Monday, May 5, 2014

Talk Derby to Me!

It was fun to stop by WISH TV's Indy Style on my way to Churchill Downs to promote the Hat Over Heels luncheon and share a bit of my hat collection.
I went to the Kentucky Derby for the first time in 2002.  As a life-long horse lover and fashion fan, it had long been a "bucket list" item for me, and it remains one of my favorite all-time birthday gifts.  Uninitiated and unsure what to expect, I remember what I wore to my inaugural Derby - camel linen capris and a subdued, floppy woven sunhat.  It was straw-colored and unembellished, completely unremarkable in every way.  As we trekked the mile or so from our parking spot to the entrance of Churchill Downs, I marveled at the parade of hats - some elegant, some outrageous, and some downright silly. I knew within an hour of being there that I'd return to the Derby, and that I'd be more adventurous with my choice of headwear!

Over the years, I've become more and more enamored with hats in general and wear them often in everyday life.  Not surprisingly, as my comfort level with wearing a hat has increased, my Derby weekend hats have, indeed, become increasingly more elaborate.  My friend, KimAnn, calls this "hat courage," and we were honored to talk about the subject on WISH TV's Indy Style last week while promoting the IMA Fashion Arts Society's Hat Over Heels luncheon (If you're interested, you can see the segment here).  
There's no such thing as "over the top" when it comes to hats for the Oaks and Derby, and all things pink are celebrated on Oaks day, as both men and women dress for a "Pink Out."
For this year's Kentucky Oaks (the filly race on the Friday before the Derby), I wanted to mimic the cottage rose garden on my $30 ebay dress.  I already had the brown satin hat, and a quick trip to Hobby Lobby provided the other elements I needed to create a Mad Hatter's "hatstravaganza" embellished with all manner of flowers, butterflies,and feathers.  The finishing touch was a metallic pink, laser cut acrylic monogram from Etsy.  This hat is not the sort of thing I'd wear anywhere else, but for Derby weekend, it's go big or go home!  
Though my Kentucky Oaks horse of choice, Fashion Plate, didn't place, I did score a pink enamel and gold bit embellished cuff that matches my pink Bodhi Safety Pin Clutch in the Churchill Downs gift shop.  Derby weekend is also a rare occasion when even my husband will indulge my passion for spectators, donning a classic pair with Vineyard Vines horseshoe embroidered seersucker pants and a belt featuring the iconic mint julep.
And, while hats are certainly the focal point of Derby fashion, they are also just the crowning glory for a coordinated ensemble.  The little details -like a matching handbag and cuff with equestrian details - pull the whole look together.  I'll also mention footwear.  It's tempting to wear elegant heels, and hundreds (maybe thousands) of women do, but I find it completely impractical given the amount of walking and uneven terrain involved in the Derby experience.  Thus, this year I swapped the chocolate satin platform heels I like best with this dress for a pair of lightweight cork-soled sandals, which I dressed up with pink satin roses that clip on to the vamp.  While I saw countless women who were limping and/or barefoot by day's end, I was completely comfortable.  Kudos to the enterprising street vendors selling rubber flipflops outside the exit gates, though.  They did a stellar business with the stiletto wearing crowd!
Jen bet on the Oaks champion (No. 13 in the foreground of the bottom photo), and her outfit was also a winner.  Her husband's coordinated look was the perfect complement. 
Our friends, Jen and Sergio, attended the Oaks and Derby for the first time this year.  Unlike me so many years ago, Jen exhibited her hat courage right out of the gate!  She looked smashing for the Oaks on Friday in a watercolor silk blouse, classic pearls, and wide brimmed rose colored chapeau.  Her Derby day attire completed a wardrobe exacta, and we unintentionally coordinated our Derby day looks in shades of blue and green.  Curious?  I'll feature our "Derby Day Blues" in tomorrow's post!

Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!
Interested in developing your own hat courage?  You may enjoy these posts:

Today I'm linking up with Style Crone for more fabulous hats at Hat Attack!


  1. Hat Courage! A phrase that I can relate to and you have plenty of it. I am taken with your hat collection and your creativity with your Derby hat. Gorgeous! Thank you for sharing with Hat Attack!

    1. Thank you, Judith! Your own collection is constant inspiration!