2023 Kentucky Derby days guide: Fashion, hats, drinks, & more

The Kentucky Derby, also known as the “Run for Roses” or “the most exciting two minutes in sports,” is the world’s most iconic horse racing event. For some, it’s a time to unwind, let loose, and live a little, while others prefer the exuberance of the event and getting dressed to the nines. Regardless of the reason, the event is full of rich traditions.

The history of the Kentucky Derby dates back to 1875, when it was first held at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. The derby was founded by Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr., who was inspired by the famous horse races in Europe. The first Kentucky Derby was an astonishing success, amassing over 10,000 spectators.

Over the years, the Kentucky Derby has grown into a highly televised event and a spectacle that attracts millions of viewers from around the world. It is now considered the first leg of the American Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, which includes the Preakness and Belmont Stakes. The event has also become a social and fashion event, with spectators dressed in their finest attire and participating in various traditional activities such as drinking mint juleps and wearing extravagant hats.

The Kentucky Derby’s popularity has only increased with time, with celebrities, professional athletes, politicians, and even royalty attending the event. The race has become a symbol of American culture, with the winning horse and jockey becoming instant celebrities.

With such a rich history, it has become a highly anticipated event and spectacle that captures the world’s attention. Its continued success is a testament to its cultural significance and the passion of its fans.

So, you want to participate in the Derby days, either at Churchill Downs or from afar but not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered.

Kentucky Derby fashion

The Kentucky Derby showcases unique American fashion and traditions, with attendees donning flamboyant hats, spring dresses, bow ties, and seersucker suits. Whether attending the event or a Derby party, it’s essential to outfit yourself accordingly as the 149th year approaches.

Dress code guidelines;

Churchill Downs has an official dress code depending on your seating area. First-time attendees should understand the environment of their seats before deciding what to wear. Here’s a brief breakdown of the dress codes for seated boxes:

Business casual dress is required in the Turf Club, Trophy Room, and Millionaires Row.
A jacket is required in the Derby Room and The Mansion for men.
Worn or torn garments, halter tops, athletic wear, frayed or torn denim, and midriff tops are considered inappropriate attire in several areas.

For more information on what is appropriate in each section of the track, visit the Churchill Downs website.

Men’s Kentucky Derby fashion

The Kentucky Derby is an occasion for everyone to show off their finest attire, notably the hats, but for men to look sharp as well. Here are some tips for the perfect Kentucky Derby outfit for men:

Sun-drenched pants in vibrant colors like lime green, ocean blue, soft pink, and citron are all popular choices. These colors are eye-catching from a distance and can be paired with the right shirt and blazer to make a statement.
A great dress shirt in a complementary color will go a long way. Don’t be afraid to choose a fun gingham or striped shirt. This is the one day of the year when opting for more is better. A monogram on the shirt is a popular option for some.
The blazer is what brings the outfit together. A classic navy blazer is a safe choice, but a chalk stripe blazer can make a statement. Ready to up the ante? Go with a 3-piece suit that adds the personal touch of a nice fitting vest.

Accessory Tips:

A necktie is the most popular choice, but a bowtie is always a great option. Don’t be afraid to try a bowtie if you’ve never worn one before.
Horse bit loafers are a popular choice. They should be worn sockless or with a complete no-show sock. Derby dress shoes are an excellent runner-up choice, too.
A fedora or trilby hat completes the Kentucky Derby look. Men’s Derby hats are generally solid in color and inspired by the style from the 1920s. You will see a good number of them in a straw material.
Can add a nice finishing touch, especially if you opt to go hatless. Even with a hat, a nice pair of sunglass pulls the look together well. Lastly, be confident in your outfit choices, and enjoy the day.

Here are some of the best retailers to shop for all things fashion during the Kentucky Derby days — hint, think classic American prep brands.

