Are you thinking of attending Melbourne Cup week but not sure where to start?
What days do you go…. where do you stay and what tickets do you need to buy? It can be a bit overwhelming with all the decisions to make so, being a seasoned attendee (my 5th year this year) I have put together this little guide to help you.
In this guide I’ll be covering the following topics:
About Melbourne Cup Week
Melbourne Cup week is by far, my favourite time of the year for racing fashion. Not only because I get to attend 3 big race events in a week (Derby Day, Melbourne Cup Day and Oaks Day… or 4 if you stay for Stakes Family Day) but because of the atmosphere. Melbourne goes into racing fashion overdrive; the whole state even gets a public holiday for Melbourne Cup Day! That’s passion.
Flemington is the most beautiful race track I have seen. The fields are immaculate and are adorned by rose bushes, 16,000 to be exact. It is bustling with thousands and thousands of people, and they’re all dressed to impress. If you’re single, the viewing of men in dapper suits is enough to make your day! Haha
For Fashions, they have created ‘The Park’. A grassy enclosure that holds the Myer National FOTF competition stage, a band area, food stalls, Ferris Wheel, Pony Bar, karaoke and makeup touch up stands. It’s almost like a mini carnival.
The Dates for 2019 Melbourne Cup Week
Derby Day Saturday 2nd November 2019
Melbourne Cup Day Tuesday 5th November 2019
Kennedy Oaks Day Thursday 7th November 2019
Choosing which Days to Attend
When deciding which days you will attend, it is good to note that the Myer National FOTF competition final is held on Oaks Day (Thursday). If you are seriously competing in the FOTF competition, then you will want to be there for Oaks Day, as winners of Derby and Cup Day FOTF must compete on Oaks Day for their chance to become the Victorian State finalist. If this sounds confusing, then read this blog on how the National Final competition works.
A lot of us FOTF enthusiasts choose to stay for the three main days; Derby Day, Cup and Oaks Day. This can get quite costly with accommodation and race day entry costs as it means you’re in Melbourne for about a week.
When I attend Melbourne for the three days I like to fly in on the Friday evening before Derby Day so I can get a relaxing start to the day. Some ladies do choose to catch an early flight on race day morning, all dressed and ready to go. This does save a night’s accommodation cost.
If you are flying in for the day, you may choose to come fully dressed in your outfit. I have seen many race enthusiasts do just this, complete with hat on head, in the airplane! Although I imagine the flight attendants might ask you to remove your hat if it is disrupting other passengers. Or you may have to take a carry on with your outfit that you can change into at the airport toilets.
You can choose to fly out of Melbourne on Thursday evening after Oaks Day- but it can be a bit of a pain if you have suitcases and have to check out of your hotel on Thursday morning. The traffic out of the race course can be horrific.
Others choose to stay just for Melbourne Cup Day and Oaks Day, which can reduce your time in Melbourne down to half a week. Or for those wanting just a shot at the National Title you can fly in just for Oaks Day.
If this is your first year and you aren’t sure on which day to attend, I have to say all three days are equally as fun. My choice (if I had to choose) is Melbourne Cup day. The race atmosphere is incredible and if you happen to win the FOTF competition, you can always make a super quick trip back for the final on Oaks Day or extend your stay.
The Race Day Dressing Themes
Derby Day is black and white day. It is incredible to see a sea of black and white and how everyone has styled themselves to stand out amongst the crowd.
For FOTF, I would definitely stick to black and white, grey is fine to add in there too. Just because the theme is black and white doesn’t mean you will all look the same, you can use a variety of prints, colour blocking, fabrications and silhouettes to give you a stand out look. Check out this blog for Derby Day Inspo.
Melbourne Cup Day The theme for Melbourne Cup day is bright, bold colours showcasing fashion forward styles.
Kennedy Oaks Day is thought to be a feminine day think pastels, florals and lace.
Of course for Cup and Oaks day you can still wear whatever you like as it isn’t a strict code like Derby Day is.
Keeping an Eye Out for Flight Deals
Nothing beats getting your flights on sale! And the trick to doing this is to start planning early and sign up to different flight websites to be notified when they are having a sale.
I am a member of the Jetstar email list so whenever they have a sale I will get notified and I jump online to check the deals to Melbourne. The last two years I have gotten return flights for $100 (not including baggage)!! The deals are usually around February and mid year.
Times when I have waited longer to book the flights can be 3 or 4 times as expensive so it definitely pays to start looking early!
Don’t forget when you are booking to allow for enough baggage weight as it is more expensive to add extra weight later. Every year I book for 35 or 40kgs, as I need to pack 3 complete outfits with shoes, accessories and 3 hats. Sometimes I have a hard case suitcase containing just two hats inside. It usually costs $40 each way, but it is better to have extra luggage than not enough.
What Racecourse Entry Tickets to Buy
If you are attending Melbourne Cup for the fun of racing or to attend Fashions on the Field, the best ticket to buy is the General Admin ticket (purchase here). They will set you back a different price for each day, and this gets you access to all public areas including the front lawn (where you view the races), Hill Stand level one and two, the betting ring, Saintly Place, the Park and all public bars.
