With the Kentucky Derby Festival underway it is now time to talk about horseracing and fashion. Normally one would not think that those words would go hand in hand but here in Louisville
Kentucky they certainly do. Women, and now men alike, begin planning their outfits soon after the new year is celebrated and finding the perfect hat is the first step. They can go from the most opulant of
millinery creations worn by those in Millionaire’s Row and the other seated areas of Churchhill Downs to the amusing character showpieces in the more fun filled arena of the racetrack known as the infield. Spring fashions are sported by women and men alike, with the women wearing spring dresses and the men showing off wonderfully colored suits, often in seersucker fabrics.
There are two opportunities to show off your millinery masterpieces, The Kentucky Derby, with the 3 year old thoroughbreds taking the track and The Kentucky Oaks with the fillies running the race. If you attend the Oaks race the only dress code set forth is PINK! Both ladies and gentlemen sport pink fashions this day. This tradition began in 2006 in support of breast cancer awareness and the Susan G. Komen for the Cure and Horses for Hope, donating a portion of the ticket sales to the fight against breast cancer.
The hats of both the Kentucky Derby and the Kentucky Oaks are as important as the races themselves. The Derby Hat Parade as it is often called, refers to the sea of colorful hats of all shapes and sizes, boasting flowers, ribbons, beads and feathers among other things worn by the women. The men also sports hats and while more of a traditional vintage style they come in many colors as well.
The history of fashion started with Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr., the founder of the Kentucky Derby in
1875. Typically most horse racetracks attracted seedy immoral people,gambling and drinking went hand in hand, so a racetrack was not a place for women or children, but he wanted more for his venue. He
envisioned a wealthy influential society that was customary to the famous Epsom racetrack in England. He and his wife set out to convince the residents of Louisville that the Kentucky Derby was a place for upper class society and with that came high society fashion. Matt Winn took over as the face of Churchhill Downs and promoted the racetrack as a place for “see and be seen events” for women and celebrities alike.
Today’s Churchhill Downs hosts people from all walks of life, locals, out of towners, celebrities, millionaires,presidents and royal family members, all wearing their hats, come to watch the ‘Run for the Roses’.