Below the Brim

Story by Kayla Fugate | Photography by Kirstie Whitaker at House of Harper

In Kentucky, Spring time brings birds chirping, green grass slowly peaking up from the thawing ground, daffodils blooming, and most importantly Derby mania. Whether you find yourself in the infield at Churchill Downs, amongst the celebrities in “Millionaire’s Row” or with friends at home, all good Kentuckians know, Derby day is to be celebrated-no matter what.

Derby fashion is a big part of the festivities; gentlemen don seer sucker while ladies sport big, glorious Derby hats and ornate fascinators. As the “most exciting two minutes in sports” happen only once a year, looking “Derby ready” is important for revelers at home and at the track. 

For advice on getting “run for the roses” ready, we ventured to the beautiful House of Harper in downtown Bowling Green where stylist and owner, Kristin Harper and stylist Shelby Rae were busy getting Amy Silva and Payton McCarty ready to model big, floppy hats and stylish Spring dresses. “Even in the infield, the girls and guys look great,” said Kristin. “And really if you’re celebrating at home or with friends, it’s fun to go all out and get dressed up.”

As she carefully positioned a floral fascinator headband in Amy’s hair, Kristin detailed her vision for the perfect Derby day. “The ultimate girl’s day,” she said. “Mimosa Saturday and a day of just hanging out and getting ready with the girls at the salon.  Makeup, hair, the works,” she suggested.

We tested out the idea as Shelby and Kristin styled Amy and Payton with sangria, cupcakes, dresses, shoes and floppy hats strewn across the bright and airy salon.  Since this party was pre-Derby, mint juleps and burgoo were not required, but should definitely be present on the big day.

After Shelby and Kristin put the finishing touches on Amy and Payton, they shuffled through the ornate hats provided by My Friend’s Place in Bowling Green, Kentucky, mixing and matching, and swapping dresses and shoes to find the perfect combination.  “Putting your outfit together is definitely a big part of the fun,” said Kristin. 

Whether you mix complementary colored dresses and hats or find a headpiece that matches your dress perfectly like Amy did, what’s happening under the brim is still important. “Even though you’re most likely going to be wearing a hat, you still want your hair to look good,” said Kristin.

To complement the Derby hats Amy and Payton chose, Kristin and Shelby Rae both created simple looks easily replicated at home.

“I started with barrel curls in Payton’s hair, and then I finger brushed it.  I teased it at the base and swept it to one side. I used two or three bobby pins to keep it in place. It’s a simple look that can be done at home but doesn’t necessarily look like it was,” said Shelby Rae. Hair and make up for Amy and Payton only took about an hour for Shelby Rae and Kristin to complete.

As far as makeup, Kristin recommends starting with a good primer, a foundation with SPF (especially for ladies finding themselves at outside parties or even the infield this Derby day), and a setting spray to keep your makeup from running throughout the festivities. One thing Kristin does not recommend for Derby day readiness is a spray tan.  “You’re most likely going to be hot and sweaty. It’s just not a good idea. Embracing your natural skin is becoming more and more popular, and it’s what you should do on Derby day.”   

If you want to celebrate Derby day getting salon treatment on May 5, you should plan ahead and book your appointment in advance. “Derby runs into prom and wedding season, so salons book fast,” said Kristin.  If you don’t plan to go to the salon the day of, you can still pamper yourself ahead of time with a massage, facial, and a manicure.  Another finishing touch Kristin recommends is extensions for your lashes. “If you’ve got extensions, a lot of times you don’t even need mascara or eyeliner. You look more awake and put together as soon as you roll out of bed,” she said.  

This Derby Saturday, do as a Kentuckian should. Whether you’re heading to the big race or to your neighbor’s house, grab your floppy hat and your mint julep glass and primp a little. For this two minutes, the sun and spotlight shine bright on our old Kentucky home, so you might as well look fabulous for it.

If you’re thinking about how to get Derby ready, but you don’t currently own a huge, floppy Derby hat, no worries. My Friend’s Place has partnered with Mackenzie Flowers and is hosting a Derby Hat Workshop on May 1st at My Friend’s Place.  Participants will be able to create their own custom Derby hats for the big day.