Hat History: Derby Hats

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We have all seen the amazing, extravagant styles at the racetrack. Horse races like the Kentucky Derby are known for their fashion just as much as the races themselves. But when did the hats become larger than life?

The creator of the Kentucky Derby, Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr., loved the refined qualities of The Derby Stakes in England so much that he decided to create his own high end horse race in the United States.

Up until this point horse races were known for drinking and gambling and were usually frequented by the general public, something that high society women would be hesitant to attend. To fix this issue Meriwether and his wife enlisted the women of Louisville to attend in their finest "morning dress" to create a fashionable element to the new races, making the Kentucky Derby synonymous with the newest fashion of the season. Because of the dress code, hats and gloves were required. The races began in 1875, a time when hats were worn to most outdoor occasions,  so the women wore modest styles that were extremely fashionable but not outlandish.

The hats didn't become statement pieces until the 1960's, when women used the Kentucky Derby as an excuse to wear their most extreme styles because hats were no longer required everyday wear. The hats grew in size and brighter in color and were used as a way to stand out from the crowd.

Today the Kentucky Derby and other horse races across the nation hold contests for the most outlandish, elegant or creative styles. Hats and fascinators vary from professionally created and designed to handmade works of art.

Whichever style you choose, we hope to see you at the races!

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