Derby Guide Part Two // Old World Elegance In Organza

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Aaaaaand we’re back for round two! Thank you for the marvelous comments and compliments y’all gave for part one (which you can read here!). The second installment of this little guide is all about dressing like you belong in the Millionaires Row for next to nothing! I've also included some racing tips, etiquette, and best practices. Let's begin!

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This second derby look is not for the faint hearted...or the under-dressers! If you aren't a regular attender of the derby, this kind of ensemble may seem intimidating, or even unnecessary. However, since the inception of the Kentucky Derby, women have channeled classic derby looks ranging from the 1920s-1940s eras which required the entire ensemble of flowing dress, elegant hat, and gloves to match. Not your cup of tea? No worries! There are an array of ways in which to dress like a million bucks without compromising your contemporary style. 

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1. A monochromatic look is put together, chic, and screams expensive.

I touched on this in my previous post, but channeling a monochromatic look is a fantastic way to look put together. Monochromatic outfits require much more thought and effort than people realize--it can't merely be throwing together pieces in the same relative color and calling it a day. Achieving a monochromatic look is usually done through combining elements of different hues in the same color field. Red and pink are my favorite colors for this style. White always looks extremely chic and expensive, but use your own discretion if you wish to wear white at the derby--the facility is pristine, but white always run the risk of spilled food/drinks in the midst of all the excitement!

2. Sacrifice quality fabrics.

I attended the derby one year sporting a bright red jumpsuit made of shiny nylon. The cut and style was perfect for the look I wanted to achieve, and I was able to buy it online from a cheaper retailer rather than spend hundreds on a similar suit made of more quality fabric. No skin off my nose! I've come to find that when you have a vision in your mind of what you want to wear, don't let high prices and expensive fabrics and designs stand in the way. If you combine cheaper fabrics with high quality shoes, accessories, jewelry, etc. then your entire outfit looks tastefully put together and not even the most scrupulous fashion snob will be able to tell precisely where you made your purchase!

3. Accessories will make or break the essence of your ensemble. 

To wrap all of these suggestions up, accessories are critical to your derby attire! Whether you like to pile on the bling, or stick with minimal flash, make sure your accessories balance out the rest of your look. For example, the dress I'm wearing below is actually a vintage piece owned by my late aunt Kim. To create a polished look that combines equal parts sophistication and old-world elegance, I matched my white hat to my classic white ankle strap heels, donned my Mikimoto pearl earrings, and slipped on some gloves. Notice with these elements, I didn't need a flashy necklace or wrists stacked with bracelets. When the focal point of your derby outfit is your dress, the accessories should be kept minimal in order to achieve the sophisticated glamour you're going for.

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Derby Etiquette and Best Practices

So you've landed your tickets, decided on the outfit, and booked the hotel. Now what to actually expect at the races? For one thing...

Don't underestimate the amount of walking you'll be doing. Churchill Downs is a gorgeous, expansive ground with plenty to see and do. The facility itself boasts multiple floors, dozens upon dozens of betting stands, and a handful of bars and restaurants. 

Be sure not to pass up on a signature mint julep! Did you even attend the Kentucky Derby without enjoying this classic racing beverage? The mint julep has been the beverage of choice at Churchill Downs for more than a century, with over 120,000 mint juleps being served over the two-day racing period. Plenty of other signature cocktails can be enjoyed at the derby, where a swanky bar can be found on almost every corner. 

Come early, leave late.

Whether you've opted for the center field to party with the best of them, or selected premium seats near the finish line, be sure to arrive early for the day. Locating the racing grounds can be a bit of a challenge in the city of Louisville--it's right in the middle of the city! Traffic is sure to be terrible even hours before the gates open, so get there early and secure a prime parking spot! Many ticket packages can come with a parking pass if you want to pay extra, but each year we have gone we simply arrive early enough to park in a lot or someones yard and walk. (Remember what I said about bringing an extra pair of walking shoes!) With that being said, don’t leave right after the “big” race! Stay a while, head down to the Winners Circle, and enjoy all the excitement and fanfare. 

Bring a fan, a fashionable one if possible. 

You're already going to look extra, so why not complete the look? You’re going to need it!

Meet new people!

Some of the most interesting characters I've ever met have been at the Kentucky Derby, sitting right beside me. The races are such a wonderful way to strike up conversations about the next round of horses, their jockeys, what/how to bet. People from all over the nation, and the world, travel to Kentucky each year to witness the historical races. So take advantage of that! The air is trembling with laughter and buzzing with conversation all day long, and you can't help but feel energized. 

Brush up on your betting skills.

Nothing says newcomer like elbowing the person in front of you in the betting line for advice. Know your horses and your jockeys! You'd be surprised at how easy it is to become comfortable with analyzing the numbers and taking your picks once you get the hang of it. Betting is extremely fun, but of course, know your limits and don't be outrageous. You can bet on the races all day long, and plenty of people make the mistake of spending all the cash in their kitty before the real race is run. There are usually plenty of races I have no interest in betting on, especially if I don't like the jockey history or stats of the horses. So, brush up on your betting skills, budget your spending amount, and save the best for last!

Keep in mind...this guide is not a comprehensive list of everything you need to know about attending the Kentucky Derby. The best way to know, is to go! It is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and if you're fortunate like I am, it can be a tradition to enjoy every year. When else will we have a wonderful excuse to dress to the nines, sip cocktails all day long, and watch a historical sport unfold throughout the day that offers such a level of excitement and energy! True derby-goers are a delight to be around, and will likely have a plethora of stories and advice to share with you.

Now, off to the races!

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Obviously,

Olive