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!
The long-established fashion was started with Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr.'s vision for the Derby as an event that the high-class would attend, similar to European-style racing events, which mandated full morning dress for men and women. For the first running of the Kentucky Derby, he used high-class women to recruit his target clientele to attend the race. The event quickly became just as much about the fashion as the racing. Going to a horse racing event became an opportunity to show off the latest in spring fashion and women were known to coordinate their hats, dresses, bags, shoes, and even parasols.
The extravagant hats that have become associated with the Kentucky Derby did not really come around until the 1960s, when social fashion norms loosened up and the presence of television gave women a reason to stand out. The hats became larger, brighter, and more extravagant.
Featured Milliner Jenny Pfanenstiel Advice/Hat Tips:
Your hat is the statement piece at the races. Many people go to the races to see the horses and bet, but others go to see the hats. A hat or fascinator should complement you. When picking out a hat keep in mind your height, face shape, hair length and physique. You do not want the hat to wear you! I recommend choosing the hat first. Not all of us can wear every type of hat. So when choosing the perfect hat, consider your physique. If you are on the shorter side, it is best to not choose a super large brim because it will tend to swallow you.
Instead, go with a fascinator with some height, or a smaller brim. If you have short hair, I suggest choosing a flip brim, or fascinator to show off your face and hair. If you are tall, a large brim is complementary, or a fascinator that is not too tall. The most important thing to keep in mind when choosing your hat or fascinator, should be comfort. You will be wearing your hat for many hours, so you want it to fit you properly. You don’t want it to be too tight, or loose, and not too heavy. Visiting with a Milliner, like myself, can create a hat for you that fits your head size properly and one that complements your physique. When it comes to style, if your outfit has a print, I suggest going with a solid color hat and more simple, as to not clash.
If you are wearing a solid color outfit, then choose a hat that brings in lots of color and/or or flare. Enjoy the races! Since your hat is the focal point, you want to pick out an outfit that doesn’t work against your hat. Pick a more simple style outfit, or one that is a solid color or with simple lines.