I was lucky enough to attend the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby last year (2015) for the first time. I took riding lessons in middle school and had always had a fascination/obsession with horses, so spending a day at the races was something that had been on my bucket list for quite some time. So when my best friend invited me last year, I couldn’t say no – a girls’ weekend, horses, and an occasion to dress over-the-top are a few of my favorite things, after all. Much to my surprise, Derby Weekend can actually be fairly affordable. I had no idea that they had any sort of general admission option, but the infield of the track is practically its own world, complete with betting booths, bartenders, and lots of carnival-type food options. We brought our own snacks for the day, both to save some money and to keep our options as healthy as possible. There is plenty of room in the grass to set up a little picnic area for your crew, just BYOB (bring your own blanket). You can easily fit all the items you’ll need throughout the day in a large tote and each take turns carrying it. You will have to do a significant amount of walking between the nightmare of a parking situation and the various events taking place throughout Churchill Downs. A close spot will probably be around a one to one and a half mile walk but there are plenty of cyclists and uh… professional golf cart drivers that will give you a lift to and from the racetrack. And, trust me, if you don’t wear wedges and don’t pack flats, you will pay ANY price to not have to walk to your car after the races (blisters for days!). If you are wearing stiletto heels and have infield tickets, buy some heel protectors that can be attached to the point of your stiletto to prevent them from getting scuffed and scratched or, more importantly, sinking into the grass.
So now that we’ve covered all the Derby survival tips, we can discuss a more important topic, i.e. what you’re going to wear. I was really on a budget last year, so I had to work with things that were already in my closet. This H&M dress seemed perfect for the occasion and the length and material made it comfortable to trot around in all day. I bought the floral fascinator at Dillard’s for about $20 but they even have some nice reasonable ones on Amazon this year. I’m all about the headpieces, and the next time I have the chance to attend the Derby, I plan to go big or go home. Unless you’re a member of the royal family, when will you have another opportunity to wear a fascinator? There’s no shortage of crazy looks and/or hats and headpieces at Churchill Downs on Derby day, but I wouldn’t have it any other way – it’s people-watching prime-time! I would say 90% of women wear a combination of bright, spring-time colors and floral, so if you’re having trouble deciding on your outfit, you can never go wrong with that combination. Think Easter dress meets cocktail dress. I really love getting to wear fascinators because it completely elevates the outfit and gives you a chance to play with color. With a floral dress, singling out a random color in the fabric and finding a hat or fascinator to match works well (which is what I’ve done here). If you have a solid dress, instead of going monochromatic, try a hat of a complimentary color (directly across from each other on the color wheel) or a color adjacent to the hue of the dress. For example, an adjacent color combo would be a bright orange fascinator with the beautiful solid yellow Zara dress linked below. A complimentary color for the same dress would be a royal purple. My biggest advice when dressing for the Derby is to have fun with it and wear something that makes you feel confident. Everyone goes all out and that is part of the fun. Make the most of your opportunity to play dress up!
A few of my favorite memories from Derby day include watching celebs walk down the red carpet (we saw Nick Lachey and Sarah Hyland!), betting for the first time (even if you don’t get a dime back, it’s still fun), and getting to people watch in a place where everyone is dressed to the nines (it honestly feels like going back in time). Have you ever been to the Kentucky Derby? If so, what’s your favorite memory? Feel free to leave any questions you may have about Derby day and/or Derby attire and I will try my best to answer them!