Horses have been racing at Churchill Downs since 1875, and attendees were always expected to be decked out in their Sunday best. However, it was not until the 1960’s that women began to make more of a fashion statement with the outfits that they wore, in particular with their hats, opting for bold, bright and big as much as possible. It did not take long for the Kentucky Derby hats to become a highlight of the entire event, even spawning television shows and special features on the hats that were worn each year.

Hats for the 2016 Kentucky Derby
This year, expect to see plenty of fascinators worn at the Kentucky Derby, a trend that originated in the UK thanks to royal bride Kate Middleton. Consisting of woven discs that are topped with elegant feathers and chic netting, fascinators are much simpler to wear and style than a hat, and will also not leave you with dreaded hat hair. While dainty fascinators may be one of the hat trends this year, you can also expect to see a number of wide brims. This is down to the fact that shoulder-baring fashion is everywhere this season, and wide-brimmed hats manage to beautifully balance out exposed shoulders.

Women at a derby

Sergei Bachlakov /

Kentucky Derby Fashion
There is no denying that the hats take center stage at the Kentucky Derby, but that does not mean that the rest of the outfit is free from scrutiny. Dresses are usually a must, but since the Kentucky Derby falls on the first Saturday of May, the weather can be quite unpredictable, which needs to be kept in mind when choosing a dress. In terms of shoes, those that are attending the Kentucky Derby for the first time are usually seen in stylish high heels, but seasoned attendees will know how tricky those cobblestoned paths can be, and will be wearing some cute flats for easy and convenient navigation. When it comes to bags, this is another aspect where Kentucky Derby veterans stand out, as they will usually be carrying two bags with them. The first would be a sleek clutch, ideal for placing bets and working the crowd, while the second would be a larger tote, used to store any extra items.

Hats for Men?
While some men do choose to don a headpiece to the Kentucky Derby, the majority of them do not, choosing instead to dress in eye-catching colors. From vibrant red pants to dress shirts in bright yellows and oranges, color can be seen everywhere on the men at the Derby, which, when paired with the hats worn by their female partners, makes for quite the fashion spectacle.

The hat that you choose to wear to the Kentucky Derby does not need to be elaborately over the top, and can instead be a simple yet stylish headpiece. Whether you opt for a wide-brimmed botanical delight or a subtle and dainty fascinator, the hat that you wear to the Kentucky Derby is an extension of your style and personality, so be sure to choose wisely!