Get inspired with these 8 Kentucky Derby outfit and fashion tips for men and women

Whether it will be your first time at the Kentucky Derby or you are a "Run for the Roses" regular and could use some fresh inspiration for this year's outfit, we've put together some top fashion tips to help you look your Derby best.

Let's face it, Kentucky Derby weekend in Louisville isn't just about the horses — it's an annual fashion event with few rivals.

Some trends, like hemline length and various "it" colors, fluctuate from year to year at the longest continuously held sporting event in the country. But in general, a basic piece of advice holds true no matter which year you attend the Kentucky Derby at the historic Churchill Downs Racetrack.

"Wear what makes you feel amazing," said Kentucky-based fashion consultant Jo Ross.

Here are some must-have fashion tips and advice before you head to the Kentucky Derby.

Kentucky Derby hats are a must

Although you may not wear one at any other time during the year, hats for both women and men are a must-have item for Kentucky Derby weekend. There are oodles of milliners who specialize in the style of hat worn to the spring meet races, including Jenny Pfanenstiel and Christine A. Moore, both Featured Milliners for the 2022 Kentucky Derby.

"There's definitely a Southern belle feel to how Kentucky race fans dress for the Derby," said Moore. "It's lovely and elegant and feminine but at the same time, it's also going big or go home. When it comes to hats and fascinators, Kentucky women love big and frilly. They dress to reflect the pageantry of the day but in an elegant way."

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Consider the weather when you pick out your Kentucky Derby outfit

Model Shantay Chandler wears a bright float off shoulder Frank Lyman dress ($178) during a Kentucky Derby fashion shoot with stylist Jo Ross at Churchill Downs. March 28, 2019
Model Shantay Chandler wears a bright float off shoulder Frank Lyman dress ($178) during a Kentucky Derby fashion shoot with stylist Jo Ross at Churchill Downs. March 28, 2019

Once you have your hat, the weather is your biggest consideration.

This is not a joke.

May 7, the date of this year's Kentucky Derby, could be can be 85 degrees and sunny or something like 2018, the wettest Kentucky Derby on record when it poured 3.1 inches of rain throughout the day.

"If you are a local, you know that May in Louisville can be warm and sunny, cool and rainy or somewhere in between," said Ross. "Having dressed women and men for the Kentucky Derby for decades, I can tell you the best choice is to wear garments that breathe so you'll be comfortable. So think about natural fabrics like cotton, gauze, linen and silk. And I always recommend you have a plan for chilly or rainy weather."

What should men wear to the Kentucky Derby?

Guys, you can't go wrong with a colorful necktie or bowtie, a pastel shirt, and a lightweight sports jacket. Of course, a Seersucker suit will always pass the test with the fashion police.

"Absolutely yes," said Ross. "Seersucker suits are a tradition at the Kentucky Derby and were originally designed to be comfortable in heat and humidity."

And you don’t have to wear a tie. The key is comfort. Going to the races is about having fun while looking your best.

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What should women wear to the Kentucky Derby?

Kristina Russ models in a red jumpsuit, lightweight white shrug, fuchsia and pink Frank Olive straw hat and bag by Bramin during a Kentucky Derby fashion shoot with stylist Jo Ross at Churchill Downs. March 11, 2020
Kristina Russ models in a red jumpsuit, lightweight white shrug, fuchsia and pink Frank Olive straw hat and bag by Bramin during a Kentucky Derby fashion shoot with stylist Jo Ross at Churchill Downs. March 11, 2020

There is a Southern charm that inspires the look at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby weekend. You already know you don't want to be caught without a gorgeous hat or fascinator made of lightweight material like straw. Pair your headpiece with a beautiful floral summer dress.

Pantsuits with slacks or Bermudas are a playful option in 2022. So are jumpsuits and rompers, Ross said.

"Just be sure you are choosing one in a natural fabric or a blend," said Ross. "If you are wearing a jumpsuit made out of 100% Polyester, you'll roast if it's a very hot day."

Pick bold, bright colors for your Kentucky Derby outfit

Fashion is the focus with an occasional horse race at the Kentucky Derby on May 4.
Fashion is the focus with an occasional horse race at the Kentucky Derby on May 4.

We're crazy for color at the Kentucky Derby. As a result, you won’t find many shrinking violets at the track.

Colors hanging in your closet that will impress at the race track include shades of pink, indigo, orange, bright yellow and greens and various shades of purple and blue.

Spectator color combinations are always classic at a horse race. Black and white or navy and white never go out of style — and don't forget a splash of color in your shoes, purse or accessories. It's the Derby, after all.

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Do couples wear matching outfits at the Kentucky Derby?

Models Aaron Thornton, from left, Hope Daniels, Shantay Chandler and Josh Frank during a Kentucky Derby fashion shoot with stylist Jo Ross at Churchill Downs. Thornton is wearing a Black/red floral Tallia jacket ($195), black Calvin Klein shirt ($29.50), with white Ballin trousers ($195). Daniels wears a pastel floral print Ted Baker mid-calf length dress ($315), with a pastel straw boater Simply Laura hat ($375). Chandler wears a coral ruffled Frank Olive hat, ($900), bright float off shoulder Frank Lyman dress ($178), hot pink Marc Jacobs tiny bag ($395), with daisy sunglasses ($9). Frank is in a blue JKT New York sport coat, ($300), floral Bugatchi shirt ($179), hot pink Bugatchi shirt ($149), with hot pink Santorelli pants ($225). All can be found at Von Maur. March 28, 2019
Models Aaron Thornton, from left, Hope Daniels, Shantay Chandler and Josh Frank during a Kentucky Derby fashion shoot with stylist Jo Ross at Churchill Downs. Thornton is wearing a Black/red floral Tallia jacket ($195), black Calvin Klein shirt ($29.50), with white Ballin trousers ($195). Daniels wears a pastel floral print Ted Baker mid-calf length dress ($315), with a pastel straw boater Simply Laura hat ($375). Chandler wears a coral ruffled Frank Olive hat, ($900), bright float off shoulder Frank Lyman dress ($178), hot pink Marc Jacobs tiny bag ($395), with daisy sunglasses ($9). Frank is in a blue JKT New York sport coat, ($300), floral Bugatchi shirt ($179), hot pink Bugatchi shirt ($149), with hot pink Santorelli pants ($225). All can be found at Von Maur. March 28, 2019

