Beach and barbecue or hat and heels? That's the choice this Boxing Day, with the season of sloth coinciding with the lure of one of the country's biggest race meetings.

Aucklanders have been flocking to the Boxing Day races at Ellerslie for around 150 years and for some women the competition to be named best dressed is as fierce as any on the track. I'll be along again as a judge for the Viva Fashions in the Field event watching about 100 contenders vie for some big prizes.

Some do it for a laugh, others are deadly serious, hoping for a ticket to take them all the way to compete at the Melbourne Cup event next year. Regular competitors get addicted to trying to crack the code of what makes a winner.

Racewear fashion is a world unto itself, with a formality and an emphasis on accessories that is uncommon in this day and age. That is why it can sometimes seem to be stuck in a time warp, with pastel suits, matchy-matchy shoes and bags and mother-of-the-bride hats. But these days that look is the exception, not the rule, with the best racewear relating to contemporary fashion and showing personal flair. That's why Viva is happy to be on board, championing tradition and trend in a true celebration of style.


My advice to would-be competitors is not too costume party please. Memo to the men: keep your inner Mafioso in check. Memo to the women: keep your assets well harnessed. It's not a theme or a cocktail party, we're looking for smart daywear. A fabulous hat helps and this is the Antipodes not Royal Ascot so stockings and gloves aren't essential, but good grooming is.

As with all events where you make an effort, this adds to the sense of occasion. Fashions in the Field is part of the entertainment of a day at the track and so too is looking good even if you are just along as a spectator. I'm hoping to see some great outfits on the runway and round about the racetrack.

These can range from the full rig to sandals, a sundress and a sunhat, depending on what part of the course you are on. From smart casual in the public stands to the expectation of a jacket and tie for men in the member's stand, Ellerslie offers a day out to suit all comers.

Personally, I love the chance to wear a good hat and for one day a year it's nice to trade in the sunhat for something more structured.

Every day of the holidays can be a beach day, but it's not every day you can dress up with bells on.