Fancy Hats And Colorful Suits: How The Kentucky Derby Became A Fashion Statement


The Kentucky Derby is more than just speedy horses and tasty mint juleps; it’s also a chance to show off your finest attire.

Thousands of people go to Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, each year to see and be seen in their fancy attire. The Kentucky Derby is so influential that even people that didn’t manage to get a ticket to the race, dress up at home while placing a bet on popular racing books such as TwinSpires.

But how did the Kentucky Derby become so fashionable? Let’s take a look at the history and evolution of Derby fashion.

Evolution of Kentucky Derby Fashion

The Early Years: Simple Elegance

Back in 1875, when the Kentucky Derby first started, fashion was all about simple elegance. Men wore three-piece suits, and women wore long dresses with gloves. The focus was on sophistication and class, rather than trying to outdo one another. How quaint!

That is one of the main reasons why the Kentucky Derby turned into a fashion statement. It set the right foundation and criteria from the beginning and managed to stick to it for a long time.

The 1920s: Jazz Age Glamour

The Kentucky Derby saw a fashion revival in the 1920s. Women began to appreciate shorter hemlines, beaded gowns, and feathered headbands as the Jazz Age progressed.

Men joined in the fun as well, ditching their three-piece suits in favor of more colorful choices. The Kentucky Derby suddenly became less about the horses and more about who was wearing what.

The 1960s: Mod Style

The 1960s was a time of transition, and the Kentucky Derby fashion was no exception. With shorter hemlines, vivid prints, and geometric patterns, mod style swept over.

Hats were also popular, with women wearing pillbox hats and men wearing fedoras and boater hats. Instead of just blending in with the crowd, the Derby became a place to display your personality and style.

The 1980s: Bold and Bright

Ah, the 1980s. A time of neon, enormous hair, and, presumably, gigantic hats. The Kentucky Derby dress culture in the 1980s was all about being colorful and flashy, with ladies wearing enormous fascinators and men wearing top hats bigger than the horses.

It was a moment of extravagance, and the attire at the Derby reflected it.

The Present Day: Classic with a Twist

The Kentucky Derby fashion scene today is a mash-up of classic and current fashions. While classic hats and suits remain popular, there is a shift toward more modern and daring designs.

Fascinators are still a popular item, but they’ve evolved into something more avant-garde and creative. Suits for men have gotten more fitting and colorful, and there is even a trend toward wearing shoes with formal clothes.

The Kentucky Derby dress scene has evolved into a location where traditional meets contemporary and distinctive taste is recognized.

What to Wear on the 2023 Kentucky Derby

If you’re going to the Kentucky Derby, you should definitely be thinking about how to dress. While there is no particular dress requirement, the typical guideline is to wear your Sunday best.

For males, this implies a suit and tie or a blazer and formal pants.

Ladies can wear a dress or a skirt and blouse, and hats are strongly preferred. In fact, the larger and more complex the hat, the better!

Remember to wear comfy shoes because you’ll be on your feet all day.

And don’t be afraid to have some fun with your attire – the Kentucky Derby is a venue to show off your particular flair, so be bold and expressive.

To Sum Up

Finally, the fashion legacy of the Kentucky Derby has evolved throughout time, reflecting changing times and societal attitudes.

The Kentucky Derby has long been a place to show off one’s particular style, from basic elegance to Jazz Age splendor, mod flair to flamboyant and brilliant, and classic with a twist.

Therefore, the next time you go to the Kentucky Derby, wear something that reflects your individuality and flair. After all, the horses are fantastic, but it’s the apparel that steals the show.