Brooks Brothers
Ralph Lauren
Vineyard Vines

Ladies’ Kentucky Derby fashion

Ladies, get ready to channel your inner Southern Belle and let your fashion shine at the Kentucky Derby! Don’t hold back when planning your wardrobe for this iconic event. Here’s how:

Keep it simple so it doesn’t detract from your hat, or choose a dress with colorful, floral, or equine patterns. Be sure to dress in layers since the event is outdoors, and the weather can be unpredictable.
Complete your outfit with spring heels or sandals, but also pack a backup pair of flats for the long day and potentially tricky terrain. Backups can come in handy as things can be exacerbated when it rains, making it challenging when trying to walk around the grounds.
Since the hat is the main accessory, keep jewelry simple. You can also opt for Kentucky Derby-themed jewelry.
Pack a large bag to carry essentials like a change of shoes, water, program, sunglasses, sunscreen, and more. Bring a smaller clutch or over-the-shoulder bag for your cash and phone.
The Kentucky Derby is known for its elaborate hats, which can range from elegant and wide-brimmed to eccentric and humorous. Wearing a hat is also believed to bring good luck.

Remember to have fun and let your creativity shine when putting together your Kentucky Derby outfit! Here are some of the best places to shop:

Vineyard Vines
Etsy (yes, you can find extravagant hats and fascinators on Etsy)
Kate Spade New York
Ralph Lauren
J. Crew

The Hats of Kentucky Derby

The hats worn at the Kentucky Derby have always taken center stage. Here is what to look for and some of our current favorites.

Women’s Hats

Wide-brimmed embellished hats: These “Southern Belle” style hats are classic and eye-catching, but keep in mind that they can take up some extra personal space due to their size.
Classic brim hats: These hats typically have a brim no wider than your shoulder width and are flattering for all.
Fascinators: These small and versatile headpieces come in a variety of creative shapes and designs and can be firmly pinned in or attached to a headband or hair comb.

Phase Eight Muna Twist Back Disc Fascinator

Buy Here:  $105


Berkeley Hat Company Soft Straw Hat for the Kentucky Derby

Buy Here:  $79

M612 ( Red/Black) Kentucky Derby Wide Brim Sinamay Hat

Buy Here:  $215

Zivyes Fascinator Hats for Women Pillbox Hat

Amazon:  $14.99


SAFERIN Women’s Organza Church Fascinator Hat

Lock and Co. Hatters – PHILLIMORE HEADBAND

Men’s Hats

Fedora or bowler hats: These styles are great for completing the Kentucky Derby look, especially for men. Men’s Derby hats are usually solid in color and inspired by 1920s fashion.

Scala Men’s Toyo Safari

Amazon:  $59.99

Scala Men’s Dress Straw Laichow Braid Boater Hat

H&M Felted Hat

H&M:  $17.99

Lock and Co. Hatters – ST LOUIS TRILBY

Buy Here:  $270

Lock and Co. Hatters – CLASSIC BOATER

Lock and Co. Hatters – NAPLES PANAMA

Derby days cocktails – Popular drinks of choice

By far and away the go-to choice for most attending a Kentucky Derby event is to make sure you are partaking in a mint julep — official drink choice of the running of the roses. We also added in two other popular alternatives as well. Enjoy responsibly!

Mint Julep


Fresh mint leaves
Granulated sugar
Crushed ice
Bourbon whiskey


Begin by preparing your mint. Pick 8-10 fresh mint leaves, rinse them under cold water, and pat them dry with a paper towel.
In a small mixing bowl, add the mint leaves and 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar. Use a muddler or the back of a spoon to gently crush and bruise the leaves, releasing the oils and flavors.
Transfer the mint and sugar mixture into a glass. A traditional silver or copper julep cup is ideal, but any sturdy glass will do.
Fill the glass with crushed ice, packing it tightly to the top.
Pour 2.5 ounces of bourbon whiskey over the ice, allowing it to seep down into the ice and mingling with the mint and sugar.
Use a spoon or swizzle stick to gently stir the mixture, distributing the flavors evenly throughout the drink.
Top the glass with a bit more crushed ice, making a mound that comes up over the rim.
Garnish with a fresh mint sprig. Slap the mint against your hand to release the aromas before placing it in the drink.
Serve immediately and enjoy your refreshing mint julep.


