The Kentucky Derby is a chance for cowgirls to express their inner Southern Belle. The race’s founder, Colonel M. Lewis Clark, Jr., had a vision for an experience that felt both comfortable and luxurious.

Today, a myriad of fashions can be found at Derby–from cool sundresses to simple cocktail dresses and even more formal attire. But all these styles have one thing in common: the big Derby hat! Part Southern tradition, part spectacle, the Kentucky Derby hat parade is much of what makes “The Greatest Two Minutes in Sports” one of the greatest people-watching events in the world!

The long-established fashion statement was started with Col. Clark Jr.’s vision for the Derby that quickly became just as much about the fashion as the racing.  The extravagant hats that have become associated with the Kentucky Derby did not really come around until the 1960s, when social fashion norms loosened up and the presence of television gave women a reason to stand out. The hats became larger, brighter, and more extravagant.

Today, the Kentucky Derby is a bucket list event for horse lovers who might want to don a big, extravagant hat and sip mint juleps at one of the most beautiful and important horse parks in the country. Although the main event, the Kentucky Derby takes place on May 6, plan on spending Kentucky Derby Week in the splendor of Southern hospitality.

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