How to be the best dressed at the Derby

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Scout Hardin

Kentucky’s favorite time of the year has arrived, and Kentucky Derby festivities have begun! Whether you plan to spend May 7 at the tracks or partying with friends, you should prepare yourself for celebration, good bourbon and dressing to the nines.

Whether you are a transplant or a native, we all know what the most exciting two minutes in sports are really about — and it’s not the horses. The thoroughbreds are a perfect excuse for big hats, seersucker suits and sundresses. But how does someone going to the tracks decide what to wear? Derby style is a precarious balance of elegance, functionality and a little bit of whimsy. The key to fashion for Derby festivities is to dress for your event.

No day at the races is complete for a Southern lady without a Derby hat. For me, simplicity is key, but many people do not share my opinion. The array of headwear at the tracks ranges from minimal adornments to comical conversation pieces. Regardless of which Derby function you attend, a bonnet, sun hat and fascinator are non-negotiable.

For a brunch, I say break out the cocktail dress. If you are feeling wild, go for a crisp jumpsuit. The look you are going for is formal and elegant. Accessories include a clutch, your most fabulous fascinator and a tasty mimosa.

Going to a garden party? Lucky you! This is your moment to channel your inner Southern belle. In terms of style, you can dress much more casually than you would at a brunch. Sweet sundresses are a Derby favorite; pair with pearls for optimum Kentucky charm.

If you are lucky enough to be spending your Derby or Oaks day at Churchill Downs, go all out! This is your time to stand out. If you are going to the outfield, however, I suggest you wear something that holds no sentimental value because someone’s very likely to spill a drink on it.

Wear something that will give your fellow Derby-goers a run for their money. Put on your hat, pick your horse and head off to the races!