Your Guide on What to Wear to the Kentucky Derby®

Posted by on March 21, 2022

There are so many moving parts when you're planning to attend the Derby. Where do I get my tickets?  Where do I stay in Louisville? What events can I attend while I'm there? All of these things to think about before heading to Louisville can be very overwhelming! We are here to help make sure you have  the best time and make it as stress-free as possible.

The Kentucky Derby® is not just a weekend of horse racing, it is also an iconic fashion event with a very unique and specific style.

So, take notes now so you have time to plan your outfits, and when  you are packing your suitcase,  you'll be ready... ready to Derby, that is!

And now, our Guide on What to Wear to the Kentucky Derby®

For the Ladies...

We've all seen photos of women at the Kentucky Derby® adorned in colorful dresses and ornate hats but it is also important to remember that being comfortable is also an important aspect of the race weekend! Even the founder of the race has a vision that the Derby would be an experience of luxury and comfort. Ladies, here are some tips and some guidance so you're prepared for the long days at Churchill Downs®.

The Bigger the Better!

We're talking about hats, of course! Saying you will see some of the  biggest, most outrageous hats you've ever seen in your life at Churchill Downs® on Derby day is an understatement. Ruffles, flowers,  tulle, ribbons, bows, bright colors, wide rims, high feathers, you name it!

Pageantry is huge at the Kentucky Derby® and drawing from horse  racing's British roots, it all starts with the hat for the ladies. It gives you a chance to add some creativity to your outfit and show off your  personal flair. 

And do keep in mind, your hat is doing much more than adding elegance to your outfit. It's also shading  your face from the Kentucky sun; no pink, sunburned cheeks for you!


The Ensemble 

Fashion at the Kentucky Derby® continues to change with the eras. With that in mind, your goal is to combine southern elegance with modern class. 

Knee-length dresses are most commonly seen, but flowy dresses and skirts, rompers, pants, or dresses with a tighter fit are also seen often. 

There are some key things to remember when picking out your ensemble: 

  1. Dress for the Weather - Kentucky May's are warm and you will be outside at the track all day long. This means, there will be nowhere to change if you are hot or cold. Therefore, ensure your outfit is
    something you'll be comfortable in, no matter the weather.
  2. Make Sure You Match - This might sound silly, but the more wild your hat is, the harder it is to make sure you match. If your hat is loud with crazy patterns, opt for an outfit in a solid color that compliments the hat design, and vice versa.
  3. Be Yourself! - Find an outfit that is genuinely you. If you are someone who likes more neutral colors and the thought of having an outfit of bright colors has you stressed, don't worry! Maybe find a dress in a neutral tone and pair it with a more colorful accessory. It may sound like there are some strict dressing guidelines, but there is plenty of wiggle-room to make the outfit your own.

Comfort is Key

The last thing to keep in mind when planning your outfit is comfort.

If you've never attended the Kentucky Derby® before, let us tell you now, you're not just going to be at Churchill Downs® for an hour or two you will be at the track from around 9 .a.m. to 6 p.m. That is a long day!

Therefore, if you know your feet will be killing you after wearing those heels for three hours, opt for flats or keep a pair in your purse, just in case. If you know you're going to be uncomfortable wearing a certain outfit all day long, look for something a bit more comfortable.

Don't sacrifice your comfort for style, regardless of what the magazines say! 


For the Gentlemen...

Guys, as a general rule of thumb, you want to dress as if sophistication is meeting southern flair. You want to be suave, yet refined; classy, but out of the box and colorful! This is the perfect weekend to get as dressed up and decked out as the ladies.

The Bolder The Better!

While the gentlemen at the Kentucky Derby® will don their best suits, this event is not one for your plain, bland office wear. We're talking pink seersucker blazers, floral pattern dress shirts with a matching pocket square, and bow ties with loud patterns and colors. If that isn't enough for you, this is the event for a full lime-green monochromatic suit or an eye-catching patterned blazer that will be sure to turn heads. The Kentucky Derby is the place to dress adventurously and try something new! 

The Accessories

As far as shoes go, we suggest boat shoes, loafers, or your favorite pair of dress shoes, this is not the weekend to break in those new pair of shoes! 

It is important to note that wearing a tie is optional at Churchill Downs®, a bowtie will never be out of style. 

Don't forget your hats either, men! The Derby is known for women's extravagant hats but that doesn't mean you can't complete your look with a hat of your own. A fedora, bowler, or any other dress hat will give that classic, old-fashioned gentlemen look that the Kentucky Derby® is known for. 


Remember, it's going to be a long day and you want to be comfortable, be yourself, and be confident!

Be at the Kentucky Derby® with an Official Ticket Package!

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