Friday, May 10, 2013

What I Wore on Derby Day

Last Saturday, May 4th, saw the 139th Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. 

This year’s winner, Orb, enjoys his blanket of roses while jockey Joel Rosario poses for the camera (Associated Press)
The Kentucky Derby takes place every year on the first Saturday in May.  The race for three-year-old geldings and fillies lasts all of two minutes, and the winner is covered in a lush blanket of 564 red roses. 

It is the first jewel of the Triple Crown, followed by the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes. 

The run up to the Run for the Roses begins weeks ahead of time in one long series of parties and preparation for everyone in or connected to the beau monde of the racing world.  

Bartenders prepare their ingredients for the official Kentucky Derby cocktail, the Mint Julep, made with simple sugar, water, muddled mint leaves, Kentucky bourbon, fresh mint leaves for garnish, all served up in the traditional frosted silver goblet. 

Ladies put the finishing touches on their hats for the big day. 

The tradition of wearing exquisite, dare I say extravagant, hats to the Kentucky Derby began in 1875.  It is a tradition that traces its roots to the dress code of the Royal Ascot in Britain. 

For some, the thrill of watching the endless parade of fabulous headgear rivals the fleeting thrill of the race itself.   I count myself among them. 

Rumor has it that the right Derby hat can make or break a Lady’s social standing for the rest of the year. 

For those who can’t make it to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May, there are thousands of private venues across the country where you can place your bets, sip your Mint Juleps and wear your extravagant hats while watching the race on big screen TVs.  It’s almost like being there. 

For the second year, Tavistock Country Club in Haddonfield, New Jersey, threw a fabulous Derby Day party, replete with betting stations, Dixieland Band, Mint Juleps (among other yummy cocktails) big screen TVs to watch the race and, of course, lots of lovely ladies in beautiful hats. 

M-T and Linda

Last year, I wore a modest little cloche, to which I added some fabric flowers in the same shade.  It was very sweet, but definitely an also-ran. 
This year, I was determined to go all out and take the title -- “Most Dramatic Hat.” 

Front View
So, I bought a black organza picture hat at Macy’s and had some fun. 
I added some red roses, pink flowers and a tiny sprig of lilac in the front…………….
Side View
And a large white flower and peacock feathers to the side.

I named her Olivia.  Olivia was now ready for the Derby. 

Wasn’t this how Coco Chanel got started – designing hats?

The rest of my outfit was designed around Olivia. 

M-T, Olivia and Dan
Derby Day in Haddonfield dawned bright and sunny, which is more than could be said for Louisville, and Olivia was champing at the bit to get to the starting gate.    

The competition was pretty stiff, particularly from my friend, Patti.  

M-T, Olivia and Patti

Patti works as a mild-mannered bridal consultant by day, but by night, she designs incredible costumes for local theatrical companies.  She created this hat from a piece of yellow crinoline.  Frankly, had I been on the Hat Committee, she would have gotten my vote. 

M-T, Olivia and Vicki
Here’s my lovely goddaughter, Vicki, in a white plumed hat.  Doesn’t she look adorable? 
She was the official/unofficial photographer of what Olivia and I hoped would be our millinery triumph. 
Merci beaucoup, ma chère filleule.  

M-T and Olivia
It was neck-and-neck there for a while, but at the last moment Olivia pulled out in front and, in a Photo Finish, the title of “Most Dramatic Hat” at the 2013 Tavistock Derby Day Fête went to Olivia.  I was so proud of her. 

The racetrack dust has already settled, and I will retire the champ to a cozy hatbox at the top of my bedroom closet.  Soon, it will be time to get another chapeau into shape for the 140th Run for the Roses; but, for now, Olivia and I are taking a much-deserved victory lap. 


  1. What a fun post, M-T. I love Olivia, the "Most Dramatic Hat!" You did a wonderful job, ma chère. It was special for me to see you and Monsieur Dan. You both look so happy! I know a grand time was had by all, so thank you for sharing your special memories of the derby with us. By the way, did you get a chance to see the short movie released by Chanel this week? Karl Lagarfeld shot it as a tribute to Coco Chanel's beginnings-- when she was just a newcomer, and a hat maker, and opened a boutique in Deauville, France. Who knows? This may be the start of a new career for you too! :-) Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

    1. Glad you enjoyed it. We had soooo much fun that day. Thanks for the "heads up" on the Lagerfeld short on Chanel. I will definitely make a point of seeing it. You know how I adooooore Mademoiselle. I did know about the boutique in Deauville.

      It's a tempting thought, but I don't think there will be a new career in my future, just the yearly derby hat.

      Happy Mother's Day, ma chère Véro.

      See you soon, M-T

  2. I love the season of horse racing and dressing up especially the hats. Our best event is Royal Ascot in June.

    1. When I was a little girl, I dreamed of being Velvet ("National Velvet") and riding my very own horse. Alas, I never learned to ride, but I do adore horses and going to the races when I can.

      Perhaps we'll see each other one day at Royal Ascot.

      Cheers, M-T

  3. M-T your outfit is gorgeous and is perfect for you. No wonder you won - the hat is adorable and just evokes that Ascot/Derby feel. I love the bronze lace shawl over the red dress picking up the red in the flowers in your hat. What did you win? It looks like a bag, but it is difficult to say. I'm so glad you were able to post the photos. What a fun day that must have been.

    By the way, do mint juleps taste good? I can't quite imagine what it tasted like. All I know is that I adore the simplicity and shape of the silver cups they use to serve them in.

    1. It was indeed a fun day. The bronze lace wrap actually has sleeves and ties in the front. I found it several years ago in a vintage store in Haddonfield and just knew I had to have it. I have worn it over everything from a tank top and jeans to a black evening gown.

      The bag, which was an official Kentucky 139th Run for the Roses tote bag (the colors are just beautiful, aren't they?) contained a set of red wine glasses with the official 139th Logo.

      As for the mint julep, well, Gracie, to tell you the truth, I always have one, since it's tradition, but I'm not a big fan. This year, in addition to the traditional minut julep, the Country Club had a special Derby Cocktail made with the traditional Kentucky bourbon. It was delicious, although no silver cup.

  4. Elegant and gorgeous. What the pretty ladies you're. I started following you and now reading the recent posts..... beautiful spring flowers and the cute cat.....

    1. Lovely to have you as a new Follower, Terrie. Please stop by again and leave your comments. I love reading them.

      Warm regards, M-T


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