As she searched for the perfect Derby hat, first lady Jane Beshear and a small group of women perused wide-brimmed pastels, cream fascinators and traditional flowered toppers in spring hues at Nitro Thursday morning.
Classic or on trend, Beshear tried them all – eventually putting her decision up for a storewide vote. A coral head-turner with a striped brim won out – big, as is tradition, but wrapped in one of 2012’s hottest colors.
The hat is now on display at the West Main Street boutique, and customers can register to win it. Part of the proceeds from every hat purchased at Nitro will go to Horses and Hope – Beshear’s breast cancer awareness initiative.
A round, pink number adorned with flowers was a possibility for the first lady, along with a lightweight, purple option, a couple of neutral-colored fascinators and the eventual winner.
“This is the year of the fascinator,” Beshear noted as she checked one out in the mirror. “And with a color like this, you can wear it with anything.”
A floppy, copper sun hat with a sprawling brim didn’t make the cut. Same for dark colored options and polka dotted prints.
After the final OK, the first lady handed her selection to Nitro owner Sherrie Goebel for display.
“I really like it,” Beshear said. “I just want to make sure other people will like it.”
According to Mary Beth O’Bryan, owner of Louisville’s Luna Boutique, Beshear shouldn’t worry. Fascinators, pink hues – like the first lady’s coral – and color blocking are trends making their way to the track this year.
“The smaller hats are still really popular, and that’s left over from the royal wedding,” O’Bryan said. “So, we’re seeing a lot of people interested in those this year.”
Polly Singer, owner of Polly Singer Couture Hats and Veils in Lexington, has seen the same trend in her client base.
“It’s fun to wear a big hat, but it’s kind of exhausting all day long, so I think people are kind of enjoying it,” she said. “Most everybody looks good in them, too.”
And magazines from GQ to Vogue to Harper’s Bazaar are singing the praises of the bright, sorbet tones and geometric patterns that have taken over spring runways.
“These are trends in the whole fashion industry,” said O’Bryan.
Trends, though, are ultimately just that. And when it comes to the Derby, tradition reigns.
Black, ivory and navy work well with almost any flowery ensemble, said O’Bryan. Swooping, curved brims are classically elegant, noted Singer. And according to both store owners, bigger is always, always better.
“The little hats are cute, but most people end up wanting something big,” said O’Bryan. “A lot of women feel more comfortable in a larger hat because it’s the Kentucky tradition.”
Traditional, trendy or – like the first lady’s choice – a combination of the two, hats can be statement pieces in and of themselves. And that, noted Singer, is what makes a Derby hat special.