Australia’s race day dress codes originate from Royal Ascot, England, where UV rays aren’t as huge an issue.
According to the royal racing rule book, hemlines must fall just above the knee or longer and straps must be at least an inch wide. Headwear had to be at least 10 centimetres in diameter.
While racing day dress codes in Australia are less stringent, Optometry Australia does like the sound of bigger, broader hats. It also backs sunglasses as the must-have accessory.
According to The Cancer Council, wearing a broad-brimmed hat can cut the amount of UV radiation reaching your eyes by 50 per cent. Wearing both a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses can reduce UV rays to the eyes by up to 98 per cent.
The race that stops a nation (as they put on their sunglasses)
Many people believe it is only the midday sun that poses the greatest UV threat. However, the time when the nation stops for Melbourne Cup – 3pm – is one of the most dangerous times. Maximum UV exposure for the eyes occurs on the shoulder periods of the day when the sun is lower on the horizon and our brow is not blocking it from directly entering the eye. From around 8 to 10am and 2 to 4pm are the most important times to be wearing our sunglasses.
It may not be feeling all that summery in Melbourne just yet, but it’s just as important to protect your eyes in spring. The sun is lower on the horizon in autumn, winter and spring than it is summer, so we get more damaging UV directly entering the eye.
Why we should be wearing sunglasses
Our eyes are 10 times more sensitive to UV than our skin and too much exposure to UV light increases the risk of various eye diseases and cancer, with some 300 Australians diagnosed with eye cancer annually. Exposure to UV light also raises the risk of diseases such as cataract or growths on the eye, such as pterygium. These conditions can take many years to develop, but each time we’re out in the sun without protection we could be doing damage and increasing our risk.
Follow these fashion rules for the spring racing calendar:
Derby Day - Saturday, November 4
If there is one day of the year to wear big black statement sunglasses, it’s Derby Day. It’s the day Flemington Racecourse’s dress code is black and/or white, although men can wear tailored greys.
Melbourne Cup - Tuesday, November 7
Melbourne Cup is all about having fun with your outfit. It’s a day that allows punters to be fashion-forward with bright, bold colours. According to fashionistas, the fascinator is out. This season it's all about a hat or a statement headpiece.
If you are looking to the international runway for inspiration, try to steer clear of the ‘tiny sunglasses’ trend which is more about fashion than eye protection. You can read more about it here.
Although it’s a day to run wild with colour, you do have to keep to some rules. Remember skirt lengths should be at the knee. Your Melbourne Cup mantra: Cover your thighs and your eyes.
Oaks Day - Thursday, November 9
Oaks Day, or Ladies Day, is the day you can sport your prettiest cocktail dress. You’ll see plenty of girly pastels and florals. Luckily, candy-coloured pastel-hued sunnies in aviators and cat’s eye shapes are very much in vogue.
Stakes day - Saturday, November 11
Stakes Day is family day. But will you ensure children are wearing sunglasses? Radiation from the sun can cause significant damage to a child’s eyes and lead to serious eye conditions later in life, making the need for protection from an early age essential.
Kids should be wearing sunglasses anytime they are outdoors for a significant amount of time. Children are more sensitive to damage as the tissue in their eyes is more fragile, so wearing a hat simply isn’t enough.