If you like a little more luxury you could consider buying Hill Stand allocated seating tickets which will give you your own spot to watch the races and a view of the winning post. Or you could purchase tickets to the precinct which is a closed off area with track side views, outdoor seating and entertainment between races.
As for member’s passes, you will only be able to attain one of these by becoming a member of the VRC (which is quite a process in itself) or if you know a member of the VRC they can purchase a member’s guest pass for you.
Are there Special Tickets for FOTF?
People often ask if you need a special ticket to enter the FOTF competition. You don’t. Any entry ticket to the race course gets you in, then you make your way to The Park to enter the Fashions.
Being a student or pensioner concession holder can get you a nice little discount on tickets- so be sure to bring those along with you.
Where to Stay
When attending the races, you have quite a few options on where to stay. Thanks to Melbourne’s amazing public transport, staying in the city is a great option as a train ride to the track takes less than 50 minutes when they put on special express trains.
I would also consider looking at Air BNB or Stays to find reasonably priced rooms around the city area or around the race track. When looking for accommodation, try to stay within walking distance of a train line so that once dressed you can walk to the train station rather than having to catch a taxi to one.
I recommend staying in the city as there is more to do there in the days in between the races. Plus, getting to the track by train is by far the best option which I’ll go into a little later.
In saying that, last year three friends stayed in an apartment right on the outskirts of the Flemington Racecourse and were able to walk a couple hundred meters to the entrance. Very handy, as we didn’t have to worry about getting out of the race track at the end of the day with huge lines for taxis and Ubers.
Too close to the track there is an Uber block- you have to walk to the assigned Uber locations instead of being able to call one to the place you are staying at.
Last year I waited for an hour and a half for a taxi to come get me from this house to where I was staying as people kept stealing my taxis.
Even if you stay close to the race course you should consider that getting to and from the track (with the traffic) can become quite costly in taxis and Ubers. Plus, on your days in between the events it can be a bit of a trek getting into the city. Last year I think I spent $400 catching Ubers and public transport as I was staying in Essendon, so the only way to get to the track was by Uber. Travelling to the city was quite costly too.
So, the advantages and disadvantages?
Staying in the city:
- More to do in between race days (the art museum, gallery etc)
- More options for places to eat
- More options for hair and makeup salons
- Very easy to get to the race track by train- train is my favourite way to travel as you don’t have to worry about sitting in a car with your millinery.
- Less travel time if you are catching a taxi or Uber and no waiting time if you can walk to your accommodation.
- 22 minutes to the airport where as Melbourne City is 31 minutes to the airport
- Accommodation can be cheaper than in the city
When you’re not at the Track
If you have a few free days on your Melbourne trip, why not consider making the most of your time with the following activities that appeal to women who love fashion…
Oaks Club Luncheon on Wednesday the 7th of November
An integral part of the Melbourne Cup Carnival celebrations is the VRC Kennedy Oaks Club Luncheon. It has rightly earned itself the reputation as the ‘must-attend’ event on the racing calendar. This highly sought-after event sells out quickly every year so make sure you’re a part of it.
Dress in your finest racewear for a glamorous afternoon of world class fashion, entertainment and fine food and wine. The event usually includes some special guests, live entertainment and an array of fabulous door prizes.
The National Gallery of Victoria
The NGV often has special exhibitions. Last year, they had a Dior exhibition that was amazing beyond words! There were some hats from Stephen Jones featured too. To find out what is on this year visit their site closer to the date of your trip.
Field Fashion Community Meet Up
I host my annual Field Fashion Meet Up on the Sunday before Melbourne Cup so the 4th of November 2018. It’s a chance for members of the Facebook Group to meet each other in person. We usually meet somewhere in the city for drinks or dinner- keep that in mind when booking your flights if you wish to attend 😀
To find out information about this year’s Field Fashion Meet Up, join the Facebook Group. Everyone is welcome to come along, just make sure to RSVP to the event beforehand.
Queen Victoria Markets
A short walk from the city centre, Queen Victoria Markets is a great way to spend the day. It is the largest open-air market in the southern hemisphere. It has a variety of not just fresh produce and food stalls, but an abundance of fashion, jewellery, handcrafts and general merchandise to browse through too.
It is closed on Mondays, Wednesdays and some public holidays.
Travelling to the Racecourse
If you are staying in the city, by far the best way to get to the race course is by train. If you’ve ever tried to travel with a hat on, you’ll know how annoying it is trying to sit sideways in a car or stick your head out the window so your millinery can fit. Sometimes if your dress or skirt is tight too, this makes it one super uncomfortable trip!
Of course, you could catch a maxi taxi to allow for extra head room (!) but the train is just so easy and inexpensive- plus everyone does it, so don’t feel out of place in your race wear!
Catch the train from Melbourne City.
Other options are, of course, Uber and taxis. Be sure to allow enough time for traffic congestion and a line up into the race course. Also, book your taxi in advance to avoid having to wait a long time for one to turn up.
