NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) – “We send hats to Belmont, to Delmar, to the Virginia Gold Cup, to Nashville Steeple Chase. We send hats, of course, here to the track for Louisiana Derby and Ladies Day. We’ve sent hats to Royal Ascot, to Dubai Cup,” says renowned milliner Kimberly Gondrella. But there’s one cup that takes the cake, the most elaborate, the most creative crowns compete in Kentucky and this year Fleur De Paris is sending 474 masterpieces.
“The Kentucky Derby hat has always been the biggest of the year so each year people try to outdo each other and doing so wear the most fabulous hat,” says Joseph Parrino, Owner of Fleur De Paris. “From the jewel-toned ribbons, we have the feathers to match, in many cases an obscure veiling to lighten it up… We’ve done a lot of basic colors this year but more extravagantly dressed.”
In this race, the purse comes first. It will cost you a pretty penny to promenade with this much pomp and circumstance. To have the crowds gaping in the grandstand you better go big. The Kentucky Derby hat is not an accessory, it is the statement piece and hats like these turn heads.
“I think there’s definitely ‘hatitude’ that comes with wearing the perfect hat on this big event. We’ve been working on it year round. It is a yearlong endeavor,” says Parrino.
“People come here for elegance, for classic elegance, for something that will be photographed. One of the most extreme hats that we ever made was likely the size of a patio umbrella. When we ended up selling it to a woman for Kentucky Derby, we didn’t have a hat box to fit it because it was never meant to be sold as a proper hat. It was a window piece. So we had to call our hat box manufacturer to manufacture a box that was large enough to contain this hat and come to find out the lady is using the hat box as a coffee table,” says Gondrella.
So what will it take to win best-dressed this year? To be lucky in Kentucky, a bold and beautiful brim is the only sure bet.