The Kentucky Derby is by far the most exciting and the grandest of stakes races in North America because of the long history attached to it, as well as the colorful crowd. But all that color is under a major threat this year from the unlikeliest of sources.
The competition among jockeys and their horses is always intense at most events due to the winning purse on offer. However, the unofficial race among the attendees to wear the biggest and most aesthetically pleasing headwear is what separates the Kentucky Derby from the rest.
It's a tradition that goes back many decades, when wearing large hats was still in fashion. For one weekend each year, horse racing enthusiasts turn the clock back and show up at Churchill Downs, sporting as big a hat as they could find.
But hat designer Linda Pagan has noted that the average size of Derby hats has actually gotten smaller in the past few years. Women now focus more on the design rather than size, and that's not by choice.
Apparently, a number of restrictions imposed by airlines on internal flights are to blame for this trend. According to Pagan, one of her clients was recently forced to give up her rather modest 20-inch hatbox because it exceeded the airline's allowed limit of carry-on size. As a result, she had to take the headwear out of the box and travel with it sitting on her lap for the rest of the journey. Of course, its design suffered as a result.
To counter the problem somewhat, milliners sell their hats with a special hatbox made of durable plastic that protects a hat's design during flights. It costs $200 though, and it still doesn't solve the size constraint. Pagan doesn't expect these issues to get solved, but she believes it's the cost to look fabulous at the Kentucky Derby.
Here are some more ideas for this weekend's Kentucky Derby: