What Do the Royal Wedding and the Bluegrass State Have in Common?

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 listsmake 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!

If you enjoyed this post, I’d be delighted if you’d subscribe to my feed: in a reader or by email.

Photo credits for purple hat and Philip Treacy

more posts you might enjoy


Leave A Comment
  1. Amber says:

    I have always felt my fashion sense was more in tune with the 1940’s…and a big part of that is when men and women wore hats. It is just such a lovely accessory!

  2. Anne- LOVE this post. PERFECT material for the Modern Mrs. Darcy in all of us. We had the joy of living in Corydon, IN (20 minutes west of Louisville)for about year. And I just loved driving through Lexington to Louisville- a great place to live!

  3. Josie says:

    I love dressing up, but the only times I’ve worn a hat have been to church on Easter, and even then am one of only females wearing one. I remember looking at pictures from the early 20th century, when all the ladies wore hats to every church services. Would love for that to be the norm.

    I’m from KY, but I’ve never been to the Derby. My dad always watched it on TV, but it was never a big deal in my part of the state. I would like to go, though.

  4. Dianna says:

    As a fellow Kentucky girl, I cannot hear My Old Kentucky Home without tearing up. (even writing that brings tears to my eyes).

    On Saturday, running the mini marathon, approaching Churchill Downs, I got all choked up, because of the history, the pomp, the glamour, the horses, and the fact that the last time I was there, it WAS Derby, and I was with the man that became my husband.

    This post made me smile, and be so proud of my home.

  5. debka_notion says:

    Observant Jewish women wear hats or scarves (or wigs) after we get married. Having just gotten married, I’ve been wearing scarves thus far, but am looking forward to being able to wear hats, and not just to keep my head warm in the winter. It’ll be interesting to see what that feels like, once I have some to wear.

  6. Oh, I’d wear a fancy hat if I could find one to fit my head. I think it’s really elegant. My favorite would be something like what they wore in Anne of Green Gables or Road to Avonlea…something frilly and poofy 🙂 🙂 Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather 🙂

    • Anne says:

      Rachel, I think that’s why a LOT of people go to the Derby: just to wear the hat and look fabulous! (Fascinators are fun, too! And totally appropriate for Derby 🙂 )

  7. Tim says:

    Anne, I liked this post so much I had to link it over at the Republic of Pemberley’s Ramble board. Nice job linking the Royals and the Run for trhe Roses!


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.