Race week celebrations in Australia seemed to have had a pall cast over them this week, a lack of enthusiasm that was evident in the building I was working in on Melbourne Cup day.

There was no office sweep. At 3pm day, one intrepid colleague pulled the race up on her screen, but no one really looked.

I saw two young women holding beer and chips walking past the lift talking about going to an “Anti-Cup” party.

During my magazine career, I spent many a season in a marquee in Flemington or a posh restaurant, with a champagne flute and an extravagant headpiece, judging the best dressed.

Cup fashion? I'm not the only one who never backed a winner_1
Inset: Finalists in the 2019 Fashions on the field women's national prize at Flemington Racecourse. Photo: Getty

We may have all had our own, often silent, opinions about horse racing, animal cruelty, the promotion of gambling and the drunken yob behaviour, but it is all now top of mind and censured by many.

Last year, I invited three young women from my office to join me for lunch and to watch the Melbourne Cup race in a pub in Paddington, but when we sat down I noticed none of them looked particularly thrilled to be there.

All of them were pro-horse and anti sports betting and possessed none of the nostalgia that I still held for the Cup as an Australian tradition, one that my Mum and Grandma loved (Mum often won Best Hat on the day at her local RSL, she just cleverly pinned different flowers every year on the same hat).



A lot of the fashion worn to the races over the years was certainly questionable. The photo galleries of previous race wear worn by some high profile celebrities are genuinely hilarious, there is a bogan-ness about them that is so perfectly skewered in that infamous Kath and Kim episode when Kim got vomit stuck in her fascinator.

I too wore some shockers. Race wear is hard, and those seasons of micro mini bandage dresses and clompy high shoes worn by women who shouldn’t have are wedged in my memory.

I’m not sure I ever really got it right. One year the weather confused me so much I wore a mid calf silk trench coat and straw Trilby, resembling a sort of weird female Inspector Clouseau.

Hats baffled me, as I’m more of a beret person. I never wore a fascinator, but I am now at the age that netting across my face would really help things, so I may just adopt that as an everyday work look.

Cup fashion? I'm not the only one who never backed a winner_2
Inset: Entrants form the Fashions on the field. Photo: Getty

I did venture out of my sad no-sweep office on Cup Day to buy lunch to eat at my desk, and was cheered up by the way the women in the city looked who were off to a fun lunch somewhere.

The longer length floaty silk dresses that are fashionable this season are so right for racing, pretty, low key and flattering on all body types.

I also saw women in gorgeous patterned jumpsuits, and lovely slip dresses, wearing headbands and summer sandals, fab looks that struck a perfect note.

It will be interesting to see if the tradition continues.