The Kentucky Derby is more than a horse race. It is a mood, an excitement and an atmosphere that create a culture around the track. The events and clothing tied to that culture can be traced back to 1875. Many of the seasonal festivities historically kicked off with black-tie charity balls and a Derby day hasn’t passed at the track without a celebration of festive hats. Below we will take a look back at some key fashion trends from past Derby affairs & explore today’s modern take on Derby Day style.
The fullness of the hips, enhanced by heavy fabrics, would now move to the rear. Daytime dresses were characterized by high necklines that were closed, v-shaped, or squared. Evening dresses often employed low necklines and luxurious fabrics of lace, silks, taffeta, and velvet.
This period saw the aggressive return of the bustle, as the lean line of the decade prior was replaced by a full curvy silhouette with somewhat exaggerated shoulders. The waistline was relatively low and it was almost always supported by a corset. The evening gowns of the day tended to be sleeveless and low-necked for young women, and as in the 1870s, and the emphasis firmly remained on the back of the skirt.
The shape of the decade was decidedly hourglass with huge leg o’ mutton sleeves, which remained fashionable until the late 1890s, and a wide trumpet-shaped skirt, which gave the illusion of a tiny waist.
Fashion was enjoying a renaissance in comfort, as waistlines were loose and even baggy for most of the decade. The year 1925 ushered in a new style for both day and evening wear with the “slip-on dress”; this playful piece gave the woman a boyish appearance as the dress was slipped over the head and loosely hung on the body without the benefit of a waistline.
In 1928, styles changed again as hemlines rose to the knee and the dresses became more fitted and flattering on the body. Cotton and wool were the popular fabrics of the decade.
Women wore dresses in a variety of colors that employed such feminine details as frothy layers over taffetas, lace, net, and chiffon. The silhouette was kind to a woman’s figure and often featured wide but soft shoulders, a corseted waist and full hips.
Young people were serious consumers during this decade and were quickly growing tired of the conservative 1950s. Designers responded with the creation of the miniskirt, which could be worn in the evening, and the trapeze dress, which was often embellished with sequins, beading, or feathers.
Fashion was increasingly varied during this decade: a woman was still fashionable in miniskirts, pantsuits, or the maxi dress. The disco look also began trending with slinky dresses, harem pants, and hot pants that made for some eventful nights. Polyester was also an important fabric of the 1970s and it was present in both casual wear and evening gowns.
In the late 1980s, shorter cocktail dresses were very much in vogue. Ensembles were frequently accessorized with giant pearl chokers, long stranded necklaces or sparkling diamond tennis bracelets, all a nod to the luxury worship of the day.
Dresses were commonly more staid, even if they featured severe lines and detailing, the color of the dress was often black. In the South, women were often more resistant to the newfound minimalism and remnants of the 1980s hung around until mid-decade in some parts of the country.
Throughout the new millennium, gowns did not have to just be black anymore, and many women are embracing a bolder palette. Designers were also changing the architecture of gowns from year to year including adding pockets to evening gowns, producing dramatically draped numbers & using shrugs & caplets as the go to accessory to balance our a severely nipped waist.
Today, several fashionable trends are appearing trackside the First Saturday in May.
The fascinator was catapulted into fame with the highly publicized British wedding of the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge in 2011. Many attendees of the wedding wore elaborate headpieces that became the go-to hat of Derby day patrons in America. Some of our favorites include: The Spiral Fascinator, The Two Layer Fascinator, The Loops & Feathers Fascinator Clip, & The Dramatic Rose fascinator.
While fascinators are commonly seen on Derby day, the classic large-brimmed hats remain center stage. Spanning across the decades, the hat is the most essential accessory of Derby day fashion but we’ve seen many styles, colors & designs grace the fashion pages. From our 2013 spring line, here are a few of our best sellers: The Swirl Hat, The Asymmetrical Bow Hat, The Silks Bow Hat, and The Big Bow Hat.
The Equestrian style has also hit mainstream popularity embodying touches of high society & southern charm. The equestrian bit design is now seen in everything from jewelry, apparel to both men’s & women’s accessories. Be apart of this fashion movement & shop these classy bit designs: Colorful Enamel Bracelets, Strapless Bits dress from vineyard vines®, bits tie from vineyard vines®, bit belt from vineyard vines®
The gentlemen of the racetrack have also come around to showoff their fashionable side. On Derby day, men can be seen looking GQ-esque while donning preppy bow ties & stylish fedoras reminiscent of old-Hollywood movie stars. Shop our best selling men’s accessories: hat, fedora, Derby Silks Tie from vineyard vines®, Derby Silks Bow Tie from vineyard vines®