And while we're on the topic of pairing colors, many couples will be coordinating their wardrobes this year.

We're not talking about matching costumes but rather an elegant and subtle combination of colors and textures. Consider tying your outfits together through accessories like a pocket square and neckwear that blends with the colors in her dress and headpiece.

What to know about Kentucky Derby accessories and shoes

Models Aaron Thornton, from left, wears a white on Black Bugatchi shirt ($179),  white linen drawstring Tostcano Firenze pant ($85), black/white Stacey Adams straw fedora ($30). Model Hope Daniels wears a black and white Giovanno headband ($395), black and white Brighton sunglasses ($80), black and white dotted Frank Lyman jumpsuit ($198), and a red Michael Kors tiny bag ($128). Model Shantay Chandler wears a black and hot pink platter headband ($245), white ruffle sleeve Ted Backer dress ($245), black Tory Burch tiny belted bag, ($228), and black round sunglasses ($110)during a Kentucky Derby fashion shoot with stylist Jo Ross at Churchill Downs. March 28, 2019
Models Aaron Thornton, from left, wears a white on Black Bugatchi shirt ($179), white linen drawstring Tostcano Firenze pant ($85), black/white Stacey Adams straw fedora ($30). Model Hope Daniels wears a black and white Giovanno headband ($395), black and white Brighton sunglasses ($80), black and white dotted Frank Lyman jumpsuit ($198), and a red Michael Kors tiny bag ($128). Model Shantay Chandler wears a black and hot pink platter headband ($245), white ruffle sleeve Ted Backer dress ($245), black Tory Burch tiny belted bag, ($228), and black round sunglasses ($110)during a Kentucky Derby fashion shoot with stylist Jo Ross at Churchill Downs. March 28, 2019

As for accessories, "shoes and the size of your purse are two things you don't want to overlook," said Ross. "Your purse can not be over 12-inches in any direction, it’s a rule of the track but it does give you enough room to throw in a pair of flats or flip flops."

Kentucky Derby Day is a long day on your feet, and in the heat and humidity of a sunny May day, you'll feel it all the way down to your toes if you are wearing stilettos.

Flip-flops or flats are a must for the walk from the track to your car and trust us, you’ll regret it if you forget this fashion tip.

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Have alternate Kentucky Derby outfits picked out and ready to go

Model Hope Daniels wears a black and white Giovanno headband ($395), black and white Brighton sunglasses ($80), black and white dotted Frank Lyman jumpsuit ($198), and a red Michael Kors tiny bag ($128) during a Kentucky Derby fashion shoot with stylist Jo Ross at Churchill Downs. March 28, 2019
Model Hope Daniels wears a black and white Giovanno headband ($395), black and white Brighton sunglasses ($80), black and white dotted Frank Lyman jumpsuit ($198), and a red Michael Kors tiny bag ($128) during a Kentucky Derby fashion shoot with stylist Jo Ross at Churchill Downs. March 28, 2019

You should be prepared with three different wardrobe options because we never know exactly what the weather will dish up on Kentucky Derby Day.

It has snowed on Derby Day but heat or rain should be your primary focus

"Option one is your dress, pantsuit, jumpsuit or romper," said Ross. "Option two is adding a shrug or wrap if the forecast calls for morning or evening temperatures to drop — and if you have tickets in an air-conditioned section of the track."

Dressing for rainy weather should be your third option. Lately, it seems like it rains every other year on Kentucky Derby Day and sometimes it rains buckets. Be prepared with a clear rain jacket or poncho in your closet. These are great choices because your Kentucky Derby outfit is still visible through the plastic. And remember, no umbrellas are allowed inside Churchill Downs.

One more note on the rainy weather wardrobe. Women may want to have cute coordinating rainboots on hand. Men can now find waterproof versions of their more formal footwear.

Tessa Nielsen, of Louisville, and Alyssa Miley from Northern Kentucky, kept their feet dry with stylish foot fashion at the Kentucky Derby.  May 04, 2019
Tessa Nielsen, of Louisville, and Alyssa Miley from Northern Kentucky, kept their feet dry with stylish foot fashion at the Kentucky Derby. May 04, 2019

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Your goal on Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby Day is to look like a million bucks, no matter if you're sitting in the Grandstand, the illustrious Millionaire's Row, in the infield or at your at-home party. But of course, you can spend much less than a millionaire if you use these tips as inspiration.

It's true that some women start planning next year's Kentucky Derby weekend outfit days after this one is run, but don’t worry if you are just getting started. Wear something colorful, comfortable, and pretty and you’ll look like a winner.

Reach Kirby Adams at kadams@courier-journal.com or Twitter @kirbylouisville.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: 8 Kentucky Derby outfit fashion tips for men and women