Arts & Culture

How to Choose the Perfect Derby Hat

Advice from one of England's favorite milliners, Gina Foster

As Southerners, we owe a lot to the United Kingdom, including but not limited to a shared love of bespoke millinery and the pageantry of all things equestrian. As we turn our attention from one grand Southern sporting tradition (the Masters) to another (the Derby), we reached out to one of England’s—and the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton’s—favorite milliners, Gina Foster, for advice on choosing the perfect hat for Churchill Downs or any occasion on your social calendar.

G&G: What is appropriate for the Kentucky Derby from your new SS15 collection?

GF: The bigger the better! Why not make a statement? The Anzio (below) is perfect for the races.

If you’re a little unsure of wearing a large hat, however, the Como (below) is also a good choice. A natural-colored hat will go with everything and the soft curves of this design are flattering and add height.

Still not sure? The most important thing is that you feel comfortable. One of my all-time favorites is the pillbox shape. This season I designed a silver straw version (below). The pillbox is really comfortable to wear and you will forget you even have it on! All ages can wear this style and we can make it any color to match any outfit.

G&G: What is the most common mistake a woman makes when selecting a hat?

GF: Lots of women assume that choosing a hat is about finding something that suits your face shape rather than how you feel about it. If you love the hat that you are wearing and feel confident wearing it, you will look great! Also, all of our hats are made to be worn on the right side of the head. Make sure you have your hat on correctly.

G&G: Do certain occasions warrant a specific style of hat? The Kentucky Derby vs. a wedding, for example?

GF: As long as you keep within the guidelines of the racecourse, have fun. Think about the venue when choosing a hat for a wedding. If it’s in a church, you do not want a hat so big that’s it’s going to block the view for your fellow guests.

G&G: What is the best way to care for a beautifully crafted hat?

GF: Store it in a hatbox and avoid the rain! Feathers and veiling can often be perked up with a quick steam.

G&G: What inspired the colors, materials, and styles in your SS15 line?

GF: I was inspired by summertime trips to the Italian Riviera, so I used a summer color palette of mint, ivory, and azure blue set against flattering nudes, navy and black to depict the classic sophistication of the Italian woman.

Clockwise from left: The Pisa; the Positano; the Andora; and the Amalfi.

G&G: The Duchess of Cambridge wears your pieces often. Do you have a favorite look that she paired one of your pieces with?

GF: I did love the outfit the Duchess of Cambridge wore when arriving in Wellington, New Zealand in April, 2014. She wore the Seaford pillbox in red felt to match a Catherine Walker coat. I thought the shape of the coat and the style of hat perfectly complemented each other.

G&G: What’s next for Gina Foster Millinery?

GF: AW15 will be available in late August and is called the Alpine Collection, which includes beautifully soft felts and silk-covered hats. Very glamorous!

Looking for a Derby Hat?
>Shop the entire Gina Foster SS15 line.
>50 of our favorite Derby hats