Have you ever wondered what Kentucky Derby and Church Lady Style might have in common?  It reminds me of the chapter title from a book I recently read…”When Prayer Meeting Becomes Cocktail Hour.”  Plus, I’m pretty sure there’s as much praying going on at a race track as there is at church…maybe more!

 So, two things you need to know about me:

  1. I did grow up going to Oaklawn Race Track in Arkansas…
  2. …and I also grew up going to the Methodist Church (and still do).  

Ellen Palmer — Best Hats in 2016 Derby!

So, here’s the deal….you can gamble and drink one day…go to prayer meeting and ask for forgiveness the next day…and wear the same outfit for both occasions.  If you are from the South, I’m sure you totally relate to this.  Because Southern ladies are proper, modest, and dress appropriately whether they are sinning or praying.  And to all of that I say….bless their hearts!  

The hat is a stand-alone piece of fashion at the Derby.  Some are beautiful, some are comical, and some look like pieces of art.  And even women like me who don’t like to wear a hat, will wear one to the Kentucky Derby because I’m pretty sure it’s considered a sin if you don’t.  Like the Derby hats, the hats worn to church, especially on Easter Sunday are the crowning glory for any Easter ensemble.  

For many years, I have been a guest of a dear friend to the Hat’s Off to Mothers Luncheon benefiting Easter Seal of North Texas.  Like Derby hats and church hats, the beautiful hats are show stealers at this event.  True confession:  I like to wear a fascinator because it doesn’t mess up my hair. This year the Hats Off to Mothers luncheon is Thursday, May 11 at 11:00 a.m. at Ridglea Country Club (for more information, contact Megan Smock at [email protected]). If you love seeing beautiful hats and dresses, this is a luncheon you will not want to miss!

So let’s talk about Derby Style and what to wear.  I have to be honest and admit that I have never been to the Kentucky Derby, but I have done my research.  Besides the hats, the ensembles the women wear are classy, and the men’s outfits are dapper.  Most of the women choose to wear dresses or skirt. Florals and spring colors seem to be the most popular.

The young women still wear high heels, but flats have made a come-back. Makes sense…right? Wedges or block heels are a great substitute for stilettos and help the ladies keep their balance while sipping mint juleps. Print mixing is so on-trend, and a floral skirt with a striped top or a striped jacket will be perfect at this year’s derby.  Another great derby look I love is a fitted green floral skirt with a ruffle, a white blouse, and nude heels. How derby-lious does that sound?


It blows my mind that this legendary event hosted at a race track is one of the few places you still see women wearing beautiful dresses and hats…except at church, especially on Easter Sunday when everyone makes an extra effort to look elegant and ladylike.  Growing up, my mom made me a new “Easter dress” every year.  After church, my siblings and our cousins would go across the street to our grandparent’s house for the annual Easter parade and egg hunt.   My favorite Easter dress was when I was 4 years old.  I wore a beautiful white organza dress, complemented with a matching parasol and purse, and of course an adorable Easter hat.  So fancy!


Holley and her sister

Just like a lot of things these days, church dresses are becoming a thing of the past.  So here’s my plan:  Because I’m so passionate about the “church-dress,” I’m thinking about organizing a march.  The march would consist of women wearing beautiful church-like ensembles. Hats and parasols would be optional….but not makeup.  The ladies would be carrying signs that read:  “Get Dressed Up or Go Home,” or possibly, “Make America Stylish Again.”  Oh my goodness….does that make me sound radical?  Bless my heart!

All that being said, I truly love traditions like the Kentucky Derby, Hats Off to Moms, and Easter parades….because traditions actually take you back in time, which is kind of like a mint julep…refreshing!

Check out our Pinterest board for more inspiration. 

Holley Williams is a personal stylist specializing in closet inventory, seasonal shopping, closet organization and wardrobe consultation. Contact Holley at [email protected].