As all of Louisville prepares for the "The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports," insiders know that the dress code for the Kentucky Derby includes a hat. With the Derby a little more than a month away, the race is on as Louisville prepares for the great day and area milliners prepare to dress the onlookers.
At a time when people do not dress up in daily life as they did in the past, the tradition of making a fashion statement with a hat lives on both among men and women. Hats supposedly bring luck , so spectators in the seated area and the infield alike don hats that draw as much attention as the horse race itself. For those who stand in the infield during the race, the hats are more whimsical. Though not "required" there, many hats make a social or political statement.
In the dress circle, women wear hats that match their simple elegant outfits. Often wide brimmed, lavishly trimmed, and expensive, the hats are made by exclusive milliners from Louisville and around the country, who use the finest Panama, Pariaisol, or Milan straw to hand block the creations and then decorate them with fine ribbons, veiling, hand sewn silk flower, and feathers. Even men don period hats, often reminiscent of the 20s. Before the race, the excitement for the parade of hats rivals that for the race in this rain-or-shine tradition. (Savvy spectators tuck a large clear plastic bag in their pocket in case of a downpour.)
While planning for the perfect hat is an important part of the Derby ritual, Louisville hat shops are creating exquisite millinery until post time for those who came to the city unprepared. Shops like Dee's Crafts on Shelbyville Road produce many custom hats for the Derby. The store encourages customers to view their online hat gallery and tell the staff the color and style the want for the finished hat. Some even bring in their outfits to assure a perfect match. Dee's also decorate plain hats brought in by customers and carries supplies for spectators who want to decorate their own hats.
Hats are just one part of the Louisville Derby traditions. Watch our blog and newsletter over the next month for more things that make Louisville a fun place to visit and a great place to live. The race is on!