Flash flooding and hailstones at Flemington. The threat of a tornado at Galway Ladies’ Day. Dark grey skies looming over Royal Ascot. It’s hard enough to work out what to wear to the races without having to contend with these atmospheric dilemmas.

But if there’s anything we’ve learned over the years, it’s how to dress for all kinds of weather forecasts and still look great at the racecourse. Melbourne’s Spring Carnival has been a fantastic learning ground, given the city is famous for having four seasons in one day. Add in the essential Fashions on the Field criterion of “appropriateness of the outfit for the event” (ie. weather on the day), and there are many tips we’ve added to our raceday bag of tricks in order to stay classy in the event of rain/hail/blustery winds.

1. Incorporate a jacket into your outfit

I’ve learnt this one the hard way. One particular Spring Carnival gave us temperatures of below 16°C and while we waited to see who made the cut at FOTF we spent a good half-hour shivering like leaves in a storm, huddled together under umbrellas for body warmth. That day I made some good friends, and also vowed never again to plan an outfit without a jacket as an option.

There’s a particular type of jacket that looks good on most figures, and works with almost any dress: the cropped, open-front jacket with three-quarter sleeves. Invest in a black one and an off-white one, and you’re pretty much set. My favourites are by Jaeger and Paule Ka. The latter is a little more exxy, but the quality of the fabric and tailored fit is second-to-none and you won’t regret purchasing it. Ever.

My favourite off-white cropped jacket by Jaeger. Photo from vogue.com.au.

My favourite off-white cropped jacket by Jaeger. Photo from vogue.com.au.

Paule Ka jackets are perfectly tailored and work with most dress styles.

Paule Ka jackets are perfectly tailored and work with most dress styles.

2. Take an umbrella with you

If the weather man says “rain” but it looks sunny, don’t risk it – take an umbrella with you! Hats do not like moisture and will lose their shape if they get too wet. Likewise, milliners do not like having to reblock hats after they’ve been rained on (it can be really tricky to do).

Treat your umbrella as a fashion accessory and get one to match your outfit. There are some gorgeous frilly designs and bold printed styles out there, but if you don’t want to spend a lot of money on a brolly, buy a classic clear plastic dome-shaped one instead – this way, you can still see your entire outfit and stay dry at the same time.

Clear dome umbrella

Umbrella, £12.50, by umbrellaheaven.com

3. Take a pair of flat shoes with you

Not only do high heels become painful after a few hours, but they also get stuck in mud pretty easily. And then there is that exquisite pair of expensive suede shoes you have, which almost shrink at the sight of a few drops of moisture. I may sound like an old granny but I always take a pair of flat pumps with me – usually to wear to and from the racecourse – but in the event of torrential rain they come in pretty handy to save your heels, and yourself, from the elements.

4. Use the cloak room

I know this will sound lame, but the first place I visit when I go to a racecourse is the cloak room. There, at this hidden cave usually staffed by the kindest ladies at the course, I leave everything I don’t currently need but will want at some point during the day: my flat shoes, an umbrella, a jacket. It’s almost like having an on-course wardrobe. Just remember to pick up your items before they close, and tip the ladies generously if you’ve had a win.

5. Make sure your hat is on good and well

Most milliners will test their hats for staying power before selling them to clients, but sometimes there are certain styles (usually the crazy, gravity-defying ones) that run the risk of fluttering in the breeze. Then there are also the mass-produced styles you can find at department stores which skimp on fastenings in order to lower their retail prices. I’m not saying “don’t wear them” but rather, “know how to wear them”.

Many hats will shift a little if you don't secure them well, but "Raquel" from my SS13 collection features silk ties to keep it stationary. Photo by Leigh Keily.

Many hats will shift a little if you don’t secure them well, but “Raquel” from my SS13 collection features silk ties to keep it stationary. Photo by Leigh Keily.

Tall styles, wide styles and hats with long embellishments are the most likely to catch the wind. For best results, they should have a comb on the base and an elastic band which sits around the back of your head. If your hat doesn’t have a comb, either sew one in yourself or, if you’re not confident in your sewing ability, use a couple of bobby pins on each side of the elastic and pin them close to the base, crossing one over the other to form an ‘X’ on the elastic. If you find the elastic is too loose, tie a knot in the middle of the elastic (at the position where the nape of your neck would be) to tighten it.

If you have a wide-brimmed hat with a crown (rather than a base) and it’s a little too big for your head, use some pieces of self-adhesive foam tape (you can buy it from any hardware store) and place them inside the head ribbon on the base of the crown. The tape will narrow the inside of the crown and create a perfect fit.

If you’re wearing a fascinator or hat set on a plastic alice band and you’re finding the band uncomfortable, you can re-shape the band by holding it over the steam from a boiling kettle to soften it and make it pliable. Then remove from the steam and use your fingers to bend it into the shape you want by gently applying pressure to the band. Do be very careful when using steam for two reasons: 1) obviously, it’s really hot and it can burn, and 2) try not to get steam near the hat part/embellishments because it can change the shape of millinery fabrics and feathers.

Although clean hair looks great, it’s not ideal for keeping hats in place. If you’re wearing a style with a base, give a good spray of hairspray on the spot where your base will sit to “dirty it up” a little and provide some friction.

Photo credits: vogue.com.au, umbrellaheaven.com and Leigh Keily.

By Lisa Tan