Change is coming to spring racing fashion…. And Fashions on the Field enthusiasts are NOT happy!

In the past week two big announcements rocked the world of Fashions on the Field (FOTF) and have social media buzzing with comments of enmity and dejection. The Australian Turf Club (ATC) and Melbourne Racing Club (MRC) have revealed they will replace traditional ‘stage’ FOTF with online based competitions. Judging by the worried reactions on social media both clubs did not consult regular FOTF entrants in their focus groups or market research before making these drastic changes.

spring racing fashion

2015 Oaks Day – Image: Myer Blog

The ATC announced their split with long term sponsor MYER after a 7 year partnership. The flow on effect from this decision will cause changes to how the NSW state representative is selected. All the state finalists have automatic entry into the MYER FOTF final on Oaks Day, held in Melbourne later this year.

spring racing fashion

Image: Myer Blog

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that “Myer confirmed it would still host a NSW final in Sydney” and to take its place “the ATC would explore ‘social media-based fashion competitions’ that would not require competitors to dedicate an entire day at the races to the competition.”

spring racing fashion

Image: Myer Blog

The Daily Telegraph has confirmation from the ATC that there will still be a significant fashion component to the Spring Carnival, “We expect to do a fashion competition every day at Carnival which could be as simple as using Instagram to hashtag The Races. We expect the time commitment to enter won’t be as long as the traditional fashions on the Field.”

Throughout the recently launched Sydney Spring Carnival professional photographers will take pictures for the digital competition “for judges to make their final decisions on the best dressed” reports The Herald Sun. By going online instead of having entrants go up on stage it’s predicted that more people will partake in the modern switch, “hopefully, it will make people feel more comfortable entering as well,” Ms Bartel said in the article.

FOTF enthusiasts have voiced their concerns via social media on the ATC’s changes…

Dimity Vanderpot I think it is a good move not to make it a “Myer” exclusive competition as very sick of Myer brands somewhat placing over other brands. I would not like an online only competition ie Instagram Como so I hope it doesn’t go down that line only.
Jane Burke Chami That sucks…I so hope we still get to see the ladies on stage, it just won’t be the same otherwise
Ana Pribylova Digital competitions are so very awful. Fashions loses its spark if that’s what happens.. How sad :(( hope it works out better and not worse!

A second announcement came from The MRC revealed a shake up with their fashion competition also moving online. Events at Caulfield, Mornington and Sandown will be affected by these changes which has shocked and disappointed many.

2015 Caulfield Cup – Image: Fabulous Femme

In 2015, Victorians bought more than 327,000 fashion items for the carnival, including 68,000 hats and fascinators, 53,000 dresses and 16,000 suits, totalling $29.41 million, according to data compiled by business consultancy IER for the Victorian Racing Club. Source: Sydney Morning Herald



Emma Scodellaro has been a FOTF competitor for 8 years and is very saddened by the proposed changes. As a result she will not be renewing her MRC membership in protest.

Emma contacted the MRC directly to voice her concerns that the changes will not only affect entrants but many associated businesses, in particular millinery. Her full letter and response is listed below this article or it can be viewed on the Facebook Group ‘It’s all about the Sash’.

Comments made on the changes to the MRC changes…

Caroline Austin Completely stupid concept to alienate loyal followers
Alicia Nolen Personally I don’t see this as all bad. Not everyone feels comfortable walking down a cat walk so this may entice other people to enter. It’s hard to say it won’t work until it has been tried.
Anne Stevens So glad you bought this out to our attention, as a designer of millinery 90% of my clients enter FOTF this brings a lot of money into our local economy. For many that not only attend these big race days, but travel all around Australia to do so, they stay the week, hotels, car hire, hair dresser, make- up artist the list goes on and on, please say our FOTF so many small business rely on it
Karen Middlecoat Thanks and very well written. I dislike the idea of a photo competition instead of a parade. Also, as a woman in my ’50s, I don’t like entering FOTF when there is no over 40 age group. I have stopped entering a lot of competitions because of this and consequently require less millinery, male-up and hairdressing which has a flow on effect as you mentioned. Thanks once again for articulating many of our views 🙂

So what does all this mean for the energetic and growing FOTF community in Australia? Those who dedicate months to sourcing, planning and making outfits to wear and share with other like-minded people are currently feeling devalued and deflated. Although change is good and quite often necessary many questions have been raised about what FOTF will look like in the future, for everyone involved.

Over here in SA we have also seen changes in the local yearlong Fashion at the Races competition held by The Races SA. In previous years qualifying finalists took part in a grand finale event with a sit down luncheon and panel of judges who chose the overall winner. To replace this costly and labour intensive event The Races SA will conclude the competition by having all the finalists go through to an online grand finale judged by an ‘expert’ panel.

Justine Lundberg – Fashion at the Races winner 2015-2016
Image: The Races SA

We spoke to Danni Francis, The Races SA Brand Manager, to discuss the revised format and found out how the competition this year will appeal to a wider audience, especially remote fashion lovers. “We’re so excited about being able to modernise the judging of the competition so that more people can connect with Fashion at The Races. The competition exposure will be broadened with a slight shift from the stage to online” Danni said.

Port Lincoln Cup – Image: The Races SA

The new format also sees the distribution of bigger prize money for the qualifying event winners. The Races SA have balanced the traditional ‘on stage’ parades during the year with digital judging, only at the end of the competition.

2015-2016 Judging panel – Image: The Races SA

“There will still be the magic of the stage – with 26 qualifying events around the state, as racegoers can register for and participate in the stage events on race day. The change is simply that the final competition judging at the end of the season is more of a digital competition that will see entrants photographed for judges to make their final decisions on the best dressed. This year the public can also be the judge and vote for their favourite winner throughout the year on our blog” Danni explained.

Strathalbyn Cup – Image: The Races SA

So much is lost in translation from real life to photo and this is the main concern raised across social media groups and pages. The small details are missed in photos and by going entirely online it takes away from the whole atmosphere and pageantry, which so many women look forward to on race days.

It is an interesting time for the whole FOTF community from dressmakers, to milliners and for all the entrants who enthusiastically dedicate hours to their love and passion for races fashion. To some FOTF may seem like a way to fluff your feathers and get some attention, but for many it means much, much more! In the long run attendance numbers will tell how successful these changes are. Hopefully they speak loud and clear that online competitions can’t replace the thrill of putting together an outfit you love, getting up on stage, waving to your friends in the crowd, making new friends or chatting to old friends about where they got their shoes.

To the racing clubs considering to move to solely online based competitions we would say… PLEASE don’t kill the FOTF industry, instead we beg you to continue to support those race goers that support your club! By cost cutting you will only cut out an entire cohort of women, and men, who put thousands of dollars through the local economy and small businesses.

Feature Image: Fabulous Femme