In this comprehensive guide to race dress shopping, we start by taking a look at what makes a good race dress and then review some of the best places to shop online and in stores.

This is one epic post, so I encourage you to use the links below if you’d like to jump to a specific section:

The Definition of a Race Dress

This is a hard one to define. Better to start with what a race dress is not.

It’s not a cocktail dress.
It’s not evening wear.
It’s not formal.
It’s certainly not club wear.

It is dressier than resort wear or day wear.

What is a race dress

Perhaps best described as an entire, well-planned, head to toe outfit.

Classy and modest. Classic, with a modern twist.

I did say it was hard to define!

Millinery is a must. Other features, like gloves and accessories, need to be considered too.

And like all fashion, race wear trends are forever changing and evolving, so it’s up to you to keep up to date and inject your own personal style into your outfits.

Guidelines for Choosing a Suitable Race Dress

Race dresses are typically modest.

In the past few years we have seen a longer hemline dominate FOTF stages. The midi length is by far the most popular dress length.
But, hemlines have been creeping up in the last year and when done right, an above the knee dress can be a real statement too.

Your top half should also be classy, so straps are thicker and feature sleeves are popular. No plunging necklines, so conceal your cleavage and save it for later (!)

When it comes to fabric, steer clear of anything clingy or disco-y. Heavier fabrics with a good fall and drape are favored. Lace, brocade and jacquards are always a popular fabric choice.

what look for racing dress

I do want to mention here, however, that if you are just attending the races for a fun-filled day with the girls without the stress of competing, your outfits can be slightly less conservative.

Myer ambassadors and style icons, like Jen Hawkins, Steph Smith and Rebecca Judd don’t shy away from the odd spaghetti strap. There are still some strapless numbers, or skirts with a high split, or an open back floating around looking gorgeous. Just keep to a modest length.

racewear myer ambassadors

Rebecca Judd (left) shows us how to do elegant and strapless at the races. The modest hemline counteracts the open shoulders and chest. Image credit: Myer Blog, photo by Lucas Dawson photography.

 

Popular Race Day Dress Shapes

Here are some favourite silhouettes for race dresses:

The Full Skirt

Whether it’s a dress or a skirt, a full skirt is always on trend at the races. The way it falls is a classic look and suits most body shapes.

The skirt can have an abundance of fabric and layers, or a mullet style hem, or panels. It is fun to play around with this shape and every year there are new trends emerging within this style.

buy full skirt race dress

Pencil/Wiggle Dress

An elegant cut, the pencil dress is a popular silhouette for a race wear dress. The fabric is usually the star. Beautiful laces, bold prints and colour blocking are all features of the pencil dress.

shop pencil skirt race dress

When starting out in racing fashion, the full skirt or the pencil skirt would be the best to try out as they are a classic cut, the shape suits most people and they are easily found in stores.

Fishtail Skirt

A fishtail skirt is a fun twist on a pencil dress. The fishtail can be ruffled or layered and be made in a contrasting fabric to the main skirt. It provides a feminine shape and adds interest to an otherwise plain silhouette.

fish tail shape races dress

Image credit: @ontrackontrend (left), @sonliafashion (right)

Modest Necklines

High necklines are usually favored amongst race dresses, but this doesn’t mean you have to be restricted to one style. Have fun with unusual designs around the neck.

There are cut outs, sheer overlays over a lower neckline, neck features such as lace going up the neck and there are even some cute collars around that won’t remind you of your high school uniform.

modest high neckline

Fabric Choices

When it comes to fabrics, avoid anything thin or stretchy. Fabrics with a decent thickness, or weight, create a great shape and fall nicely in a skirt.

thick fabric fabrications race dress

Prints

There are no rules for prints! If you think it looks good, give it a go. Ladies like to wear bold, colourful prints to the races. Some people even print clash and wear a few together.

print pattern race dress shopping

Image credit: @thelittlegeorge (left)

It’s also good to be aware of the latest fashion trends when choosing your dress shape as the trends do change over time. To learn about the latest trends, you can download my comprehensive Spring Racing Fashion Trends Report.

