148 Years Of Kentucky Derby Fashion: What Changed?

The Kentucky Derby is one of the biggest races on the international equine calendar. However, throughout its history, it has also become an event that has transcended fashion. Nowadays, the race is an excuse for many to get dressed to the nines, and many traditions have become a staple of how Racegoers dress for the big day at Churchill Downs. 

However, what are some of the long-standing traditions in Derby Day fashion, and have any of these trends continued to pass the test of time and remain prominent leading up to the Kentucky Derby in 2023?

Early Derby Fashion

When the Derby was created, there was a long-standing belief that fashion would become a huge part of the day. That was first evident in the 1900s, as hats were a key factor behind any style that a racegoer chose to wear. Hats continue to be a long-standing tradition that we still see to this day.

However, the dresses worn by female visitors have often changed throughout the era. During the Edwardian era, the preferred choice among visitors were tight corsets, with dresses brushing the floor. However, this period would be the final one were corsets were part of day-to-day wear for females. 

If you read more about the Kentucky Derby history you also will find that during this period feathers were situated on hats. Plus, wavy fashionable hair was styled by almost every woman in attendance at Churchill Downs. 

90s Fashion

By the time that the 90s got underway, long dresses were replaced by shorter and more comfortable attire by Racegoers. In the 1960s it was an exciting time in the Western World, and the hats grew wider and more extravagant in their designs. This enabled visitors to be more creative with their designs, and they were able to put their own personalities into the headwear that they adopted. 

It was during this period that ‘feminists’ were increasing in popularity, and this was also evident in the fashion during the time. This ensured that the standard and traditional wear that many females opted to wear was changing, with these styles often overlooked in favor of edgier and against-the-grain styles. 

Many women during this period would instead opt for miniskirts or pantsuits, while the growing number of female designers and fashion icons set trends that many female Racegoers would follow. 

Nowadays Fashion

The styles of the Derby have transcended fashion throughout its history, and there are many styles that have been able to set the tone for Derby Day attire. The most prominent of those remains the hat, which many Racegoers purchase months in advance before the big day. 

It was not only the continued trend at the Derby that ensured that hats remained in fashion, but the popularity of Royal Weddings in the United States also ensured that the eyes of the world were never far away from the headwear that many decided to stick with. 

As for the clothing style, there is now a very laid back approach when it comes to the Derby, as the dress rules have been relaxed significantly in the past couple of years. 

Therefore, many spectators often dress in clothes that they feel most comfy in, while taking into account the temperatures at Churchill Downs is also important. On hot days, most opt to wear cotton sundresses, while jumpsuits remains exceptionally popular, especially among those that are situated in the central enclosures. 

The Derby takes into account everything great about fashion, and enables all styles to be adopted. This often ensures that a bright and colourful Derby future awaits for many that look beyond the day of racing when it comes to the big afternoon at Churchill Downs.