Fashion Through the Decades

The spectacular fashion often seen at the Kentucky Derby is not solely a product of modern times; rather, opulent feminized dress has played a large role in the history of the Kentucky Derby. What Colonel M. Lewis Clark Jr., (the founding father of the Kentucky Derby), envisioned was a racing environment that would feel comfortable and luxurious, an event that would remind people of the Epsom Derby and Grand Prix – European Horse Racing Events that attracted an elegant crowd.

For a well-to-do late 19th and early 20th century woman, a day at Churchill Downs, especially on Derby Day was an opportunity to be seen in the latest of fashions. A journalist from a 1901 Louisville Courier-Journal stated, "The seats in the grandstand were filled with gaily dressed women and men. The mass of green, pink, red, yellow, blue, all the colors of the rainbow, blending into one harmonious whole was as beautiful a sight as His Eminence in the lead."

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