High Stakes Derby Hats *pics*

  1. High-Stakes Derby Hats
    Anna Vander Broek
    Move over mint julep. Another accessory is poised to steal your thunder.

    This weekend England's Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip will be at Churchill Downs for the 133rd Race for the Roses. That means custom-made hats are under the spotlight, with milliners across the country frantically filling requests for bespoke Kentucky Derby toppers.

    Julie Hinson, president of Advanced Lifeline Services, a Louisville, Ky.-based health care company and a regular Derby attendee, makes no excuse for fussing over her hat--this year a $450 creation by Louisville milliner Angie Schultz, owner of Attitudes by Angie. Schultz has designed hats for celebrities such as Oprah, Kelly Ripa and Angelica Huston.

    "The queen has added a touch to the race," says Hinson. "There is more media coverage, and people will worry more about what they are wearing."

    It plays a role, sure, but milliners say the queen's arrival isn't the only thing that has them working around the clock.

    "It's not just the Derby," says Gena Conti, a custom milliner based in Wyandotte, Mich., whose hats range from $200 to $900. "It's the Derby, the Preakness, the Belmont Stakes--race season in our country is becoming bigger and bigger. For every milliner involved, this is their high season--[it] will make a huge portion of our annual income."

    Those wearing a couture hat get not only quality craftsmanship but peace of mind in knowing that their purchase is one of a kind. "My hats are made to order in the hat size that my clients ask for," says Polly Singer, owner and designer of All You Need Is Love, Hats and Veils, in Lexington, Ky. "That is the benefit of custom millinery."

    Bespoke hats take time to craft, sometimes up to a day compared with the few hours it takes to simply glue materials on a premade hat. They also come at a price. Those seeking such toppers can expect to pay from $200 to upward of $2,000 for custom-made creations.

    But beyond the racetrack, are hats really that hot?

    Eugenia Kim, high-end milliner and owner of Eugenia Kim based in New York City, says yes.

    "Hats are huge right now," says Kim, whose toppers grace the heads of young celebrities such as Nicole Richie and Ashlee Simpson. "Nine years ago there were no hats on the runway, now every designer is using hats."
    Go For The Green
    A hand-sculpted, custom-dyed Polly Singer hat made with two different brims, this topper was worn by Star Jones to the 2006 Kentucky Derby and inspired by one once worn by Queen Elizabeth I.
    This straw Gena Conti hat is topped with lime, burgundy and white chiffon, and features tulle and wide-weave Russian veiling. This hat is currently on display in the Kentucky Derby Museum.
    Lady In Red
    A flat brim and red silk roses complement this Polly Singer-designed black madhatter.
    Orange You Planting Dahlias?
    This one-of-a-kind "cocktail style" hat is hand sculpted and hand sewn with red parisisal and sinamay straws, topped with oversized orange and yellow silk dahlia floral petals and starched red Russian veiling. The netting on this vibrant orange topper adds a touch of mystery. Designer Gena Conte cautions those wearing such a bright hat to keep the dress simple.
    Simply Divine
    One of designer Polly Singer's neutrals, this parisisal topper features sweeping feathers imported from Europe and trendy flower appliques.
    White Lightning
    This white Gena Conti confection shades the face with a medium brim and oversized silk dahlia floral petals. Made with off-white straw braid and synthetic horsehair, the body is trimmed with ivory-pleated horsehair.
  2. gorgeous, i love the polly singer hats.

    there's just something so traditional and southern about the derby, it's definately my favorite of the races.
  3. I am a real hat fan. I love the Limeade one, its gorgeous.
  4. Looking at all the hats at Derby is definitely one of the best parts!
  5. Interesting hats, here in Australia at the racing carnivals we are big on hats. I must say that those look a little old fashioned.
  6. So glad everyone likes this post! I kept debating if I should post it or not but I LOVE to see all the hats at the Derby!
  7. Wow! I LOVED the photos in today's Sunday Styles section! There's something so romantic about the derby, with the giant hats, in the warm south, sipping mint juleps and bourbon neat! I hope I can go some day.