My husband and I live minutes away from a thoroughbred horse racing track, Arlington Park Racetrack. This year my youngest brother’s birthday fell on the Kentucky Derby, so we celebrated with him by spending the day at the racetrack. Interestingly, I found out the night before that if you attend the horse races on Derby Day, you simply must wear a Derby hat. Apparently, it is quite the fashion faux pax not to wear a hat, but even if that wasn’t the case, it is still a fun thing to do.
I read up a bit on the tradition of wearing hats to the horse races, especially since we do not see men or women wearing them in this day and age, unless of course they are the ball cap variety, or the winter hat type. The tradition of wearing hats to the Kentucky Derby started in 1875, when the founder of the race, Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr., modeled the race after high class European racing events. At the time, these events were seen as places of vice and ill repute. So, he and his wife went on a campaign throughout Louisville, Kentucky to convince his target clientele, that the new race track was a place for the upper class. They promoted that a race such as the Kentucky Derby, was going to be a see-and-be-seen affair so that more women would attend. The tradition of the huge hats did not really begin until the 1960s, when television made women want to stand out more. In the 1970s and 1980s, the devotion to hats dropped a bit, but picked back up in the 1990s and has really experienced a resurgence in the last decade, thanks to the royal wedding in 2011.
I saw some very interesting hats while at the race track. The pictures are not super great because I was being a stealthy picture taker.
Some chose the English fascinator look ala Princess Beatrice.
Some went with the understated country garden look. And yes, that is a camel in the background. Your eyes are not playing tricks on you.
Others just went big and red, matching their clothes to their hat.
This was a sea of straw hats with many bows, feathers, and flowers as far as the eye could see.
This personally was one of my favorites. It is a little hard to see, however there is a whole row of My Little Ponies attached to the brim of her hat.
This was my hat. I borrowed the hat from my mom and had this huge flower from Target that I use for something else. I attached the flower to the ribbon that was already around the hat, and voila.
Here are me, my mom and my brother’s girlfriend in our lovely Derby Hats.
We had fun wearing our Derby Hats for the day. We did not go all out on our dress since it was cold that day and we had to dress for warmth, but our hats gave us a little Derby spirit. –June