• Tamara Schneider

Derby Hat Madness with The Hat Girls

By Intern Olivia Harper



It’s nearing May and you know what that means…. the Kentucky Derby is right around the corner! For most Kentuckians, the Derby is one of the biggest events on their radar every year. However, if you’re not from Kentucky, let me fill you in. The best racehorses in the world, trained by the best trainers in the world, will all gather at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May to run their hearts out. Along with this race, spectators will enjoy boozy drinks while wearing wonderful and fabulous outfits. And what's one tradition that goes along with the outfits? Derby hats, of course! I sat down with Kate and Rachel from The Hat Girls to learn all about the gorgeous hats that have become a Kentucky Derby staple.


Growing up as childhood friends, Kate and Rachel were not on the path to opening a hat shop. However, what started as a seasonal hobby quickly turned into the successful business they run today. A dad’s basement and a grandma’s living room quickly developed into their shop we know today as The Hat Girls. The shop has been open for ten years and is the official hat brand of the Kentucky Derby Festival.



It's hard to describe the feeling of walking into their shop for the first time. I was absolutely mesmerized. Who would’ve thought a shop full of Derby hats would be so breathtaking? The different hat designs line the walls with such saturated color that it’s almost like you’re looking at a rainbow. Once you see those bright colors, you no longer wonder why people love their hats so much. There are so many hats it’s almost as if you’re Alice walking through Wonderland. The possibilities are endless!


When I asked what sets their hats apart from other locally owned hat shops, a love of feathers instantly came to mind. Although feathers may seem like an odd addition to a derby hat, it reflects the diversity of style between the different hat shops in the area. Along with the feathers, fascinators sell like crazy at this shop. In fact, around seventy percent of their sales are fascinators. They attribute this to British Royalty trends making their way over the Pond. Just take a look back at some of Kate Middleton’s fashion statements and you’re bound to see some fascinators!



But what is purchasing a hat from The Hat Girls like? With so many options of designs to choose from, it can be hard to know where to start. First things first, decide what you’re wearing. Once you know what colors you’re going to be sporting on Derby Day, it’s much easier to choose a hat. Next, decide whether you want to consider purchasing a hat online. The girls offer an online shop with various designs to appeal to every customer. Another option is to shop the ready-made inventory in store with the girls. This year, the girls decided to heavily stock ready-made inventory because they weren’t sure what sales would be like with the Coronavirus. Your other option is to schedule a custom design appointment. However, keep in mind for next year that custom design appointment availability is limited, so inquire early before they run out of availability. These appointments can be in-person or via video call. The girls can work with whichever best fits your schedule.


Once you’ve decided how you would like to purchase your hat, the possibilities are endless. The girls will help you decide on colors, what suits your face shape, and what kind of a statement you’re looking to make. Just remember to try to envision what aspect of the hat is most important to you, so they can help you pick out a hat the best way they can.


Interviewing The Hat Girls was an awesome experience. If you plan on attending the Kentucky Derby anytime in your life, I definitely recommend them for all your hat needs! You won’t find a nicer pair of women to help you find the perfect hat for you. Custom design appointments are closed for this year, but appointments are still available to shop their ready-made inventory. I hope this helps brainstorm ideas for your next Derby outing.


Until next time, Liv!