It’s Okay to Stand Out

Attending the races is a bit of a showy day. An opportunity to express yourself through fashion.

Let’s face it, you’ve been planning your outfit for months because you know there will be lots of other fashion loving women there who will have done the same. It’s your time to shine creatively and it’s a chance to step out of your comfort zone, try something new and show off your styling skills.

Think about how you can give your outfit the ‘WOW’ factor.

You spend a lot of the day discussing outfits, your own and others. You also have the chance to give and receive compliments and share ideas on DIY tips, brands and places to shop.

So, while you may feel uncomfortable ducking into the petrol station before a race, you will feel totally normal as soon as you enter the race track and see everyone else dressed to the nines.

Where to Shop: The Top Online Stores

When looking for race dresses, online shopping is great because there are so many options at the click of a mouse.

You can spend all day at a shopping centre walking into each and every shop, sorting through racks upon racks, getting really, really tired. Especially if your local shopping centre doesn’t have a huge variety.

So, let’s take a look at some popular online stores that deliver Australia wide.

ASOS

ASOS is one of the largest international online shopping sites. Not only does ASOS stock hundreds of brands, they also have the ASOS label.

ASOS is great for race dresses – a lot of ladies find race appropriate clothing here and some FOTF winners have been decked out in ASOS purchases from head to toe, accessories included.

buy asos race dress online

A huge bonus to their brand is the Free shipping and (the newly introduced) Free returns! For those who are too scared to purchase without first trying something on, you can return the item for a full refund and not have to cover any postage costs. Awesome.

Another benefit is that their range is very reasonably priced, ranging from $20 to $700 (for the designer items). They also offer student discounts and are often on sale!

The Iconic

The Iconic is an Australian based website that stocks Australian brands, as well as international. They have a wide variety of labels, styles and price ranges and I have had no trouble finding some beautiful dresses I would wear to the races.

buy the iconic race dress online

There is free next day delivery for orders over $100 and 100-day free returns. If you live in Sydney or Melbourne they also offer three-hour delivery! Great for that last minute outfit you put together.

Net-a-Porter

Net-a-Porter is definitely the luxury online fashion shopping destination boasting hundreds of upmarket labels. The items can range from $200 to $6000 (yikes).

shop net-a-porter racewear online

They offer free shipping when you spend over $300 (not that hard to do) and they offer free returns within 28 days.

Although 90% of the items here are out of my price range, I do get a lot of joy swooning through pages of dress perfection, dreaming of what I would buy if I’d just won Saturday’s lotto jackpot…haha.

Moda Operandi

Moda Operandi is an online retailer that allows you to pre-order the next season’s looks straight from the runway, months before they are available anywhere else. They also offer a range of curated buy-now designer styles.

The Outnet

The Outnet stocks a wide selection of designer fashion brands at a discount price of up to 75% off (this is my kind of shop haha). It’s like an outlet store for high end designers, and a great way to be able to shop the top brands without spending an arm and a leg. 

David Jones

David Jones has a wide range of racing fashion appropriate brands such as Thurley, Aurelio Costarella, Alice McCall, Alexander McQueen, Ellery and Lover.

I like David Jones because if you live near one, you can do some online shopping, make a list of all the dresses you want to try on, then head to your local store to try them all on.

David Jones Race Dress Shopping

For online orders it is free standard postage when you spend over $100, express and overnight delivery incur fees of $12- $15. Otherwise you can shop online and pick it up from your local David Jones store. They also offer refunds in store and for online orders- but you have to cover return postage costs.

Myer

Myer has the same benefits as David Jones, in terms of trying things on in store, and they also carry a good range. They stock the popular Self Portrait, Toni Maticevski, Asilio, Cue, Jayson Brunsdon and Yeojin Bae.

ASOS race dress shopping online

Myer also sponsors a lot of Fashions on the Field competitions, so sometimes women like to shop Myer brands for those events- although it’s controversial whether or not it helps out in nabbing sashes.

Also with Myer and David Jones, if you hold store cards you can get points too!

The postage is free for orders over $100 or you can pick up from your local store. They offer full returns in store or you can post it back at your own cost for a refund.