Before you're off to the races for Derby Day parties, you must be properly dressed, literally from head-to-toe. Leave the LBD and understated chinos in the closet and embrace colors, pattern and accessories that show your derby style that’s sure to last a lot longer than the greatest two minutes in sports.
Houston women are fans of color and print for every occasion, so slipping into a springy floral print or pastel isn’t that much of a stretch, but this is an event where your hat should do the talking. Hats are considered good luck charms, and have a long history with derby fashion, plus it’s the blending of form and function on a hopefully sunny day.
“Hats are the most important accessory. They are the statement-makers and your dress should complement the hat,” Fady Armanious Tootsies creative director says.
Tootsies in West Ave. is the exclusive Houston retailer of Christine Moore Millinery, the official milliner of Kentucky Derby 144 and her handmade hats are the favorites of Katy Perry, Jennifer Lopez, Mary J. Blige and Today Show hosts. Her hats are adjustable and crafted with removable liners so women will avoid dreaded hat hair.
If the thought of buying an oversized hat seems intimidating, take your shoulders into consideration, because sometimes, bigger is not always better. Note shoulder width when trying on hats and skip the brim if it’s wider than your shoulders. Want to channel your inner royal with a fascinator? Have fun with it, but wear the fascinator opposite to the way you part your hair.
Derby fashion is democratic endeavor, so men also have the opportunity to dress up and put on pink, a very popular hue, especially on Kentucky Oaks Day. Pink is worn raise funds and drive national attention to the fight against breast and ovarian cancer.
Style for the gents
Belinda Hillhouse, stylist at M Penner in Uptown Park, has been dressing men for derby parties and the Kentucky Derby itself, and she’s encouraging gents to mix it up and don’t always do the expected.
“You see so much seersucker at the derby, so I would advise doing something different,” Hillhouse says. “A bright blue sports coat, pink shirt, white pants and a colorful tie—go decked out in true Southern style with a little more pizazz.”
Hillhouse attended the Kentucky Derby in 2015 and said all three days were full on fascinating people watching and plenty of style. “It’s amazing to see and people really do dress, so make sure and pay attention to the details.”
Details like socks in salmon, mint green and lavender, plus pocket squares, and of course, ties, preferably of the bowed persuasion. Carrot & Gibbs colorful bowties are especially popular, as are Finamore pocket squares, as well as straw and Panama hats. Despite the emphasis on hats being the style standout, shoes also play an important role. Men should slide into a pair that not only looks cool, but is also comfortable.
Make a statement
Armanious suggests whether heading to a party or the derby itself, it’s wise for women to invest in a flat sandal, and if needed, slip a pair of flip-flops into your handbag for a shoe switch.
Derby style is the ultimate embrace of spring, so revel in the beauty and kaleidoscope of colors. “It’s all about femininity and fun,” says Armanious. “We believe in dresses and beautiful hats and making a statement.”