The very first Kentucky Derby was inspired by top-tier races in England and France, so it’s no surprise that the upscale dress codes of European horse racing also came across the pond with Derby creator Meriwether Lewis Clark (the grandson of William Clark, as in Lewis and Clark).
In the early days of the Derby, Gilded Age styles were front and center, including corsets and long dresses for women. Hats were seen as a status symbol, and the tradition of wearing lavished hats continues to this day from elegant fascinators to wild, themed hats.
Fashion trends at the Kentucky Derby continued to follow whatever was the latest and greatest style in the U.S. at the time, from more simple attire throughout the Great Depression to glamorous outfits in a post-war America ready to party.
Today, the more unique your fit, the better. Bright colors, bold prints and innovative designs are all the rage, and hats and fascinators are still front and center.