Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Toast to the Oaks

This is one of my favorite images from this year's Kentucky Oaks. I met Brenda during the Longines Kentucky Oaks Fashion Contest and we bonded immediately over a shared love for vintage looks. Her Gatsy-inspired ensemble was just perfect.
I still remember my first visit to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby in 2002. The tickets were a bucket list birthday gift. I'm a big fan of shared experiences over "stuff" when it comes to gifts, and to this day it's one of the most memorable I've ever received. At the time, and for a few years yet after that, the ticketing process was antiquated but endearing for those who were not track regulars: there was no online registration; there was no mad dash to the computer at exactly 12 pm on a pre-specified date; there wasn't even a specific "form" to fill out and mail in. Rather, you had to write a letter requesting your tickets. If your letter was chosen, you'd be notified by mail that you'd been selected to purchase tickets. If you were caught scalping, you'd get blacklisted the next year.
Waiting with four of my fellow Top Ten finalists while the judges deliberated. I loved all of these looks,  as well as each woman's commitment to her own personal "pink out" style.
That first year, I didn't even know what the Kentucky Oaks was, beyond the fact that it was a filly race the day before the Derby and you had to buy tickets to both races as a package deal. I didn't even have a different hat for each day (gasp!) As it turns out, having now attended the both the Oaks and the Derby several times, I can say without eqivocation that Oaks Day is my favorite. Maybe it's because there is so much anticipation at the beginning of a full and fabulous weekend; maybe it's because everyone and everything feels fresh and new on Oaks Day; maybe it's because it's a bit less crowded (though not much); maybe it's because it has never rained on Oaks Day when I've been there (I've been soaked on Derby Day a few times); or maybe, just maybe, it's because everything is a color-coordinated sea of pinks in every hue (even "blush" and "bashful" for those Steel Magnolias fans out there).
With Monte Durham from Say Yes to the Dress Atlanta on the pink carpet at the Longines Kentucky Oaks Fashion Show.
While Derby Day attire runs the gamut from couture to crazy and every shade of the rainbow is on glorious display, there is something undeniably special about the Kentucky Oaks "Pink Out." The Pink Out is the visual personification of a seven year partnership between Churchill Downs and Bright Pink, the only national non-profit organization that focuses on the prevention and early detection of breast and ovarian cancer in young women. The bunting around the track is pink; the drinks are pink; the celebrity "red carpet" is pink; the escort horses wear pink; the flowers are pink; and, of course, pink hats are de rigueur.
Monte said yes to my dress!
Swiss watchmaker Longines, the official Sponsor of the Kentucky Oaks, is also a big supporter of the Pink Out, hosting the Longines Kentucky Oaks Fashion Contest, which takes place on the pink carpet and each year includes a bevy of celebrity judges and a personal style extravaganza for the crowd of more than 100,000 attendees to enjoy between races. This year's judges included Monte Durham from TLC's "Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta," World Cup Alpine Skier Mikaela Shiffrin, and E! News Correspondent Alicia Quarles.
Press interviews on the pink carpet following the Longines Kentucky Oaks Fashion Contest
Though I've enjoyed watching the fashion show before, this was the first year I decided be a part of it. I was, to say the least, shaking with surprise when the judges selected me as this year's Longines Kentucky Oaks Fashion Contest winner! As if that weren't enough, the prize was a Longines Conquest Classic watch in stainless steel and 18K pink gold (of course) with diamonds surrounding the mother of pearl dial and marking the hours. Classic elegance at its best, I look forward to wearing it for years to come.
The Longines Conquest Classic in 18K pink gold and stainless is set with 30 Top Wesselton VVS diamonds encircling the case and an additional 12 diamonds marking the hours. All the details of this timeless timepiece can be found here.
Winning the contest felt extra-special because I was wearing a vintage 1950s necklace and bracelet that had belonged to my Grandmother Dorothy. She was truly a woman of style, both in terms of her wardrobe and the way she lived her life. She was a long-time breast cancer survivor, and one of the strongest women I've ever known. As is often the case, I felt her there in spirit with me on the pink carpet. 
Chicago based milliner Loreta Corsetti incorporated a memento I saved from last year's Kentucky Oaks into this year's hat to coordinate with my dress.
The champagne theme on my Bernie Dexter dress was carried through to the Kate Spade "champagne bucket" purse. Even the hat pin created by Chicago-based milliner Loreta Corsetti was custom designed to coordinate with the dress, and incorporated a gold Moet champagne funnel that I had saved as a memento from last year's Kentucky Oaks. The whole ensemble was a toast to my grandmother and a toast to the Oaks!
Vintage beads hand sewn onto the brocade base add dimension and sparkle to the hat , which looks deceptively simple from afar but begs to be admired up close. If you're a fan of unique hats, be sure to check out my friend, the Style Crone, too.
...and about that hat...Everyone knows the hat is the most important element of an Oaks or Derby Day look. This was the first time I didn't wear a wide-brimmed hat to Churchill Downs. Though more compact than many of the hats on display, the construction and details are exquisite. Loreta handcrafts each of her one of a kind headpieces, spending countless hours incorporating vintage beads and other unique elements, all of which are hand sewn to the base, never glued. It's no surprise her couture chapeaus are in high demand at Derby time, and I'm beyond thrilled to wear her artwork and to call her my friend.
Jennifer Judkins, center, of Longines, along with Longines Ambassador of Elegance and World Cup Alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin, second left, and celebrity judges Monte Durham, left, and Alicia Quarles, right, present Jody DeFord, of Indianapolis, with a Longines Conquest Classic after she won the Longines Kentucky Oaks Fashion Contest on Kentucky Oaks Day, Friday, May 1, 2015, in Louisville, Ky. Longines, the Swiss watch manufacturer known for its luxury timepieces, is the Official Watch and Timekeeper of the 141st annual Kentucky Derby. (Photo by Diane Bondareff/Invision for Longines/AP Images)
Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!
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  1. Congratulations on winning the contest, which was so well deserved. I love your headwear and you are a vision, with your vintage jewelry and gorgeous dress. Thank you for sharing your beauty with Hat Attack!

  2. Gorgeous!!! Your one-of-a-kind custom made chapeau is so BEAUTIFUL with all the hand sewn vintage details! I love how you tied in the champagne theme with your accessories. A truly wonderful event to wear PINK for such an amazing cause and a beautiful way to honor your grandmother! Congratulations!!!! on winning the Most Elegant Lady Title!!!! Well deserved and hands down MY MOST FAVORITE pink derby day look!

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