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Crazy Kentucky Derby Hats Are the Life of the Party

For spectators at Churchill Downs, Derby fashion can be almost as exciting as the Run for the Roses. See some of the fashion trends at the track.

So do people watch the Kentucky Derby for the horse races or the wacky fashion? Probably both.

At this year’s 143rd Kentucky Derby, crowds cheered Always Dreaming, ridden by jockey John Valezquez, who beat out 19 other athletes for the win on May 6. It’s the second Derby win for Valezquez and Todd Pletcher, Always Dreaming’s owner.

As it does every year, out-there fashion statements abounded at the Derby, from flourescent, hugely brimmed hats festooned with long, colorful feathers, ribbons, and climbing vines of flowers, to horses atop beds of roses atop derby hats, to checkered suits, and even neon pink beards.

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And if you're wondering why women (and men) don such wild head-toppers at the Kentucky Derby, it all started back in 1875 when Col. Meriwether Clark Jr. founded the Derby. He used British horseracing as a model where men and women in attendance had to follow a strict dress code that included hats. Early on, the women at the Derby were socialites, so their race-day looks were meant to be head-turning. In the ’60s and ’70s,the televised races encouraged even more over-the-top fashion statements, according to the Kentucky Derby Museum. Plus, if you recall the 2011 royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, lots of ladies wore over-the-top headgear and fascinators.

Check out some of the wackier fashion statements from the Kentucky Derby.