Put faith in Ainsley Hansen – a designer with a jump on dressing with an X-factor – for the best in race wear tip-offs. By Alice Birrell.
Come race day in spring, there are some dress code caveats: no felt, no playsuits, reasonable hemlines (modesty, please), but dour this does not mean. Should this idea be transmuted into a collection, it could easily be Ainsley Hansen’s latest for her label Hansen and Gretel, a 10-piece capsule designed with the races in mind. Rendered in monochrome to salute tradition and in mini to maxi lengths, which she pleasingly refers to as “a melody of shapes”, the line-up encapsulates the thrill of race-day dressing melded with her signature duality: ever youthful, but soignée enough for more formalities; feminine flou with a distinguishing ‘other’ element. Hansen spoke to Vogue to divulge just what that fresh element should be to revitalise a race wardrobe.
“While the right millinery adds star wattage to any race-day outfit, my favourite twist would be incorporating a masculine edge with a feminine silhouette – whether the wearer chose to suit up a dress with a blazer or wore a brogue with a skirt.”
“‘Conservative sexy’ is definitely a thing. Suiting-up appears both low-maintenance and ravishing … We are seeing some interesting shapes in tailoring right now: high-waisted trousers with a loose leg, with a cropped fitted blazer – it creates a striking silhouette of broad shoulders and a small waist. The threepiece suit with a low-rise, slim-flare, fitted trouser is also an option. Accent with feminine touches like a delicate heel.”
“While you can wear the dress again, it’s not very often you can pair it back with a bold beauty look or statement accessories. Have fun with your ensemble: try something new and creatively hone into one particular area, whether that’s the neckline up, with a stellar earring and headpiece, or the body area, with a layered outfit, or the ankle down, with a show-stopping shoe.”
“Longer lengths for daytime dressing is something we’re vibing right now. A long-line dress styled back with a fitted jacket suits most shapes and is an accessible style choice for any age.”
“The pillbox hat would be my go-to. I’m also into hair clips and headscarves right now. A coloured ribbon tying up the hair at back of head is a neat twist and a way to accent colour in a monochrome look. Statement sunglasses can add some charm to an outfit, too.”
“[Wearing] something more covered on the top half of the body to balance out the bareness below is a good guideline for short hems. Team a short skirt with a blazer, or layer a button-up beneath a top. A ‘sit-down check’ in the change room is always a good idea; make sure you can sit without exposing your underwear, especially when considering wrap dresses. Heel choice is also important. Too high can unfavourably change your leg shape, and considering race days are pretty lengthy, you want to be comfortable.”
Still in need of a shortcut to the final post? Enter David Jones, which has a slick selection of racewear all lined up in a capsule of exclusive designs conjured with the marquee race days in mind – Oaks, Derby and the Caulfield and Melbourne cups – from the frontrunners in Australian design. Now there’s no excuse not to cut a race-ready figure.