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What To Wear to a Casual Kentucky Derby Party

One of the most well-celebrated events of the spring season is the Kentucky Derby. It’s best known for its old-timey aesthetic, delightfully crafted cocktails, and just a touch of competitive spirit on and off the race track. 

Thankfully, you don’t need to go to a country club or own a purebred pony to cheer on your favorite horse. The Kentucky Derby is one of those American events that is truly a spectacle. It’s known for its horse races and jockeys, sure, but is more often recognized for the outlandish fashion accessories of Derby fans as they bet on their top choices. 

If this is your first time celebrating the Kentucky Derby and you have no idea what to wear, don’t worry, this isn’t our first rodeo… or Derby! While the outfits you see in magazines may seem outlandish and expensive, there are plenty of ways to obtain that classic Kentucky Derby look with style and without a hurting wallet. 

Here at Ohza, we love all things stylin’, and the Kentucky Derby is one of the best times to show off your unique style. Here are some of our favorite Kentucky Derby party outfit ideas that are must-haves to add to your closet before the judge declares a winner. 

Basic Kentucky Derby Fashion 

The Kentucky Derby (and even watching parties for it) is one of those events that truly does require a dress code. If you show up in basketball shorts and a t-shirt, you’re probably going to get some strange looks. There is a totally different standard for a guest at a Derby party. 

While we love throwing around the old pigskin and eating layered nachos, the Kentucky Derby isn’t anything like a Super Bowl party, and that’s important to keep in mind when preparing your outfit and attitude. 

You may be unsure of where to begin with Derby fashion. It features a specific aesthetic that you may not wear normally, but we promise it’s easily attainable. 

Our most important tip? Make sure your outfit goes perfectly with a can of Ohza — in whatever flavor you choose! 

Don't worry; we’ve broken down all the basic pieces that you need to have to build the ultimate Derby outfit. Here’s everything you need to know. 

Women’s Derby Fashion

If you are a lovely lady looking to spice up her wardrobe for the Derby, there are a few key things that you should plan on showcasing the day of the Derby. Women’s Derby fashion often plays with vintage colors and patterns, and most importantly: accessories.

Here are the best women’s fashion ideas to turn heads at your Kentucky Derby party. 

1. Hats 

One of the most notable and recognizable accessories of the Kentucky Derby is the fun wide-brimmed hats. These hats are big and ornate and definitely make a statement, which is exactly what you want. Embrace all the gaudiness and fun parts of an event like this. Wearing a hat to the Derby is a sign of good luck and is a long-running tradition that is sure to stick around. 

The hat should not be wider than your shoulders and should not be something you wear every day. If you are looking to splurge on one thing for your Derby outfit, choose the Southern Belle-inspired hat of your dreams. Go big or go home with your Derby hat and make a statement… you’ll actually fit right in. 

2. Dresses 

The Derby is the time to dress up. Opt for a nice modest cocktail dress over jeans and a blouse for this. A seersucker dress is a classic option to wear to the Derby or a Derby party. Seersucker is breathable, printed cotton or synthetic fabric that is perfect for spring and summer. 

If you can’t get your hands on a seersucker dress, opt for a fun, breezy dress that would fit right in at a warm-weather brunch. Keep the patterns simple and colors light, but don’t be afraid to add some texture like ruffles or scalloped fabric. 

3. Ditch the Heels

Trust us on this one. There will be a lot happening at a Kentucky Derby party. It’s going to be way easier on you and your feet if you leave the heels at home. You most likely will find yourself outside at some point, and the last thing you want is to get a heel stuck in the mud or even broken somehow. 

Stick to classy flats or break out some cute sandals for your day at the Derby. 

4. Fascinator 

Ladies, don’t forget your fascinator! A fascinator is one of the most iconic pieces of Derby decor (aside from a big hat), so it’s the perfect option if you want to stay a little more subtle. 

A fascinator is a light decorative headpiece consisting of feathers, flowers, beads, and so on, attached to a comb or hair clip. It’s one of the best ways to accessorize your outfit at the Derby and dive headfirst into that classic southern lady aesthetic. 

Men’s Derby Fashion 

The men of the Derby world have to stick to a specific dress code as well. The standard is to dress up the best you can. 

If you don’t consider yourself a super fashion-forward man, we’ve got some easy ways that you can rock the Derby in style. Here’s how it's done. 

1. Ties

One of the best ways to dress up any outfit is to add a tie. We recommend sticking with a regular tie or even a bow tie but strongly advise against a bolo tie. 

Pick a simple color scheme or pattern to match your outfit or match your date. If you’re feeling adventurous, switch up the texture by opting for a silk tie or a textured tie to add a subtle extra pop. 

2. Close-Toed Shoes 

While the ladies may be able to get away with sandals for this event, it's wise if you stick to a dress shoe. It will be warm outside, but it's overall professional and classy for guys to stick to close-toed shoes for an event like the Kentucky Derby. 

This is your chance to dress up and really make an impression with a unique crowd. Leave the slides at home; you’ll thank us later. 

3. Suits 

We love a classic suit moment, but we are not talking about just any suit. This is the chance for you to get a little crazy with your style choices. 

One of the most fun and true-to-the-event ways you can style yourself is by picking a fun-colored or extravagantly patterned matching suit. Find a blazer and dress pants with an out-of-the-ordinary pattern and rock it to the Derby. 

4. Shorts 

For some informal parties or pre-Derby events, shorts may be deemed appropriate. As with any party you are attending, ask your hosts or hostesses what the dress code is. 

For informal outdoor events, shorts may be the best way to go to help you beat the heat. Apply the same rules to shorts as you would a suit by dressing it up with a tie, matching blazer, or even a nice polo shirt. 

Comfort Is Key

While the clothing may be a little eccentric and out of the realm of everyday wear, it’s important to prioritize your comfort above all. You will most likely be spending the day both indoors and outdoors, standing and socializing for the entirety of the day. With the Kentucky Derby aesthetic, you can find the perfect balance of comfort and style. 

Remember, the Kentucky Derby is in May, so it is likely going to get pretty warm. Don’t forget to pack your sunscreen and other essentials to handle the heat. You can also grab some other accessories to help you beat the heat, like a hand fan or a trendy pair of sunglasses. No matter what you end up wearing, layers are your friend. If it gets too warm out, you can easily remove your layers and still be in Derby fashion. 

Rain or Shine 

Another factor to keep an eye out for is the weather. Rain is not uncommon in early May, so it’s best to be prepared for whatever Mother Nature provides on the day of the Derby. Protect yourself and your pretty new outfits with a poncho or an umbrella. It seems straightforward, but this accessory is often overlooked. 

The Kentucky Derby will always be known for its Southern charm, athleticism, and fun traditions that last lifetimes. If you get the chance to celebrate the Derby this year, whether at the race track or with friends and family rooting from the couch, it will truly be a day that you won’t soon forget. From all your festive friends at Ohza, here’s a toast to you for rocking the Derby in style! 


9 Things You Didn't Know About Seersucker | Town and Country 

A Brief History of Fascinators, the Haiku of Hats | Vanity Fair 

Head-to-Toe Kentucky Derby Fashion Guide | Southern Living 

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