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. Learn more about the Kentucky Derby Hat Tradition

Gain insight from our Derby Fashion Insider: Top 8 Derby Hat Questions Answered

Read below to learn more about Derby hats from our featured Milliners of the Kentucky Derby.   

Click Here for inspiration from Christine Moore, use promo code KYDERBYFEATURED149 for 15% off any of her hats. 

Talking Hats with Christine A. Moore

View Designs by Jenny Pfanenstiel   A donation of 12% of purchase will be made to the Churchill Downs Charity Foundation when website offer is mentioned.

Talking Hats with Jenny Pfanenstiel

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:

  • If your hat is having a pattern party, keep the dress design simple.
  • If the hat is simple and elegant, keep the outfit simple also for a classy look.
  • If you want a funky outfit, keep it consistent and accent the hat most of all!
  • If you have long hair, showcase a ponytail slightly to side or keep it down to one side to highlight the color on your face.

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!

Do It Yourself-How to make a Fascinator

Inspiration from our Featured Milliners

Christine A. Moore

Christine Moore started her career in the world of theater as a costume designer and quickly began making hats for regional theatre productions. In 1990 she moved to NYC to work for renowned milliner Rodney Gordon where she spent four years making hats for Opera and Broadway productions such as Phantom of the Opera and Cats. In 1994 she established Christine A. Moore Millinery based in New York City on 34th Street between the fashion and accessories districts. Although Christine designs a wide range of women and men’s hats, she is best known for her explosive racing styles for the Kentucky Derby, four of which have been displayed in the Kentucky Derby Museum.

In 2020 she appeared as a contestant on the ABC game show To Tell the Truth where she stumped the celebrity panel. In 2019 Christine was featured in the Visit the USA; Kentucky Derby tourism film (part of the United Stories series) and was featured in the 2018 Netflix film 7 Days Out, a behind the scenes look at the Kentucky Derby.  In 2009 she partnered with Churchill Downs and Mattel to design the Official Barbie Derby hat, and in that same year her hats were featured on the official Kentucky Derby poster. Christine has been on Fox and Friends six times and the TODAY show eight times live from Churchill Downs where NBC calls her “The Milliner to the Triple Crown”. She has been named Featured Milliner of The Kentucky Derby six times and was the first milliner bestowed this title in Kentucky Derby history.

In 2022 she was commissioned a Kentucky Colonel - established in 1793 it is the highest title of honor bestowed by the Governor of Kentucky and recognizes an individual’s noteworthy accomplishments and outstanding service to the state of Kentucky and the nation. Christine is the official milliner for Breeders’ Cup, America’s Best Racing, the Iroquois Steeplechase, the Jim McKay Maryland Million Day, Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA), and featured designer at the Preakness Stakes, Keeneland, and the Florida Derby.

Christine’s hats have graced many magazine covers including InStyle with Katy Perry, Vanity Fair with Jennifer Lopez, Sophisticated LivingSENSE Magazine, the Baltimore Sun, and was the first milliner to be showcased on the cover of Churchill Downs Magazine. She has designed for Jewel, Kirsten Collins, Kate Upton, Steffi Graf, Tara Lipinsky, Al Roker, Deborah Roberts, Dylan Dreyer, Tori Kelly, various Miss Kentucky and Miss Connecticut USA winners and many others. Her hats have been showcased on television shows including Nashville, The Carrie DiariesGossip Girl, and Horse Players.  She currently hosts The Christine and Kirby Show, a weekly Instagram show with Kirby Adams, a feature reporter and news anchor for broadcast television.

Christine A. Moore Millinery is known for their fine finishing work, attention to detail and customer service. Her designs are light in weight creating a softer and more wearable product. Each hat is individually made with great care in NYC, USA. Check out some of her designs below for inspiration or view her full line at at camhats.com.

Jenny Pfanenstiel 

"A hat can not only change your day, but it can also change your life!" - Jenny Pfanenstiel

Jenny is a world-renown Milliner awarded and recognized for her skill of creating and sculpting hats by hand using the highest quality and rare materials from across the globe. The art of Millinery is a technique that dates back centuries through molding straw and felt over wooden hat forms which she takes great pride in applying with each one-of-a-kind hat, in addition to her unique process of sculpting hats on a braid machine from the 1800s. “The tradition of hats at the Kentucky Derby is just one of the distinctive things that make it such a sensational event and it is an honor to collaborate on one-of-a-kind head pieces that add to the beauty and special memories associated with America's Greatest Race.”

Jenny has crafted hats for some of the world's most well-known dignitaries and celebrities including Former First Lady Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Madonna, Neil Diamond, and Barbara Corcoran from the TV show "Shark Tank", to name a few. She has created exclusive hat collections for vineyard vines, J Peterman, Woodford Reserve, Goodman Theatre, Covet Fashion Style App, and the Joffrey Ballet and is a hat designer for McCall Patterns. In November 2015, Dover Publications published her methods in the book "The Making of a Milliner" to share her creativity with other aspiring Milliners. In 2019, she was selected as a Tory Burch Fellow through the Tory Burch Foundation as a woman entrepreneur.

Jenny is truly passionate about her craft and empowering those who wear her hats to feel confident and beautiful and looks forward to working with you to create that one of a kind piece.

Learn more about Jenny Pfanenstiel and view additional designs at www.formemillinery.com.

The Hat Girls

Born and raised in Louisville, Kate and Rachel have been best friends for over 20 years since attending high school together at duPont Manual. Upon graduating, they left Kentucky to explore their creativity in the world of fashion and beyond.

In 2013, from New York City & Las Vegas, they returned to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby as The Hat Girls, intent on creating wearable art for women from all walks of life. Utilizing their natural eye for design, the girls create everything from the classic "Southern Belle" style Derby hat to extravagant, show-stopping headpieces.

Kate Smith completed her study of fashion design at Columbia College in Chicago. Rachel Bell loves to create and is the consummate “people” person, with a flair for marketing The Hat Girls creations.

Whether you desire a funky fascinator or a couture millinery piece, The Hat Girls have you covered for the Kentucky Derby and all other special occasions!

Learn more about The Hat Girls and view more of their designs at thehatgirls.com.