How to dress for the races without buying a thing

Your 9-5 business suit has no place at the Spring Racing Carnival, nor at any Melbourne Cup bash, whether it be fine dining or barbecue.

On-course or off it, the Carnival celebrates individual style, colour and personality, allowing men to ditch conventional corporate attire and think outside the square.

But how many men can afford to drop a wad of money on a 'look' they might wear once a year, twice at most? It's preferable for many to feel sharp without investing in a new outfit.

Luckily, there are ways to dress to impress with what you may already have in your wardrobe.

1. Split a suit 

This is a popular manoeuvre, and effective when done well. It indicates a man who is confident with his dress sense and has an individual flair.

Dark navy or lighter trouser goes with a light grey blazer. Try tan or yellow, red or white trouser with navy jacket. Colour, when combined well with good fit, is an eye-catcher.

2. Accessorise wisely 

Pocket squares of all colours and patterns (polka dot, florals and geometric patterns) look wonderful and cost comparatively little. Don't forget to add the flower of the day to the lapel. Create a look with what you have — with hats and shoes, cufflinks, scarves, ties, tie pins, ribbons on hats, shirts with contrasting collars and plackets.

3. Mix and match

Don't look at a suit as a suit, says Melbourne style guru Carl Cilia. Look at it as a two individual pieces and get leverage out of them.

"If the blazer is well fitted, you may be surprised at its versatility even with jeans," says Cilia. "If the trouser is a shade of blue, try matching it up with a lighter jacket you may have in the wardrobe. This could be a shade of light grey, white, rose, even red."


4. If the shoe fits

Double monks, brogues, Oxfords and lace-ups in dark red and shades of chocolate or laces in green can add new life to an existing suit that may be destined for the charity bin. "Getting the right accessories and quality accessories can make all the difference in rejuvenating an old suit," Cilia says.

5. Use what you already own 

Mix and match trousers and jackets with the right shirt, ties and accessories. The combo could be better than you think. Many people won't be able to tell whether it is new or not and may even ask where you got the outfit from.

What are you planning to wear for the Melbourne Cup? Have you ever worn something unique? Let us know in the comment section. 

A journalist with a history of covering style with style and flair, Natasha Hughes has reported extensively on men's grooming and presentation. With Spit & Polish she also has a commission to write across presentation and deportment.