Which Racecourse Gate to Enter
For the easiest access to The Park- where the FOTF competition is held, enter through the Main gate. Ubers can drop you off here but taxis don’t have access.
If you catch the train, you’ll be close by too.
Registering for Fashions on the Field
For all days of Fashions on the Field you can register on the day at the allocated registration times. These can be found on the Flemington website.
It is free to enter the Fashions on the Field competition.
When registering on the day, you will need to make your way to the registration booths which are right beside the FOTF enclosure. You will be asked your name and contact details and be given a fan with your number on it. Do not lose this, as you will need it to enter the competition.
It is important not to be late for registration, as once they are closed, you can’t get a number and enter. I’ve had many friends miss out on entering and it’s a real shame considering the time and effort that goes into an outfit.
Alternatively, you can pre-register online. However, even if you pre-register online you still have to go to the registration booth in the allocated registration time to pick up your fan. This just means that your contact details are already filled out.
What Time to Arrive
The times for FOTF registration vary each day.
The times for this year’s competition haven’t been released yet but to give you an idea, last year (2017) registration times were:
- Derby Day: 10:30 to 11:30am
- Melbourne Cup Day: 9:55 to 10:55am
- Oaks Day: 10:45 to 11:45am
Most ladies like to arrive at the track earlier than this though, to secure a table for prime FOTF viewing and for a photo op, and to get pap’d! The paparazzi are out in force, even from early in the morning when the gates open. The earlier you get there, the more chances you have to be pap’d.
I always arrive just after the gates open. I like to get to the track, have a champagne, take some photos, talk to all the ladies and have some down time before the competition. You also don’t want to leave things too close as your train/taxi/Uber could be delayed and you end up missing out on entering the competition.
The gates can get crowded too and take some time to get through. You may also get dropped at the wrong gate altogether and have a big walk in front of you, so it is always better to be safe than sorry!
What to Pack
On the day, you could find yourself in a bit of a rush, so it is always advised to pack the day before. Us FOTF enthusiasts know that our little clutches won’t hold everything we need for a long day at the track, so often we will pack a separate bag that we can leave at a table whilst we are on stage.
A few must haves in your spare bag can include:
- Spare comfortable shoes- I do not go to a race day without them! I love to be able to enjoy my day, which is nearly impossible if you are limping around with burning feet.
- Sewing kit- for unexpected mishaps- like your hem coming down, or busting a zip!
- Umbrella and midi length trench coat– check the weather forecast. If there’s any slight chance of rain you’ll want an umbrella to protect your precious millinery!
- Something warm! Believe me when I say Melbourne can be FREEZING in November. I kid you not, last year I was huddled in a blanket and my teeth were chattering so bad I thought I was going to chip them.
Tips for Packing your Suitcase and Millinery
Packing for your Melbourne trip can be a nightmare if you are like me and hate packing! There are lots of things to remember and the best way to make sure you have everything is to write out a list in the weeks leading up. Then make sure everything is ticked off once packed.
I always take 2 or 3 suitcases with me to Melbourne. It is hard travelling with racewear, as often the outfits can be delicate and you don’t want to squish them. Plus, bringing along more than one hat can be a challenge.
If you have just one hat, you will be able to take it on as hand luggage, so long as the box isn’t too big or long. I had a traumatizing experience once with a long box I needed for my hat; the mean lady at the airport made me throw it out on the plane and hold my hat the whole way! Sometimes they will say your hat is your hand luggage and you won’t be able to bring along a separate bag. Other times, you will be allowed a carry-on item plus a hat box. It all depends on which flight attendant you get.
If you are bringing along multiple hats, one way I have learnt to combat this is to use a hard cover suitcase and put hat boxes inside making sure they are secured and can’t move around inside.
As for your luggage, if you have a dress you’d rather not put into your suitcase, you can put it in a garment bag (as long as it isn’t too poofy) and put it in the hand luggage section of the aircraft. Occasionally they will offer to put it in their suits section on the plane- I guess this also depends on which airline you fly with. Jetstar doesn’t ever seem to have one when I ask…
Hair and Makeup Recommendations
I always say that getting your hair done on race day is a good investment. It can be quite costly- anywhere from $60 to $150 but can make a world of difference.
There is nothing worse than trying to do your own hair the morning of- if you are useless like me, you’ll find yourself having a panic attack and your millinery wont be secure in your hair. I always say your hair is an extension of your millinery, it can really balance an outfit. Read this post if you need some hairstyle ideas.
And the same goes for your makeup- if this is something you struggle with, then why not spend that little bit extra (if you can) to make you feel a million bucks.
I recommend researching your hair and makeup artist and booking them early!
To find a hair stylist you can look through Instagram for hair stylists who do a great job and lots of different styles. Or ask for recommendations in the Field Fashion Community Facebook Group.
If there are a group of you staying at one house, get a mobile hair dresser to come to you! Last year there were 5 of us getting hair and makeup done and it was so easy having them come to the house. They charge a small travel fee, but it is definitely worth it.
And there you have it! Do you have any questions or tips for planning a Melbourne Cup trip? Please share them in the comments below.