This post originally ran on April 29, 2011, between the Royal Wedding and the Kentucky Derby. Will and Kate celebrated their anniversary last Sunday, and the Derby is running tomorrow, so let’s talk about hats one more time!
I’ve been to the Derby once–and of course I wore a hat! I’ll put a photo on the MMD facebook page for Derby Day tomorrow.
Answer: A love for millinery. It was announced in February that famed hatmaker Philip Treacy would be designing the hats for Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding day. The fashion world has been atwitter ever since wondering what Kate’s headwear would look like on her big day–the speculation being second only to the designer of her wedding gown.
Philip Treacy creations have also been filling boutiques all over Louisville, Kentucky this spring–as Louisville ladies and out-of-town guests prepare for that city’s annual Big Day–the Kentucky Derby, held on the first Saturday in May. If you’ve never been to the Derby–which has a rightful place on many bucket lists–make no mistake about the importance of the Kentucky Derby Hat.
Hats are not a modern accessory. The milliner’s shop is a historical exhibit in Colonial Williamsburg, not a store at your local mall: women don’t wear hats these days (unless, of course, they’re baseball caps).
And this, I believe, is the appeal of the Royal Wedding–and the Kentucky Derby.
In this age, when casual rules the day, irony is hip, and much of the solemnity has been drained from the ceremonies of life, we are drawn to the circumstance and solemnity of the royal wedding. We love to watch the royals don their hats–because royals still wear them! For a solemn occasion such as this, it’s inappropriate to be bareheaded in church. (Truly! It was even on the invitation!) And Philip Treacy is making sure those head-coverings are fabulous.
The Kentucky Derby is about much more than the horses. It’s about tradition and ceremony: 100,000 people singing My Old Kentucky Home, the bugle call to the races, the blanket of roses–and the hats. I’m a Louisville girl, so take it from me: a huge part of the fun is strolling the grounds between the races, taking in the scenery and gawking at the hats.
What is it about the hat? These fanciful creations serve no functional purpose. Says Treacy:
A hat is the ultimate glamour accessory. It’s been around since the beginning of time. It will always be around, in one form or another. And the whole purpose is to inspire people to think in terms of elegance and beauty.
Hats are about playing dress-up in real life. We may tune in to royal wedding coverage and vicariously experience the thrill of getting decked out for a special occasion. We may seize the opportunity to don our own hat for Derby Day. Either way, we recognize the importance (and fun!) of dressing for the occasion.
Do you like to dress up? Have you ever worn a hat for an important occasion? Have you been to the Kentucky Derby? Share your thoughts in comments!