Did you ever wonder why we wear elaborate hats to the Kentucky Derby? Well, the history of the Kentucky Derby goes back to the Derby Stakes in Britain, known here in the States as the Epsom Derby. The Epsom Derby was first run in 1780 and is the highest-purse horse race in Britain.
In 1873, Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr. visited Europe, taking in the Epsom Derby and the Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp. He returned home to Louisville and organized the race now known as the Kentucky Derby, looking toward these races for inspiration for track design, race length and other details. When the Kentucky Derby began in 1875, Kentucky ladies wore their finest to the races, just as their British counterparts did. Of course, in those days, finery included a chapeau, and the tradition stuck.
If you think about it, we still kind of look to the Brits for millinery fashion. Around the time Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice and Duchess Kate began wearing fascinators and small, snug-fitting hats to weddings and races, we started to see those styles around the track in Louisville as well.
Here's to Derby style and gorgeous chapeaux! Happy Derby week, y'all!