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  • Writer's pictureVeronica Cline Barton

Hats Off to The Lovely Ladies on Derby Day, Loads of Fun (and Writing Inspiration)

Saturday was the Kentucky Derby, the most sacred race day to a Kentuckian. I left Kentucky in 1981 when I began my career, but I still tear up a bit whenever I hear the sweet tunes of My Old Kentucky Home being played. This year we spent Derby Day at the Santa Anita racetrack in Arcadia, CA with my SoCal University of Louisville Alumni group (and we even let the alums from University of Kentucky sit next to us 🙂 On Derby Day, we’re all Kentuckians, putting our rival school alliances to the side (for one day anyway, until basketball season). We had lovely tables set up in a covered terrace right at track-side, giving us a great view of the horses as they raced by (and some relief from the heat, it was 100 degress!).

On Saturday, I made it my mission to go around to the tables, asking lovely ladies if I could take a picture of their devine hats. I was amazed at all the colors, beautiful flowers, and shapes of the hats. It was fun to see and very inspiring—lots of laughs too, these lovely ladies are very proud of their hats! At Derby-time, hats rule, no doubt about it. We were lucky here in California, our race day was bright and sunny (and hot)—unfortunately in Louisville it was raining buckets. The ladies of Louisville still wore their hats proudly, they just had them covered with plastic bags if they ventured track-side (Never underestimate southern female ingenuity–where there’s a will, there’s a way 🙂 ).

For my writer’s mind, the hats gave me lots of inspiration for the next set of tales I think I will weave—perhaps  ladies sitting in wicker chairs, their hats subtly lowered as they sip tea from lovely teacups or flutes of champagne at the next event held at Cherrywood Hall. Could those hats be a spawning site for evil—where lovely ladies secretely plan their dastardly deeds, their scheming eyes hidden beneath their flowery hats? Hats can hide a lot of emotions, good, bad, and downright bad.

I love the tradition of getting dressed up and wearing hats, we don’t do it very often here in the U.S. on a widespread basis, unlike our lovely British ladies. I’m always so impressed when I see pictures of these ladies going to weddings, Ascot races, and tea parties–the hats, fascinators and dresses are always so inspiring. I love to see the new shapes, textures, colors—where do these milleners get their ideas from? The fascinators inparticular fascinate me—so much style to be had from a few wisps of feathers, who knew? According to an article in the latest Vanity Fair (the pre #RoyalWedding one, “They Do”), her majesty Marie Antoinette (before she lost her royal head) may have started the fascinator trend in the 1770s when she added ostrich and peacock feathers to her hair…

The Queen has to be one of the most favorite hat wearers of all time (at least the most photographed). I love her majesty’s tendency to wear bright colors so that she can be seen by all—she looks lovely and has certainly set the standard for hat wearers around the world. The young British royals can knock the hat looks out of the park sometimes too—who can ever forget Princess Beatrice’s Mickey Mouse-ish inspired hat worn to Prince William and Catherine’s wedding in 2011? That was a hat truly seen around the world (I know you know which hat I’m referring too–it was auctioned on ebay for charity BTW, well done Princess Beatrice 🙂 ).

I don’t know when or where the tradition of ladies derby hats started (probably worn for warmth or to keep dry, but fashion prevails once again—what we ladies will do to keep fashion forward), but I think the early wearers would be awesomely surpised by the creations being worn today. So many hats to choose from—western hats, top hats, straw hats, feather hats, velvet hats, faux fur hats (starting to sound like a Dr. Suess rhyme)…whether you acquire your hats from the latest designer millener, or design and adorn your own hats at home with your handy hot glue gun, here’s to you ladies—well done! Below are some pictures of the lovely hats I saw on Saturday, what do you think? Do you have a favorite hat? Where do you wear your hats? I’d love to know…

Crowns and Kisses,


P.S. Special callout to the SoCal U of L Alumni—our silent auction at this event helps to provide scholarship assistance to young people in California who want to attend the University of Louisville. I was honored that two of the baskets this year featured The Crown for Castlewood Manor, and Cast, Crew, & Carnage; the Filming of Castlewood Manor (with some lovely British libations and #RoyalWedding trinkets added in, of course). Gemma would approve 🙂

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