“Last year we were sort of saying ‘pare it back’ in terms of your racing day outfit,” says Melbourne-based stylist-to-the-stars Lana Wilkinson down the phone when I call to seek her expert take on the biggest racing fashion trends of Spring 2018.

This year, however, trending on the track will take a little courage and some maximalist flair. “There’s this whole over-the-top 1980s and early ‘90s vibe going on now,” says the expert, who’s widely considered Australia’s most experienced celebrity dresser.

“Think of it as Joan Collins in Dynasty vibe – in a nice way.”

“Obviously the number one rule is keep to the dress code, no matter which club you’re at,” she adds. “Next rule is to be true to you. I’ve seen too many people wear a trendy head-to-toe outfit but then look really uncomfortable. If you feel all ‘genie in a bottle’ with stuff layered on, then of course, take something off.”

“You don’t have to spend much money either. Maybe you have an amazing dress you just need a new velvet shoe or jewelled turban to change up. Be sophisticated, know the dress code and you’ll slam dunk it.”

Celeb stylist Lana Wilkinson wearing Joslin at Spring Racing Carnival 2018. (Credit: @lanawilkinson)

Who, in Wilkinson’s opinion, slam dunks it style-wise every racing carnival?

“Kate Waterhouse – she’s just got so much poise and class about her,” says Wilkinson. Nadia Bartel, Elyse Knowles, Megan Gale and Lindy Klim make her top list too. “If we think back to who nailed it even back before social media, it was these women. They’ve set the tone for some of the younger [style icons] coming through.”

Turbans? Still on-trend. Flower crowns? So out. Big hair clips? Absolutely Clashing colours? That’s a maybe. Sound like enough to make your head spin? Below, Wilkinson makes sense of it all.

Lindy Klim at The Caufield Cup 2018 wearing Viktoria & Woods. (Credit: Instagram @lindyklim)

What to wear to the races in 2018


“Neon is a really big trend for the season that I think people will love. It’s really cool and will make for great photo opportunities – not even just on celebrities but everyday people who stand out,” says Wilkinson. “Accessorising with neon is easier than you might think too. Pick another primary colour to go with it, like an orange or red with a neon pink. If you’re wearing neon yellow or lime, stick with a black or even Perspex vibe, which we saw a lot of at Dior.”

Elyse Knowles and Brooke Meredith were ahead of the field in bold neon at Melbourne Cup Day 2017. (Credit: Getty Images)


“We’re going to be seeing a lot of midi-length dresses and skirts. There’s a lot of power suiting that’s still coming through too, which I think is a really strong look. In this era of strong women and the MeToo movement, we have a sort of ‘hear us roar’ thing happening, which clothes are reflecting as well.”

3. AN ODE TO THE ’80

“That could be as big, bold shoulders, statement ruffles or even clashing bright colours,” says Wilkinson. “As I’m speaking to you, I’m sitting surrounded by [By Johnny designer] Johnny Schembri’s new collection, which is all hot pinks, oranges, reds and prints. It’s a bold look, but fashion-forward girls can do it: clashing prints, jewelled bags, statement jewellery. Think Joan Collins’ character in Dynasty vibe, but in a nice way.”

Tayla Damir wearing an ’80s-style silhouette at Royal Randwick for the Colgate Optic White Stakes Day 2018. (Credit: Supplied) 


“They’re still on-trend, but we’re wearing them a different way now – they have more of an ‘80s vibe,” says Wilkinson. The Nerida Winter turban headpiece worn by Kate Waterhouse on her blog (image below) is a perfect example. “I’m a big believer that if you’re going to spend money on your outfit a racing carnival – and I think social media is now a big reason many women do – turbans are perfect [to invest in] because once the racing season is over, you can wear it over and over, even with your bathers at the beach. Turban scarfs are really cool too. Fashion is getting smarter – getting more out of your items makes sense.”

Kate Waterhouse shows us how the ’80s-vibe racing look is done, hot pink turban and all. (Credit: KateWaterhouse.com)


“I think what we see will be heavily influenced by the [mono-colourguest outfits] we saw at the royal wedding [of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle],” says Wilkinson. “If you don’t want to go too hectic in something you probably won’t ever wear again, you can certainly go with a strong bold colour and quite a simplistic silhouette. Jewel tones are strong right now. Then add a big statement bag and bold sunglasses.”


“We’ve taken a lot of inspiration from the runways overseas, especially at shows like Miu Miu and Dolce and Gabbana. They had sorts of hair clips that I think look great and we should see a lot of at the races this year as an alternative to hats and fascinators. They’re interesting and, I think, truly stylish as well.”

Elyse Knowles chose two gold hair clips for Derby Day 2017. (Credit: Getty Images)


“We’re going to see a lot of embellished shoes this year. Stuart Weitzman, for example, has jewelled heels, which are perfect. It’s the age of the big logo right now too. Today, for example, I’m wearing a pair of Balenciaga shoes with the logo written all over them. But if you go for bold footwear, make sure you’re just letting your accessories do the talking [rather than your clothes].”

miu Miu, crystal-embellished buckled satin sling-back pumps, $535 (from $1070) at The Outnet.


“Millinery has had a bit of a resuscitation, which is amazing because we have such great milliners in this country,” Wilkinson says. “The pillbox hat vibe with netting underneath is big and so are boaters. Crowns and headbands still have their place but have evolved – they’re not just the simple leaves on a metal crown that we’ve seen the last few years in a row. Now they’re jewelled and a bit more interesting. Mimco’s done a great range of racewear headbands that are perfect for younger women who don’t want to invest a heap of money. Those flower headbands we saw so often a few years ago? They’re out!”

Nadia Bartel wore a Viktoria Novak jewelled headpiece to the races in 2017. (Credit: Instagram @nadiabartel)


“For bags, it’s all about textures,” says the stylist. “For example, there was a lot of that wicker and straw texture coming through this year in stores, which is perfect for the races. Scanlan and Theodore had them in different colours like red, white and blue. But then Country Road has wicker bags in their special racing collection. Everybody can buy into this trend without having to spend a fortune.”

Country Road, Structured Straw Bag, $100.


“Consider your hair and makeup as part of your whole look,” Wilkinson reiterates. “It can actually make or break it, especially when you’re being adventurous with bold colours or details. In that case, you want to keep [your beauty look] pared back. Remember, a lot of the races kick off at 10 or 11 o’clock in the morning. It’s all about balance. Balance is everything.”

Click here for GRAZIA’s best race-day beauty tips.