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  • Christine A. Moore

This is my First Kentucky Derby – Help!

“I am going to the Kentucky Derby and I am not sure what to wear! Help!” We hear this often and we always tell a customer not to worry, we will help you through the entire process from making the right choice to shipping your hat(s). We always say our goal is to make sure you look great and have the best time ever!

For so many people the Kentucky Derby is a bucket list item and we get that. For many it is a once in a life time experience and if you have never attended it truly is an amazing day of fun, dressing up, partying, and oh yeah and watching the best horses run for the roses! I have been going to the Derby for over ten years and I have a pretty good idea of what to expect on all fronts. If raining -No umbrellas allowed, bring a bag for your hat, take the hotel shuttle, or Uber or cab, if you drive take the shuttle from the parking area. The ride into Churchill on derby day can be as interesting as the races, yard parties, yard parking, grills going, lawn chairs out, libations flowing, and this is only breakfast time! Wear wedges as opposed to stilettoes, especially if you are planning to visit the paddock, stilettoes and grass do not mix well. Buy a racing form so you can make your picks and know what time each race goes off. There can sometimes be as many as fourteen races in a day. MTP means "minutes to post time". Get this one down and you will sound like a pro. Learn the words to My Old Kentucky Home and sing along with 160,000 people. The big race will go off about 6:34pm. With so many races there is plenty of time to shop and have fun between each one.

We usually start getting emails or calls for Derby orders in March, but some women start planning their return the day after the Derby! It usually takes only a few days to make each hat, but the closer to the Derby it can take a few days longer. We always ask the customer if they have a dress chosen and if they have a style of hat from one of ours stores or our website they are interested in. Our site has every hat in our collection!

We always ask if they are going to both Oaks and Derby, and remind them that they are two separate events and each has their own tradition, colors and tones, pinks for Oaks and reds for Derby. We ask if they are interested in a hat, fascinator (small cocktail hat), or hatinator (cross between a hat and fascinator) and explain a little about each if they are unfamiliar. Large hats are always popular and traditional for the Derby – “go big or go home” I have been saying this for years!

No matter what you choose to wear be sure it is comfortable and fits well. We are known for our comfortable designs that are light and can easily be worn during a long day. For those who buy the dress first and then the hat we make that process easy as well. The stores that we sell to are very good at working with customers to help them realize their ensemble. One of the reasons I do so many trunk shows is because I love building this collaborative relationship with the customer and the store.

Customers can send photos of the dress and shoes to us and we will match and add these color tones to the hat. Some women have sent swatches of the dress and even the entire dress! We have even received fabric pieces to be incorporated into the design. Some serious fashion for the Derby and we love it all!

If I am creating a special design for a customer (a one of a kind piece not currently in my collection) I will do a sketch so they can visualize my ideas.

With return customers I already know their style and comfort levels with design, but for new customers I always take into consideration the customers personality, hair color, side they part their hair on as well as other little details realized through conversation. Each one-of-a-kind hat and a special order will be blocked to fit the customers head size. All other hats in our collections get blocked to 21 ½. and each hat has a drawstring inside that we have been using since 1994. Once the sketch is approved we will create the hat. We always send a photo for approval, then ship.

We always say we will ship anywhere in the world. We typically ship to stores, customer’s homes, and even hotels! With most hotels in Louisville you can have your hat waiting for you at the hotel concierge and even have the hotel ship it back to you after the Derby. No need to worry about a hat box on the plane!

We usually will take orders up until 3 days prior to the derby but the customer will pay for over-night shipping.

This design process is already in progress for the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes! Whew! More about these different triple crown races and their individual styles in a future blog.

See you at the Derby!

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