Take her out shopping for a new outfit and wide-brimmed hat for this year’s Kentucky Derby! Make sure you hurry because it may just be too because this year’s 142nd annual event starts on Saturday May 7th.
The true devoted attendees began in February to plan their attire.
What is the deal with the hats and the mint juleps anyway?
You might be surprised to know that this tradition was not built on happenstance. It was a strategic plan to transform an ill-repute horse race into a high-society event.
So while you may not want to fight the crowds of 170,000 plus people, you may be interested to know how this crazy event all started.
This weeks Monday Morning Mojo is sure to make you want to add a little extra class in your Saturday this week!
Have a great week!
Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr., the founder of the Kentucky Derby, probably did not envision his success in terms of feathered hats and fascinators.
Once upon a time the Kentucky Derby was “not a place for women and certainly not a place for children,” said Wendy Treinen, a spokeswoman from the Kentucky Derby Museum.
Inspired by trips to London’s Epsom Derby and Paris’ Grand Prix — posh events that attracted an elegant crowd — Clark sought in the 1870s to transform American racetracks from places associated with immorality and vice to venues that might attract a wealthier, more noble set. With the help of his wife, he went on a campaign throughout Louisville, Ky. to convince his target clientele that the new race track was in fact a place for the upper-class.
“He loaded up a wagon full of high society women and they were going door-to-door telling their friends, ‘We’re going to have a picnic at the racetrack,’” Treinen said. “He really tried to break down this [stigma].”
At the time, the media speculated that if the track could be transformed into a place of fashion, all the investment that went into the world-class venue would pay off. And it did.
“Women coordinated their hats, dresses, bags, their shoes and their parasols,” said Ellen Goldstein, a professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology. “To go to a horse racing event was really a regal affair. It was just as important as going to a cocktail party, or a ball.
In 1925, a race marked by a disastrous downpour, the Washington Post reporter covering the Derby wrote extensively about the damage to women’s clothing before ever acknowledging the winner of the race (a black stallion named Flying Ebony).
While fashion always played a central role in the Derby, the flamboyant titanic hats that have become routine photog fodder at each year’s races didn’t make their debut until the 1960s, when social fashion norms loosened up and the ubiquity of television gave women an added incentive to stand out in the crowd.
“The hats became larger, more avant-garde,” Treinen said. “Formalities dropped away, the hats had more prints, they were brighter.”
Over the years, the styles have changed, but the high society feel lives on and continues to attract popularity; breaking records in 2015 with attendees totaling 170,513!
Feldman, Emily “A Brief History of the Kentucky Derby’s Most Famous Accessory”, NBC New York