By: Danielle Rudy Davis

When you hear ‘Kentucky Derby,’ chances are the first things you think of are horses and hats. And there’s a reason for that, it goes without saying that the fashions along the rail are almost as important as the thoroughbreds on the track. On the first Saturday in May, women from all over the world flock to Churchill Downs to show off their best hats and fascinators. But where do these fabulous headpieces come from? The answer for many are the featured Kentucky Derby milliners.

Kentucky Derby milliners are the talented group of designers and makers behind the elaborate and stunning headwear that is a hallmark of the Kentucky Derby. These skilled artisans use their creativity and expertise to design and construct hats and fascinators that are not only beautiful, but also unique pieces of art. 

CAM Hats

First up is Christine A. Moore, whose designs have been worn by some of the most stylish women at the Kentucky Derby, including Miranda Lambert and Mary J. Blige. Moore, who is based in New York City, started her career as a costume designer before transitioning to millinery. Her designs are known for their elegant and classic aesthetic, as well as their intricate detailing and use of high-quality materials.

FORME Millinery

Jenny Pfanenstiel is a unique and talented milliner who crafts fabulous pieces at her studio, Formé Millinery, in Louisville. Pfanenstiel's designs are inspired by her background in dance and theater, and often feature bold shapes and vibrant colors. Her hats have been worn by celebrities such as Lady Antebellum's Hillary Scott and actress Angela Bassett. She also regularly partners with Vineyard Vines on a series of pieces to coordinate with their Kentucky Derby collection.

The Hat Girls

Rounding out the list are The Hat Girls, whose pieces are the epitome of chic and sophistication. These fashionable ladies have elevated hat-wearing to an art form, and their creations are the perfect finishing touch to any Derby look. With their keen eye for design and impeccable craftsmanship, wearing one of their pieces will have you standing out from the crowd. 

Whichever milliner’s designs catch your eye, the perfect hat is a must-have accessory. The key to picking the right one is all about balance. You want a hat or fascinator that compliments your outfit without overwhelming it. You can work directly with the milliners to create a one-of-a-kind piece or you can build your look around the headwear. A wide-brimmed hat in a classic shape and neutral color is always a safe bet, but Derby isn’t a time to be safe. Don't be afraid to add a pop of color or some fun embellishments in the form of feathers or flowers. And remember, the Kentucky Derby is all about making a statement and having fun, so go ahead and choose a hat that truly reflects your personality and style. 

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