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From Tradition to Trend: Plan your Derby Day with Jessie Wright

There is something magical about clarity. Derby Day is divinely definitive; its colour palette as timeless as the black and white movies which our parents once swooned over. Connect with your inner Audrey, Katharine or Grace, but it’s best to leave Mae West at home for this particular carnival.

Strictly black and white, this dress code is simple enough for new racegoers to grasp, while veterans welcome the chance to experiment with their costume. Our Derby Day Ambassador for 2018 Jessie Wright warns guests not to mistake the lack of colour for lackluster styling. “It’s all about creating shape, clashing prints, using different textures and layering,” Jessie said.

“Everyone should have a little black dress or pant suit in their closet they can pair with a simple hat,” she said. “It makes the day affordable if you don’t have a lot to invest in an outfit, you can still look the part!”

But even if your most costly item is taken care of, thou shalt not neglect shoes. Jessie feels your heels should be able to tolerate grass, encouraging racegoers to leave the platforms at home and pay attention to every facet of your accessories. “I know you probably have a black pair of heels handy but are they really the perfect toe?” she said. “It’s these little details that will help you to create a truly polished look.”

Derby Day’s requirements serve a side of opportunity, as monochrome makes way for precision to shine with the resounding voice of racing etiquette in the air. “I have a general rule I follow for all racing days – if you can wear it out dancing afterwards– it’s not appropriate,” she said. “For me, that’s part of having respect for racing traditions.”

However, respecting traditions doesn’t mean we can’t modernise Derby Day. The 1960s saw Jean Shrimpton shock the racecourse as she arrived in a mini-dress without gloves, a hat or stockings. As each decade takes its turn at evolving the rules, Jessie favours the twenty-teens for the direction we are taking in trackside style.

“I will always believe race wear should have a conservative nature, however our vision of conservative has evolved to include one shoulder dresses, more relaxed necklines and shorter hems,” Jessie said. “While I love a traditional racing look with a full skirt and feminine silhouette, I think we can modernise our looks by playing with suiting and edgier cuts.”

Though historically the world looked to fashion houses such as Dior and Alexander McQueen for racing inspiration, Australia now plays host to its own sartorial heroes such as Dion Lee and Alex Perry. “I think there are some real industry leaders who are paying a respectful homage to the history of racing attire but in modern and fashion forward ways,” Jessie said. “Jodi Gordon comes to mind – she is forever reinventing the wheel in ways that are elegant and fun without disrespect to the foundations of racing style.”

When planning her look for Derby Day, Jessie begins with reflection. “I will go back through the style posts and hashtags on Instagram to find my favourite looks from previous years for inspiration,” Jessie said. “Then I look forward - I’ll jump on and see if there are any runway trends or accessories trends I can build my look around,” she said. “I’ll start with my ‘If I won the lottery I would wear…’ and then break down the look with more affordable pieces.”

“I infamously wore a ribbon from Spotlight in my hair last season, so I will be the first to admit I’m not a traditionalist when it comes to headwear,” Jessie said. “I’m really obsessed with a piece Sylvy Earl made for Vogue Australia and I’m still determined to wear it one day,” she said. “Lack of Colour are my go to for hats!”

As Derby Day is the epitome of sophistication, a structured clutch is a must and as for hair, Jessie feels a minimal accessory makes a great option for ladies opting out of a fascinator. “To make your mark, play with textures and shapes – think further than just ticking the fascinator box by looking for ways to incorporate less traditional headpieces like scarves or clips!”

Scarves aside, Jessie would indeed like to see more hats amongst the plethora of black and white outfits. “Rozalia Russian wore this incredible Dior beret at last year’s Derby Day, I would be really excited to see some of the girls give this trend a crack,” Jessie said. “With a monochrome theme, a really dramatic black hat is a great way to add shape to your look!”

As for her top tips on trends to spot this season, Jessie suggests taking a risk. “If you are looking to stand out against a sea of black, white on white continues to be a vibe this season. Think white head to toe!”

And of course, match your white to your drink of choice. A splash of deep red is best reserved for your perfect pout.

For your dash of Derby Day motivation, keep in touch with Jessie on Instagram @jssirite as she takes on the role of Derby Day Ambassador the 2018 UBET Festival of Racing at Morphettville. 

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