pin them on myself, while I’m in it, but I need to pin them on when I’m in it (I’m confused too) to make sure they look good. So someone had to help me – didn’t expect it to be my milliner though so THANK YOU Christie!

Derby Day white hat

Drove home from Brisbane feeling much better about my DD outfit, which is coming together in the final hours although the leather circle waist mesh panel was scrapped.

Oh and except for shoes….I did have a pair, but suddenly I hate them and realise there is no such thing as classy clear heels no matter how bad I want them to work.

‪Tomorrow I’ll need to go hunting. Again. I really need to get going on my other two outfits as well.

Spent three hours with my hairdresser fixing regrowth (I never said it was natural right?). I’m now a slick shade of silver. Hooray! Another win.

Home now to start sewing on these darn triangles. I will finish tonight. I will finish tonight. I will finish tonight. I will…..finish….

Wednesday 28th October – 3 Days to Go


Not just because I only had two hours of sleep last night, but because I went for a fitting with my designer friend, Andrew.

He’s been working hard on the bodice for my Melbourne Cup outfit and I was really excited about it. I’ve had the skirt for a while and love it. A pink and orange combo. And the hat is to die for. I just kind of assumed the outfit would work because I’ve had so much trouble with the Derby Day dress and how much trouble can one girl have?

Anyway, feeling a bit bummed because it just doesn’t look right when it’s all on together. Andrew and I spent 3 hours thinking of alternatives and came up empty :(

Maybe I’m just really tired.

I spent most of the day sewing again (it never ends), then went to find shoes for Derby Day. Couldn’t find anything in white, so I bought beige heels instead and now I have to paint them! Hoping they turn out otherwise I’ve wasted $170 whoopsie.

Good news – my manager has given me Friday off work, so I have a whole extra day to finish things off and believe me I need it.

Tomorrow’s another day, fresh ideas, fresh inspiration, right?? We’ll get there.

Thursday 29th October – 2 Days to Go

After yesterday’s debacle, I made a conscious effort this morning to focus on what I can change and improve and just let the rest lie for a while. Surely inspiration will hit. And if it doesn’t, at least I will make Derby Day work.

So- I decided to tackle my Derby Day shoes, which I bought beige, and need white. I just attacked them with a paint brush and some white paint and hoped for the best. The ‘best’ didn’t result in a great outcome, so I called around for some advice. Received none.

While scouring the shops for last minute accessory ideas, it occurred to me that a makeup sponge might do the trick. Bolted home. I’m letting the shoes dry overnight and hope to wake up to a miracle! I need one.

Brown shoes

DIY homemade racing fashion FOTF

Got nails done.

Eyebrows threaded. Feeling human again.

Sewed more triangles, Will they ever end?

Got spray tan.

During the self maintenance procedures, I had time to sit and think. I’ve decided to forget about the Melbourne Cup and Oaks Day outfits until I get to Melbourne. Disappointing.

But I’m a positive person and I still believe things will work out. So, for now, I focus on Derby Day. One last trip to Brisbane to check on the hat tomorrow morning.

And I should probably eat something….

Friday 30th October – 1 Day to Go

Derby Day Eve!

Home stretch.

My outfit is done. Sigh of relief. BIG SIGH OF RELIEF

I was up all night, sewing on every last triangle and a bunch of pesky, but lovely, crystally beads, because let’s be honest here.. I can’t stay away from beads.

My friend drove me to Brisbane for some moral support and to discuss makeup looks. One new coral-y red lipstick and gold pigment eyeshadow later I think I have a good idea of what look I’ll do tomorrow.

I met with Christie my milliner again and, I am soooo happy with my hat! It is spectacular. It could also double as a weapon, so if there are any low flying magpies about they are going to get speared. This hat is surely going to get me some free fancy drinks.

My shoes, which I painted white, which were beige, have also come up really well. So boo to all those people who told me ‘you can’t paint leather heels ‘. Hmph.

Only one mishap today- whereby in my sleepless coma, I accidentally cut the heel strap clean off my shoe! After falling to pieces (me, not the shoe) my milliner saved me (again) and sewed it back on with clear thread.

Last stop is to sew something black on- the theme is black and white and, as yet, I’m white. But I still have about 12 hours right?

My flight is late tonight, arriving Melbourne at 2am…zzzzzzzz and getting up at 5:30am for hair and makeup!

Saturday 31st October – Derby Day!

Got to my friend Dee’s at 1:30am. Red eyes.

Woke up at 5am to the sound of a blizzard outside. Or hail storm? Or just the windiest storm I have ever experienced….all I could think about was my hat!

Makeup at 6:30. (Click here to see how I do my race day makeup). 
Hair at 7:30am. (Click here to read about popular race day hairstyles).

White fascinator silver hair

White fascinator silver hair
Arrived at the racecourse at 9:50.
Got ‘papped’ by the Herald Sun and The Sydney Morning Herald. Love a good ‘pap’ first thing in the morning- an encouraging sign that we looked alright.

White dress umbrella

Source: Herald Sun. Photo: Tim Carrafa.

Sydney Morning Herald Derby Day Fascinator

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald. Photo: Simon Schluter.

Lined up in the cold, windy rain for fashions, had my heat, and I didn’t even get a look in! The judges weren’t even looking my way :(

Having put in so much effort into my outfit- literally hundreds of hours. And getting a beautiful bespoke hat made, I was feeling really gutted.

I’ve not placed in fashions before but I think what made it bad for me is that it was something I created myself.

Could I have been so off the mark with what was on trend this year to not even make it past the heats?

That left me bummed for the next hour (and my shoe strap broke wah). But then I realised that no matter what the judges thought, I still loved my outfit. And not everyone has the same taste.

What’s important is that you like what you’re wearing and feel good. So I managed to lift my spirits, the rain cleared up and it got sunny. Inside and out.

My new race bestie, Chrissy had a needle and I had thread. We were able to repair my shoe. Dee’s parents had a car space which means they could BYO every possible need for the day. 

I got to relax and hang out with my friends and I still got lots of compliments from lovely strangers.

It turned out to be the most fun day I’ve ever had at the races and we didn’t leave the track till 7pm!

Racing fashion black and white

Racing Fashion black and white

Black and white fashion on the field


Update: I decided to wear this white dress again a few months later to the Tattersall’s Celebration Season Race Day FOTF competition. See how I went in my post about whether it is okay to reuse or recycle race day outfits.


To see the exact steps I used to design this white dress from concept to finished product, check out my outfit design guide

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