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Women's Fashion through the Years at the Kentucky Derby

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Walk through Louisville on the first Saturday of May and you might just feel like you're at a fashion show. Throughout the years women have been saving their absolute best to wear to this event. Colonel M. Lewis Clark Jr., the founder of the Kentucky Derby, had a vision of a relaxed and opulent environment that would be reminiscent of European horse racing. Thanks to Colonel Clark's vision the Kentucky Derby started as a place for the elite of society to show off their finest fashions inside Churchill Downs. While the infield at the Derby has an "anything goes" atmosphere only rivaled by Bourbon Street at Mardi Gras.

What Women Originally Wore at the Kentucky Derby

At the start of the Derby women wore ankle-lenth dresses with slim silhouettes accessorizing with gloves, parasols and, of course, the iconic Derby hat. In it's inaugural year the ladies Derby hats were smallish with veils, bonnets, or small brimmed straw hats. As the years passed and the conservative guidelines for women's dress relaxed the option of wearing a suit or a dress. Inb the 1900's millinery truly became an art and the hats grew in size and were adorned with feathers, silk flowers, ribbon and tulle.

In the '30s and '40s suits became more popular than dresses. With the economic upswing of the 1950s the fashion at the derby became elegant suits with billowing skirts, hats and gloves were the popular garb. When it came time for the Derby in the '60s many of the rules regulating fashion were broken. The hats became the truly opulent spectacle that we've come to know today. The skirts shortened and patterns and colors became more vibrant.

The 1970's saw the hemline drop as women returned to wearing long skirts to the Derby. The fantastic hats were still worn, but gloves had fallen out of fashion. The Derby hats for women have only continued to get more incredible since. Since the '90s the dress has begun to have a stronger showing than the suit for women at the Derby. Gloves are still out of fashion, but the popularity of the hats has never waned.

Kentucky Derby Fashion Today

This year it is expected that in addition to the wide-brimmed festooned hats we've come to identify with the Derby, there will also be fascinators adorning many women's heads. This is due to the popularity fascinators have gained since the Royal Wedding in 2011. There are plenty of original styles to choose from today if you want to look your best at the derby, whether you want to go with a more traditional hat or a unique and colorful fascinator.

Ultimately, there are even more options today than there were many years ago, as the retro looks from decades ago are still fashionable. Whether you want a style that harks back to the mid-1900s or something more contemporary, you’re likely to fit in when the derby approaches in 2018 and beyond.

If you want some of the best hats and fascinators available for the Kentucky Derby and other occasions, Gold Coast Couture offers a wide selection of hats that can match your style. You’ll look great at the derby or any other occasion with our hats and accessories. From old-fashioned elegance to more modern and vibrant styles, we carry what you need for the perfect experience at the derby.