Derby Styles & The Tradition of Wearing Over-The-Top Hats

The tradition of wearing outrageous hat styles dates back to the 18th century, when Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr., the founder of the Derby, wanted to gather a good crowd to the event. To attract the wealthy class, he brought high-society women to the racetrack to promote the event as a place to see and be seen. The hats were practically worn to protect the eyes from the sun, but they soon became a fashion statement.

Today, the Kentucky Derby is still known for its over-the-top hats and fascinators, with many people aiming to outdo each other regarding the most outrageous headwear. As a result, it's become a staple of the event, with many people creating their own hats and fascinators for the function. The same trend can be seen at other customary events like evening galas, weddings, and other special occasions.

The trend of wearing over-the-top hats has evolved over the years. As a result, the hats worn to the Derby have become increasingly elaborate and creative, featuring many feathers, bright colors, and intricate details. It's also become popular to wear costume hats at these events, with many people creating elaborate and unique pieces to add a touch of fun to their outfits.

What are Derby hats?

Derby hats are extravagant, characterized by their wide brims, elaborate decorations, and eye-catching colors. From delicate lace veils to floral crowns and feathered fascinators, Derby hats come in various styles to suit all tastes.

The wide brim is the most iconic feature of a derby hat and is a must-have for any race day event. The brim can be made of delicate and breezy sinamay or sisal straws, shantung or panama straws, or even fabric and is often decorated with flowers, feathers, and other embellishments. The hat's crown is usually smaller than the brim and can feature a variety of details such as bows, ribbons, or lace.

When are they worn? And are there any celebrities who like to wear derby-style hats?

We have become accustomed to seeing people wear over-the-top hats as a tradition. Derby hats are typically worn on occasions such as horse races, however they are also notably seen at weddings, evening galas, and church services. They are also popular for costume parties, Halloween, or themed events.

The wearing of Derby hats has also spread beyond these traditional celebrations. Many people now wear them to more casual settings for a bit of added fun and Wow! factor, such as outdoor concerts, art festivals, and other social gatherings. 

Many celebrities have embraced the over-the-top hat trend, with stars such as Lady Gaga, Beyonce, and Kate Middleton often seen in extravagant pieces. From Meghan Markle's iconic fascinator to Sarah Jessica Parker's feathered headpiece at the 2022 met gala, celebrities have embraced the Derby hat trend, often creating unique pieces that reflect their style. For example, the famous Princess Beatrice's 2011 fascinator was a showstopper that made headlines worldwide.

Fashion designers like Philip Treacy and Stephen Jones have also created iconic Derby hats for celebrities, with some of their most memorable pieces worn by Rihanna and Victoria Beckham.

Why are they considered "over the top"?

Derby hats are considered over the top because they are more extravagant and attention-grabbing than traditional headwear, such as classic fedoras or berets. The wide brim and elaborate decorations make them stand out from more casual styles, and they will always catch attention wherever they are worn without fail. 

They are also usually made with luxurious materials such as sinamay straws, silk, and feathers that add to their opulent look. Additionally, some Derby hats feature eye-catching decorations such as flowers, ribbons, and bows that make them even more dramatic and striking.

What other hats are considered over the top?

The Cordelia fascinator is a beautiful and sophisticated headpiece adorned with delicate silk flowers and wispy feather accents. The fascinator also features netting that drops around the face for an added touch of elegance. This headpiece is held in place by a headband.

The Florette is a stylish and unique headpiece that combines the elements of a wide-brim hat and a fascinator. It is made with lightweight Sinamay straw and features loops of the same material on the crown. In addition, the crown is decorated with handmade feathers and silk flowers for a touch of whimsy. This Kentucky derby hat is ideal for adding a touch of flair to any formal occasion.

The Marjorie is a wide-brim dress hat that features an adjustable inner band for a right fit. It is made of layered rings of straw and crinoline braid and is accented with a handmade feather flower and hand-cut feather extensions. This chic and practical hat makes it a great addition to any wardrobe.

The June is a wide-brim dress hat featuring an adjustable drawstring for a secure and comfortable fit. It is made from braided and fine matte crinoline woven together to create an open, airy pattern. The hat also includes a pleated swath of straw surrounding the round crown and gathered together in a lavish looped bow with feather accents.

