Kentucky Derby: Fashion through the decades

By Sheena McKenzie, CNN

Published 0729 GMT (1529 HKT) May 6, 2016
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As the 2016 Kentucky Derby kicks off, we take a look at some of the most eye-catching fashions through the decades. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
The Derby first launched in 1875, and up until the turn of the 20th century women could be seen wearing hats, gloves, and long dresses down to their ankles.
"At any social outing in America at that time, you would have worn a hat and gloves -- and the Kentucky Derby was no different," said Chris Goodlet, Curator of Collections at the Kentucky Derby Museum.
"Many women would have worn silk because of the warm weather, and be carrying a parasol."
This image features race-goers in 1926.
Courtesy Kentucky Derby
In the 1920s, women would also been seen wearing tailored suits. Hats and gloves were still in vogue. Courtesy Kentucky Derby
Suits continued to be the outfit of choice for both men and women in the 1930s.
"In fact, in the 1930s and 1940s the formal suit seemed to be more popular than the dress," said the Kentucky Derby on its website.
Courtesy Kentucky Derby
Look closer in the top left of this 1940 image, and you'll see a race in action. Courtesy Kentucky Derby
The 1950s saw women wear a more princess-style dress, with billowing skirts and fitted waists. Courtesy Kentucky Derby
In the 1960s, hemlines were on the rise. Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe at Australia's Melbourne Cup, model Jean Shrimpton was causing a stir in a miniskirt that "stopped the nation."
"By the time you get to the 1960s wearing hats was no longer typical," said Goodlet.
"But the Derby keeps this tradition -- even when other social occasions don't."
Courtesy Kentucky Derby
Would you believe it. This couple aren't wearing hats or gloves, and the woman's dress hemline is a good few inches above her knees! Welcome to the 1970s. Courtesy Kentucky Derby
In the 1980s, the bigger the better. Big hat brims, big shoulder pads, and judging by this race-goer, a big smile. Mike Powell/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
Bold prints and multi-colored suits make the 1980s a fashion decade to remember. Getty Images North America
"In the 1970s and 1980s there was a return to the longer skirt, while the same casual attitude of the 1960s was still in place," said the Kentucky Derby website. Courtesy Kentucky Derby
"In the 1990s, the dress at the Derby continued to replace the suit, especially with younger women," added the Derby website.
"While gloves have become out of fashion, a hat never is, and the hats tend to get wilder and more expensive as the years go on."
Courtesy Kentucky Derby
We'll never know if their horse won. But the pink and pearls combo is a 1990s winner. Jamie Squire/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
"The style in the infield is relaxed, with women wearing cool sundresses, cotton skirts, or more frequently shorts," said the Derby website of 1990s styles. Getty Images North America/Getty Images
The 21st century is here. And the tradition of race-goers making their own fantastical hats which started in the 1960s, continues to this day.
Feminine, wide-brimmed hats with a floral or feather adornment were popular in the 2010s. Getty Images/File
A colorful crowd at the 2012 Derby. Rob Carr/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
Two years later the hats appear to have downsized.
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
Race-goers analyze programs at last year's Derby. Elsa/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
Nicknamed the "Run for the Roses" due to the blanket of roses draped on the winning jockey, the Derby has long inspired red accessories among race-goers. Chris Graythen/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
And after a long day of placing bets, cheering horses, and drinking mint juleps, sometimes you just want to put your fashionable feet up. Dylan Buell/Getty Images North America/Getty Images