Derby day style code

10 ways to put a fresh spin on traditional black and white
Chris Warnes

Derby Day has us in a monochromatic kind of mood. There’s nothing quite like the start of the Melbourne Cup Carnival to showcase polished glamour. Year after year, the traditional black and white dress code rates highly in the style stakes but the willingness to put a new spin on the theme sets the winners apart. The rules for the fashions on the field can work just as well at home. Play up to tradition. Keep it functional and pay attention to all the little details. Giddy up!

Interior Designer Bree Oliver keeps it classic (Credit: John Paul Urizar)

Tip 1: Boring is a fashion no. Black and white is a safe bet but it also provides plenty of scope to play with texture, without the distraction of colour. Spring calls for lightweight natural textures with linen, silk and fine cotton proving a winning trifecta.

Tip 2: Keep bling subtle. A little sparkle goes a long way to brighten up this restrained palette. Look to hardware and shimmery fabrics as jewellery in the room and keep your staples matt and breathable. Here interior designer Bree Oliver rocks just the right amount of metal.


Stylist Stephanie Powell sets the mood (Credit: Cath Muscat)

Tip 3: Matchy matchy accessories are scratched. Your cushions don’t need to copy your wallpaper and your rug doesn’t have to match your curtains. A tonal scheme sets a framework in place so there is no need to be ridged with style choices. Think about complementing and offsetting fabrics and finishes to give your room energy. A mood board is a great place to start.

Tip 4: Be inspired by Spring: Florals and landscape patterns are fresh and fabulous. Designers Guild ‘Amrapali’ is an odds on favourite for a reason (from Radford Furnishings) while Sanderson ‘Sussex Downs Voile’ and Harlequin ‘Impasto Sancerre’ fabric (both Domestic Textile Corporation) are both deserving of an each way bet. 

Stylist Stephanie Powell creates all-weather perfection (Credit: John Paul Urizar)

Tip 5: Be weather appropriate. An umbrella, like a headpiece, is more than just sun protection, it’s an extension of your look. This Bellamee Tribal umbrella puts a bohemian spin on a usually preppy palette.

Tip 6: Invest in a statement piece to build your look around it. One great classic can elevate everything around it – like Prada heels paired with a high street dress. Here, a timeless Knoll Butterfly chair lends design cred to a cheap and cheerful outdoor rug.

Kate Oppenhuis of Lillias Interior Styling nails black and white (Credit: Paul McCredie)

Tip 7: Keep it polished. The patina of a high shine floor sets off a home with old-world panache. Black floors give an interior real punch, just be prepared for regular refinishing. White is a great option for purists with a no shoes policy.

Tip 8: Keep it comfortable. Just as a block heel can be so much more stylish than a stiletto if it will keep you on your feet all day, furniture for race day luncheons needs to be comfortable. Choose furniture that will go the distance such as a dining chair with a high, supportive back. This Tolix side chair is a classic stayer.


Kate Oppenhuis of Lillias Interior Styling mixes it up (Credit: Paul McCredie)

Tip 9: Coordinate your look – from head to toe. Interiors pop when the floors, lighting, hardware and furnishings all work together. Every detail makes a difference. Even the shoes in this room work with the look.

Tip 10: Have fun and be fabulous. You can be respectful of heritage without being reigned in by it so don’t be afraid to experiment. Here Kate Oppenhuis of Lillias Interior Styling employs the unifying power of black and white to mix Designers Guild ‘Florimund’ wallpaper with ‘Ruby’ spotted bedding from Household Linens

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