Plan Your Visit

Visitor Information Derby Week Maps / Directions Parking What to Wear Virtual Tour

What to Wear

Women

One of the truly unique characteristics of the Kentucky Derby, and its sister event, the Kentucky Oaks, is that they are sports parties that showcase the finest in spring fashions. Both female and male attendees pull out all of the stops when selecting their Kentucky Derby and Oaks apparel.

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to Derby dressing, in part because what you wear has much to do with where you plan to spend the day. In the reserved seating areas (grandstand, clubhouse, suites and corporate hospitality areas), ladies typically wear spring dresses, pastel-colored suits, or bold separates that coordinate with their Derby headwear and accessories.

The Kentucky Derby is a chance for every female to express her inner Southern Belle so take note and don't hold back when planning your Kentucky Derby wardrobe!

Dress

When selecting your dress for the Kentucky Derby the recommended practice is to keep it simple, so it doesn't take away from your hat. You can also let the color and excitement of spring inspire you and select a dress full of color, or floral or equine patterns. Vineyard Vines, the official style of the Kentucky Derby, has created a line of dresses just for the Kentucky Derby. And remember to dress in layers, the Kentucky Derby is an outdoor event and the weather can be hard to predict.

Shoes

No Kentucky Derby outfit is complete without the spring heel or sandal. But remember, Churchill Downs historic grounds can be tricky to maneuver and the day is long, so remember to pack a backup pair of flats, just in case!

Accessories

Jewelry

Since the hat is the focus of Derby fashion, there's not much need for large, statement jewelry. Let your hat be the attention grabber as your primary accessory and keep the jewelry simple. You can also celebrate the day with Kentucky Derby themed jewelry.

Bags

The Kentucky Derby is a long day, with a lot of walking, so pack accessories accordingly. We recommend a large bag (but be sure to stay within the size limit) to carry a pair of shoes, a bottle of water, your program, sunglasses, sunscreen, a poncho, and anything else you might need during the day. In that bag, pack a smaller clutch or over-the-shoulder bag for your cash, wagers, phone, and essentials that you can grab to go make a wager or snap a quick picture of the celebrities on the Red Carpet.

Hats

What sets the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks apart from other sports and entertainment events? Is it the world-class horses? The Hollywood stars? The romantic Twin Spires? Well, first and foremost, it’s the hats! Part Southern tradition, part spectacle, the Kentucky Derby hat parade is much of what makes “The Greatest Two Minutes in Sports” one of the greatest people-watching events in the world! From the fantastic to the sublime, there are no rules or limits when it comes to choosing your Derby hat.

Wearing a hat to the Kentucky Derby is believed to bear good luck! The long-established fashion was started by the women, however, over the last few years, many men have taken part in the tradition as well. Wearing a hat is much like getting into costume, you might be pleasantly surprised to see what type of character you become. From the fantastic to the sublime, there are no rules or limits.

Within the seated sections of Churchill Downs, you will find hats of elegance and style. Generally speaking, women wear wide-brimmed, “Southern Belle” inspired Kentucky Derby hats. The hats can be decorated with flowers, feathers, bows and ribbons of any color to express creativity and individuality.

In the Churchill Downs Infield, hats are a bit more eccentric! You will see hats in all shapes and sizes, as well as some hats exuding humorous themes!

Dress or Hat - Which Comes First?

You can exhale - there are two answers here!

Some will say that you absolutely get the outfit first. Then you design your hat to go with the outfit. (The argument here is that it's easier to custom design a hat than to "make" an outfit to go with a hat!)

Then there are those who say that you must definitely purchase, create or design your hat before picking out the outfit.

Most often in this case, matching the dress (or outfit) to your hat involves personal preference, however keep a few things in mind in getting dressed:

You will find lots of debate on this subject &emdash; so finally the NO answer is THE answer!

Hat or Fascinator?

A more recent trend in Kentucky Derby headwear is the fascinator. Smaller than a traditional hat and just as stylish, this piece of headwear has become more popular among Kentucky Derby attendees over recent years. Recently popularized by Kate Middleton, these chic, headpieces are made from a woven disc topped with feathers and netting and secured to your head via a comb or headband. They can be simpler to wear than a hat, and won't give you hat hair!

Derby Hat on a Budget

Sure you can have a custom hat created if you want to splurge, but you can also make an elegant hat using materials from around the house and garden. Not to mention make a visit to your local craft shop for your decorating needs.

Sign Up for Latest in Racing News

Thank you to our sponsor

Men

The Kentucky Derby provides a splendid excuse for men to get just as dressed up and decked out as the ladies! The modern Derby man possesses an unparalleled color palette. Sun-drenched, tropical colors in bold stripes or busy plaid and bright pastels steal the limelight. Although, if you want a more polished look, a classic navy or seersucker blazer is always in style.

Starting with the pants because it is the eye-catcher from a distance, gents should turn to sun drenched pants in vibrant colors like Key Lime, Ocean, Bermuda Pink, and Citron. Any one of these colors paired with the right shirt and blazer will make you stand out like no one else.

Now that you have the pants you know that you’re going to have some fun with the shirts. A great dress shirt in a complimentary color will go a long way. Don’t be afraid to grab a fun gingham or striped shirt to turn it up. This is the one day of the year that more is better. One option that is a must for some is the monogram on the shirt!

The jacket is what brings everything together and you can’t go wrong with the classic navy blazer. If you want to have a little fun on top though, a nice chalk stripe can really make the ladies’ big hats turn. As far as 2- button or 3-button it’s a person preference but we recommend sporting the 3- button side vent for a more polished look.

Next is the tie. Most gentlemen wear a necktie, but a bow tie is always a great option. If you never wear bows, try it out and you may like it. As the official style for the Kentucky Derby, Vineyard Vines offers an assortment of Derby-themed ties and bowties that will make every man look dapper and distinguished.

For shoes, there are many types of horse bit loafers out there and everyone has their idea of who makes the best ones. The most important thing you need to know is that they should be worn sockless.

Top it all off with a fedora or bowler hat for the complete Kentucky Derby look. Men's Derby hats are generally solid in color and inspired by the style from the 1920s.

Now you are ready to throw back some bourbon and tie on a bowtie. The most important thing about your Derby outfit for men is to be confident. No matter what you wear, it’s how you wear it gentlemen.