If you prefer a sweeter julep, you can add an extra teaspoon of sugar or even a splash of simple syrup.
For an extra touch of elegance, you can dust the mint sprig with powdered sugar before garnishing.

Bourbon Old-Fashioned – Sweet


2 oz bourbon whiskey
1 tsp simple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Orange slice
Maraschino cherry


Fill an old-fashioned glass with ice. You can use a large ice cube or several smaller ones.
Add 2 dashes of Angostura bitters to the glass.
Pour 1 teaspoon of simple syrup over the ice and bitters.
Pour 2 ounces of bourbon whiskey into the glass.
Stir the mixture gently with a bar spoon for about 20-30 seconds, allowing the flavors to combine and the ice to melt a bit.
Take an orange slice and run it around the rim of the glass. Then, drop the orange slice into the drink.
Add a maraschino cherry to the glass as a garnish.
Serve immediately and enjoy your delicious bourbon old fashioned sweet.


If you prefer a stronger or weaker drink, you can adjust the amount of bourbon whiskey accordingly.
You can also experiment with different types of bitters to find your preferred flavor profile.
If you don’t have simple syrup on hand, you can make your own by dissolving equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan over low heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves, then cooling and storing in a bottle in the refrigerator.

Moscow Mule


2 oz vodka
1/2 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
4 oz ginger beer
Lime wedge for garnish


Fill a copper mug (or a highball glass) with ice.
Squeeze the juice from half a lime into the mug.
Pour 2 ounces of vodka into the mug.
Top off the mug with 4 ounces of ginger beer. You can adjust the amount of ginger beer to your taste.
Use a stirrer or spoon to mix the ingredients together.
Garnish the drink with a lime wedge on the rim of the mug.
Serve and enjoy your refreshing Moscow Mule.


You can add a splash of simple syrup to sweeten the drink if you prefer.
For an extra kick, add a few slices of fresh ginger to the drink when you mix the ingredients together.
You can also experiment with different types of ginger beer to find your preferred flavor.

2023 Kentucky Derby: Date, horses, odds

This coming Saturday, May 6 (post time 6:57 p.m. ET, NBC), the 149th annual Kentucky Derby will be held as the first leg of the prestigious Triple Crown horse racing competition. “The Run For the Roses” will feature 20 horses vying for the chance to win and secure a place in racing history, completing the 1 1/4 mile race in the shortest time possible.

FanDuel presents the field

This year’s field is particularly competitive, with a strong lineup of contenders. Forte (+300) has been named as the favorite, with Tapit Trice (+500) closely behind in the odds due to its impressive pedigree. Angel of Empire (+800) is another notable contender, and the field features a number of talented horses hoping to pull off an upset victory, as was the case in the previous year’s race.

The excitement and anticipation leading up to the Kentucky Derby is palpable as fans and bettors alike eagerly await the outcome of this historic event. Here is this year’s field, featuring post numbers and odds. Ready to place some bets? Head over to FanDuel, and good luck!

The Field

Prg #      Horse                        Odds Projection

1              Hit Show                         30-1

2             Verifying                          15-1

3             Two Phil’s                        12-1

4            Confidence Game           20-1

5             Tapit Trice                        5-1

6            Kingsbarns                      12-1

7            Reincarnate                     50-1

8            Mage                                 15-1

9            Skinner                             20-1

10          Practical Move                10-1

11           Disarm                             30-1

12          Jace’s Road                     50-1

13          Sun Thunder                   50-1

14          Angel of Empire             8-1

15          Forte                                 3-1

16          Raise Cain                       50-1

17          Derma Sotogake            10-1

18          Rocket Can                      30-1

19          Lord Miles                       30-1

20         Continuar                        50-1

21         Cyclone Mischief            30-1

22        Mandarin Hero               20-1

23        King Russell                    50-1

The post 2023 Kentucky Derby days guide: Fashion, hats, drinks, & more appeared first on ClutchPoints.

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