How to Look Chic at the Kentucky Derby [Women's Fashion Edition!]

Posted by Niala Samnarine on Tue, Apr 30, 2013 @ 12:59 PM

When people hear Kentucky Derby™ two things usually come to mind: Horses and Fashion, specifically those hats!

My first glimpse at the spectacle that is Derby Fashion came during one of my all-time favorite movies, Pretty Woman. Who doesn’t remember that scene with Julia Roberts wearing a gorgeous, belted, brown and white polka-dotted dress with crisp white gloves, beautiful earrings and a matching white hat (with polka dot detailing)? Although times and fashion have changed, this still remains the recipe for a great Derby Day outfit.


The Hat

You could probably show up to the Derby in a garbage bag, as long as you had a fabulous hat to match! (We’re just kidding about the garbage bag) however, the hat is as much a part of the Derby as the race itself.  

Hats are usually wide-brimmed to protect the wearer from the sun, but also to accommodate all the ornate accessories and embellishments usually laden upon it. Some choose simpler hats with a single flower or ribbon accessory.


Others go all out including a combination of different flowers, ribbons, feathers, tulle, bows, frills and just about any other design element you can think of! With a Derby Hat your imagination and creativity are your only limits.


The Dress (Skirt or Pants!)

While the tradition of Derby Hats has remained consistent the standard for an outfit has changed. It’s a safe bet to go with a simple but well fitting dress (let the hat steal the show), however as fashion has evolved, so have the outfits seen at the Kentucky Derby.

Guests are now more daring and some great Derby Fashion moments have been born from those adventurous few. Maxi dresses and rompers which have never been the norm, look amazing paired with a Derby hat. Also a pencil skirt or full skirt with an in-season neon top and simpler hat would fit in at Churchill Downs.

At this year’s Macy’s Kentucky Derby Festival Fashion Show, the runway was populated by dresses but surprisingly shorts made a well-received appearance as well. Proving that fashion this year will be varied, unpredictable and fun! 

The Accessories

If you want to be the topic of a blog like our girl, Julia, then do as she did and accessorize! Her gloves, belt, jewelry and shoes made her outfit. It’s not uncommon for ladies to wear gloves of lace or other materials, and the skinny belted-dress trend will certainly be seen a great deal at Derby.

Other accessories to keep in mind are jewelry and shoes. Jewelry such as watches can serve two purposes of both practicality (don’t want to miss those post times) and fashion. Also donning the in-trend statement necklaces, earrings or more unconventional pieces can add to your Derby Day look. Shoes will range from sky high heels to comfortable, cute flats or sandals. Personally I like wedges, as they give you great height and are usually kinder to keep your feet in for an entire day versus regular heels.

Finally as a note to the practical: sunglasses and shoulder bag would be a great way to complete your outfit, protect your eyes and store all your stuff (also it’ll keep your hands free for cheering and holding Mint Juleps!)

The main thing to keep in mind is that Derby Day fashion is about incorporating your own style into the traditions of Churchill Downs AND having fun!

More Derby Fashion Tips


Topics: Archive

Subscribe to Email Updates

About the Bloggers

Kristen Doolan

Kristen Doolan was born and raised a Florida State Seminole. Making her way from Florida to North Carolina, Kristen achieved her B.S. in Business Adminstration, Marketing at The University of North Carolina Wilmington. She is an avid traveler, college football addict, beach bum and loves spending time with her family and friends. 

Jazzy Morgan

Jazzy Morgan is originally from London, England and a die-hard Manchester United Fan. She grew up in Connecticut and made the move down south in 2011 where she attended Winthrop University and received her B.S. in Family & Consumer Sciences and a minor in Marketing. Jazzy enjoys traveling, working out, reading her monthly Vogue & Cosmo and keeping up with fashion trends.

Recent Derby Posts