Race events offer a variety of FOTF categories, Classic and Contemporary Racewear being popular choices.

When deciding on which category to enter, how do you determine if what you are wearing is classic or contemporary? What are the judges looking for?

Image 1: Janelle Burnside classic winner left, contemporary winner right Taranki Cup Feb 2019, 2: Amelia Hardaker, classic winner left, contemporary winner right, 3: Nadia Schmidt contemporary winner left, classic winner right.

Until recently, I hadn’t put much thought into this, but it seems many are struggling with the differences between the two. After all, you don’t want to ruin your chance at a sash by entering yourself into the wrong category.

So, after some lengthy research and a few grey hairs, this is my take on Classic vs Contemporary racewear.

Keep in mind, always check with the race club hosting the event. They might have their own ‘rules’ on each category and you should dress according to these.

Classic (Traditional) Racewear

Here are some examples of how some race clubs have defined their Classic Category:

Classic can be defined as traditional race attire; or what racewear originated as. Think about what women wore to the races in the 1900s, when the dress codes, rules and regulations were strict and conservative.

Shoulders covered, no décolletage on show, appropriate lengths in skirts, a structured silhouette, and accessories like gloves, classic bag and shoe styles.

When thinking of classic racewear, full skirts or pencil skirts, a feminine, elegant and tailored look come to mind.

Image: @wendellt photo of @emscodellaro, @wendellt image of @milanoimai

Image: @lindsay.j.ridings, @wendellt photo of @milanoimai

Contemporary Racewear

Here are some examples of how some race clubs have defined their Contemporary Category:

Simply put, contemporary racewear is modern, on trend and even fashion forward.

Outfits still adhere to some of the more traditional race etiquette, but with a fresh, modern appeal. Fashion is always evolving and changing (we don’t dress how we did in the 1900’s) and it stands to reason that racing fashion would also evolve.

Image: @madamhat, @wendellt photo of @cournteymoore

Image: @madamhat, @crystalkimber

Nowadays, off-shoulder or even bare shoulders are something which have become acceptable in FOTF outfits, along with thinner straps and bare backs.

Some other examples of contemporary trends are:

  • Sheer panels
  • A futuristic silhouette
  • Unique tailoring
  • One-shoulder, no shoulder, interesting strap design
  • Trends in fabrication such as tulle, laser cut leather, sequins, bright bold colours and prints

Pant suits are often favoured in contemporary categories as they are considered fresh, not overdone and they boast a fashion forward appeal.

Meri’s pantsuit is a great example of a contemporary outfit as she has accessorized it with the season’s trending leopard print in her shoes and a unique tortoise shell clutch.

Image: Meri Dimovski, vogue.com.au

Steph’s outfit here is a modern, pants under dress look. She has chosen a bold print and, even though the hat and pumps are classic, I would put this in the contemporary category.

Image: @miss_stephkwong

That’s not to say that pantsuits can’t be entered into a Classic category though…

Contemporary race day outfits also incorporate new trends in accessories. The following bags would be contemporary choices.

It doesn’t mean bags like these can’t be paired with a classic outfit. Some of these bag styles are the hot current trend, but would also work beautifully with a classic outfit.

Past Winners of the Classic and Contemporary Categories

Below are some examples of past winners from Classic and Contemporary Fashions on the Field Categories.

Classic Category Winners

Mollie Coghlan-West winner of Classic Lady at Warrnambool Races 2018


Ureisha Hughes Classic Lady at Burdekin grower race day 2018


Sally Martin Classic Lady at Cootamundra Cup


Sophie Pezzutti Classic Lady winner at Cairns Cup 2017


Tylea Mortensen won Best Dressed Classic Lady at the Bundaberg Races Melbourne Cup Day 2018