Ladies, hats may come and go from fashion, but we all know you can't look truly stylish at the Kentucky Derby unless you are sporting a chic chapeau. From the elegant to the outrageous, from glamorous to the ... well, just plain bizarre, headwear of all shapes and sizes is on display at Churchill Downs, not to mention at Derby parties around the state.
A hat of some sort has traditionally been worn at the annual Run for the Roses since the first race in 1875. However, hats then were a much more sedate affair, part of everyday attire. Any accompanying flowers were worn as a corsage. Even after headwear went out of fashion, it remained a popular choice at the races. After all, a hat not only looked stylish, but it also served a practical purpose of protection from the sun.
In the 1980s the Derby became an excuse for wearing larger hats, and over the years, milliners have been kept busy as they strive to create the elegant and the outrageous. Recent years have seen horse-shaped hats, replicas of Churchill Downs, pink flamingos and what can only be described as huge confections of cotton-candy netting.
The price tags for a Derby hat can be as extravagant as the hat itself. With just a few simple steps, you, too, can make a stunning creation worthy of a place on Millionaire's Row.
- Derby hats tend to be large, so if you are fairly petite, don't choose something so huge that it will overwhelm your body. You are wearing the hat, not vice versa.
- How will you wear your hair? A style that pulls it back off your face is a good idea. That way, you can showcase the hat.
- To get ideas for your hat, look online at photos from previous years' Derbys. Pick out a few favorites-along with a few of the worst. Do you have a specific outfit or color in mind? Since you want the hat to be the focus of your outfit, keep your dress or suit stylish, but simple.
Making your hat:
Local craft stores are an excellent place to search for your hat decorations and to seek advice on putting your creation together. The staff at Dee's Crafts in Louisville custom-makes hats or can help you custom design one and give you tips on how to put it together at home. Dee's owner Kathy Olliges offers the following advice for making your own Derby hat:
1. Choose a hat to use as your base. A good-quality straw hat is usually easy to work with. Try on the hat to get a sense of whether you like the size and to ensure that it fits properly. Try shaping the brim at different angles to see what suits you.
2. Decide on decorations. Ribbons, lace, feathers, flowers, netting-anything goes! Don't be afraid to pick something bigger than you normally would consider. One large, bold flower with a complement of feathers or ribbons can be much more dramatic than a few smaller ones. Daylilies are featured on many Derby hats. Play around with ideas and decide where to place each item before you begin gluing.
3. Apply the decorations carefully to the hat with craft glue. Start with the larger items, and then attach the smaller pieces. Be sure to apply enough glue to hold the pieces firmly, but not so much that it seeps through.
If you would prefer something smaller, a fascinator allows you to make a statement without the bulk of a hat. Use a hair comb as your base and decorate it with a shock of feathers. Netting and a touch of sparkle add some pizazz.
Whatever type of hat you choose, the Kentucky Derby is your opportunity to dress up like a Southern belle for the day, so experiment, be daring, and, most of all, have fun.