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A supermodel following the imaginary rules of Derby Day fashion

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Wearing black and white on Derby Day is as traditional as proposing with a diamond engagement ring and expecting a jolly man with a white beard in a red suit to deliver the presents in December, which surprisingly isn’t very traditional at all.

The increasingly strict dress code on the opening day of the Melbourne Cup carnival, which steers women towards outfits on the dark side and risks white spots from the grass, belongs to a long line of promotional success stories.

Supermodel Ducky Toth at the Mumm marquee wearing a Michael Lo Sordo suit and Nerida winter hat for Derby Day.credit:Scott McNaughton

“In 1960, there was an advertisement in Australian Women’s Weekly encouraging women to wear black and white kits to the races and win a prize,” says journalist Emily Power, editor of the book Fashion and Flemington. “Sponsored by the Black & White brand of James Buchanan and Co.”

Diamond giant De Beers created a demand for stone-encrusted engagement rings in the 1940s, Coca-Cola took Santa Claus by perfecting his image in an ad in 1931, but it took stronger things to convince Melbourne racegoers to ditch the colors on Derby Day.

“This dress is unique to Melbourne, and it’s not mandatory like the morning suit for men once was,” says Power. “It just took off in the sixties. I think social media has cemented it as a trend.”

In 2012, Nicole Kidman stepped up the black and white dress code in an Audrey Hepburn tribute ensemble

In 2012, Nicole Kidman stepped up the black-and-white dress code in an Audrey Hepburn tribute ensemble, My Fair Lady, created by L’Rain Scott.credit:Photographic

Audrey Hepburn’s black and white outfit in the 1964 musical My lovely lady helped the trend take hold, but by the end of the nineties, women in colorful ensembles were still appearing at Fashion on the Field at Flemington Racecourse on Derby Day. If you’re hoping to win the $78,000 prize package for this year’s Best Dressed, dress up as the whiskey sales team would like.

“I’ve always been a stickler for tradition,” says Fashion on the Field judge and former winner Angela Mentz. “You have the rest of the week to play around. It’s amazing to see what people can do with black and white.”

Aussie supermodel Ducky Toth plays it safe in a white suit by designer Michael Lo Sord, although she ditches the whiskey in favor of champagne as a guest at Mumm’s quirky birdcage marquee.

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