The Dressed Fork


How To Back A Winning Outfit At The Spring Racing Carnival

Who’s in the mood to back a winning outfit at the upcoming Spring Racing Carnival? To emerge triumphant at Fashions on the Field in a tapestry of riotous peacock colour, paired with a headpiece/headband/fascinator of such whimsy and stunning style that a collective gasp arises when you sweep into the room?

For our international readers, the Australian Spring Racing Carnival is a series of boisterous horse races held in Melbourne each year in October and early November, centred around “the race that stops a nation” – the Melbourne Cup. Victorians take this race so seriously, in fact, that in 1877 the state created a special public holiday so that its residents could watch the race unencumbered by the burdens of work.

And so it is that for 141 years on Melbourne Cup Day, Aussie punters have been dressing to the nines, consuming bucket loads of alcohol on an empty stomach, before screaming obscenities at a team of silken horses tearing up the race track towards the promise of riches and glory.

It’s all jolly good fun.

Happily, backing a winning outfit at the Melbourne Cup – whether you’re attending the races, a restaurant function, or your own stylish soirée – is a helluva lot more straightforward than gambling your savings away on a beautiful chestnut horse whose name tickles your fancy. (I’m told there are more scientific ways to place one’s bet, but science never was my strong suit).

Below are my four top tips to ensure your emerge victorious in the style stakes on Melbourne Cup Day:

1. Invest in a custom headpiece

A stunning headpiece or fascinator is a surefire way to stand out from the crowd on Melbourne Cup Day. There are plenty of ready-to-wear options at places like David Jones and Myer. But if you are looking for a one-way ticket to style stardom – looking to rock a headpiece that not only complements your outfit but appears as if it arose organically from the very same thread – then investing in a custom headpiece is your best bet.

The paper headpiece I’m wearing above was custom made for me by the divine Australian brand Papel (Paper). Made especially to complement not only my outfit, but my red hair and (irritatingly) fair skin.

Launched in Wagga Wagga in regional New South Wales in late 2016, the origin story of Papel (Paper) is as charming and whimsical as their creations themselves.

Papel (Paper) was founded by Caroline Candusso’s now eight-year-old son at the age of six, when his knack for folding tissues grew into a striking talent for origami. (Hence their adorable byline, “Origami by a boy and his mama”). He decided that he wanted to make paper wearables – simply put, paper people can wear – because “girls and women need to feel beautiful”. Swept up by his vision and uncanny gift, Caroline has grown from apprentice to full-time creative director of this thriving brand.

How utterly enchanting is that?

Each of Papel (Paper)’s creations is perfectly unique – like a fingerprint – and destined to be worn by the person it was expressly designed for. Mine took over ten hours to create, and is crafted from handmade Nepalese paper arranged on a petal pod so its placement can be altered. I couldn’t be more thrilled with the results.

You can check out Papel (Paper)’s website here. But with the Spring Racing Carnival only two and a half short weeks away, you’ll have to get in quick!

2. Embrace bold colour

As I’ve written about here, here, and – oh fancy that, here – I’m a fan of riotous colour at every occasion. When it comes to dressing vibrantly, however, the Melbourne Cup is your chance to really go for broke. Save those muted neutrals for Milanese winter.

In this outfit, I’ve paired a colour block silk shirt by New York label Tome with these brilliant embroidered tailored pants by H&M’s Conscious Exclusive Collection, a wee gift to myself to celebrate my PhD graduation back in May. To anchor this joyous look, I busted out my favourite fuchsia lipstick – Revlon’s Super Lustrous Lipstick in the rather wonderfully named Cherries In The Snow. And to top it all off, my paper wearable by Papel (Paper) weaves together dusky pink with tangerine, forest green, olive, gold and cream. Just writing that sentence brought a smile to my face.

If you’re keen to dress brightly on Melbourne Cup Day but don’t know where to begin, I’d suggest starting with block colours in exuberant shades of red, yellow, pink, green or purple. Choose a feature colour – two max – and build from there.

Isn’t it fun?

3. Shine bright in lustrous metallics

Held at the sunny hour of 3 p.m. in peak spring (though being Melbourne, frigid rain is equally likely), the Melbourne Cup is an excellent excuse to elevate your outfit with gleaming metallic accents.

These H&M pants are flecked with a shiny silver lurex thread, which seems to leap from the fabric as if it were backlit. A judicious dose of lurex can be classy – who knew?

My trusty Sophia Webster rose gold cage booties pick up the coral detailing of these pants beautifully, while also adding a healthy dose of sparkle. Fine gold rings by Parisian label Gag & Lou and clip-on Miriam Haskell earrings studded with freshwater pearls and gold beads further lift the ensemble.

The pièce de résistance? Two delicate gold flowers on my paper wearable, crafted from handmade cotton paper embossed with a floral motif. The subtle metallic lustre ties the whole look together.

Lesson learned?

You don’t need to deck yourself in head-to-toe gold lamé to sparkle come Melbourne Cup Day. I’d suggest you look for dresses or separates with a single metallic element, be it a lurex thread or a spliced gold print.

But if you fall head-over-heels for a decidedly non-metallic outfit, don’t fret. Metallic accessories are your saviour. Simply layer a few delicate gold rings with a subtle earring – enough to add lustre without pulling focus from that killer headpiece. Finally, add a gleaming gold or silver pump or high-heeled sandal for the perfect finishing touch.

As Rihanna would say, shine bright like a diamond…

4. Subvert expectations

When it comes to dressing up, is there anything better than messing, ever so slightly, with people’s expectations? I adore subverting the norm in subtly stylish ways. And I’d hazard a guess that once you try it you’ll be a convert as well.

Let’s get real.

Everyone expects you to wear a dress to the Melbourne Cup, right? Then why not turn up in a drop-dead, slam-dunkingly chic pant? I’m not talking about a baggy cargo pant, God forbid. I’m referring to a crisp tailored pant, one whose cut is so awe-inspiringly kick-ass that it draws admiring comments from passers-by.

The pant-of-the-moment, the versatile culotte, will not only keep your outfit on-trend, its proportions will slim your ankles and draw the gaze to those gorgeous heels. A fluid wide-leg pant is another stylish option.

If you can’t bear to part with the more traditional dress or skirt, why not amp up the drama by swapping the ubiquitous midi-length skirt for a striking maxi number?

Hello, glamour.

To avoid going overboard, I’d suggest keeping the top half of your outfit sleek, leaving room for that custom headpiece to shine bright.

Golly, it feels good to be back. How I’ve missed you! Until next time.

Antonia xo

Antonia is an Australian Style blogger. You can follow her stylish adventures via

This post was created in collaboration with Papel (Paper)

HEADPIECE – Papel (Paper)

SHIRT – Tome

PANTS – H&M Conscious Exclusive Collection

HEELS – Sophia Webster

EARRINGS – Miriam Haskell

RINGS – Gag & Lou