Made of genuine Panama straw, the Belfry Fabulous features a large Ottoman hat band and bow. The hat's brim is wired, allowing it to be shaped into different curvatures to achieve the desired look. Take advantage of this hat at your next horse race event at Churchill Downs.

The Giovannio Lucinda is a graceful saucer fascinator that exudes vintage sophistication. This fascinator features a hand-sculpted circle of lightweight straw overlaid with delicate black lace. It also has a grosgrain ribbon bound edge, Sinamay loops, and hand-cut feathers for added flair. The fascinator is secured to the head with a headband, making it easy to wear on your derby day.

The Samaria is a handcrafted hat with a wide brim made from crinoline and crinoline braid Sinamay straw. It features a hand-dyed feather and silk floral accent on the crown, adding a touch of elegance to the hat. The interior of the hat has an adjustable drawstring for a customized fit. The Samaria will add a touch of style to your upcoming Met Gala.

The Loretta from Giovannio is a stunning and unique piece featuring an asymmetrical brim with a half curl. The crown is surrounded by a Shantung layered band and hand-formed rosette, adding a touch of sophistication to the hat. The hat's interior has an adjustable drawstring to ensure it fits properly. The elegant design of this hat makes it an ideal accessory for any racing event.

Designed by Giovannio, Aviary is made of fine crinoline, and the matte braid is fashioned in a classic swing brim style. The hat is decked with assorted multi-colored feathers floating on an airy veil that surrounds the crown and is gathered in a lavish looped bow. This derby hat is certainly a head-turner, no matter where you wear it.

Features rows of Sinamay woven in a circular pattern and accented with a voluminous handmade yellow water lily for a trendy and eye-catching touch. The crown of the hat is adorned with a woven Sinamay bow in large loops. This hat's bold and beautiful design can be dressed up or down for any occasion.

The Scarlette is a fascinator-style hat designed by Emma B by Giovannio. It features a wide base of hand-pleated sinamay in a two-color palette with shaded seaming and is accented with multiple hand-cut feather flowers with crystal accents. Having a headband to secure the fascinator on the head makes it easy to wear.

The Sylvia is a saucer hatinator with a low crown accented with a veiled netting hat band overlaid with a thin grosgrain ribbon. The hat is accented with a handmade silk flower with wispy feathers, a single-feather quill, and a veiled netting bow, adding drama and allure to the piece. Sylvia will surely be noticed whether worn to the races or a royal wedding.

Why do people like over-the-top hats?

People love over-the-top hats because they allow them to express their personalities and stand out from the crowd. Whether you're attending a derby, a royal wedding, or the Met Gala, wearing a unique and stylish hat can make you feel like the belle of the ball. Plus, over-the-top hats are a great conversation starter and can even become your signature look. No matter what kind of hat you wear, from a wide-brimmed dress hat to a fascinator to a saucer hatinator, an over-the-top hat can be just the thing to make you feel like a true fashionista.

Wearing an over-the-top hat at special events is a tradition that has been around for centuries. From the Kentucky derby festival to Royal Ascot, these hats have become an iconic symbol of affluence and high society. Wearing them separates the ordinary from the extraordinary and gives the wearer a sense of confidence and elegance. So if you want to be noticed and make a statement, an over-the-top hat is the way to go.

» 4 Tips to Pick The Perfect Kentucky Derby Hat

Stand out from the crowd and purchase your over-the-top derby hats at Hats In The Belfry!

As we like to say: "Life is too short to wear boring hats." So why not stand out from the crowd with an over-the-top hat from Hats In The Belfry? With a wide collection of derby hats, fascinators, saucer hatinators, and other styles, you can find the one-of-a-kind hat to complete your look. 

With hats from top designers such as Giovannio and our own collaborations in our Belfry Italia line, you are sure to add the extra wow factor to any event. With a wide variety of colors, styles, and sizes, you can easily choose the hat to complement your outfit perfectly.

Whether you're headed to the races, attending a wedding, or want to add some pizzazz to your everyday look, at Hats In The Belfry, each hat is crafted with the highest quality materials, ensuring a long-lasting piece that will make heads turn. So don't settle for boring; get an over-the-top hat from Hats In The Belfry today!