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Dressing the part

Decades of fashion showcased
at Kentucky Derby Museum

Gowns from celebrity hostess
Tricia Barnstable on display

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (April 2009) – Clothing and hats have been a trademark of the Kentucky Derby since its beginnings in 1875. Every year, all eyes are on the unveiling of the newest fashion trends as designers show off their latest creations in an effort to surpass last year’s styles.

1800s gown

Photo provided

One early fashion
example from the
late 1800s is a blue
silk, high neck gown.

This fashion culture has been captured in a new exhibit at the Kentucky Derby Museum. Derby Decades, Simply Chic, will be on display from April 10 to Dec. 31.
“Hats were once required social wear,” said Wendy Treinen, Director of Communications for the Kentucky Derby Museum. Now they are indelibly tied to the mystique of the Kentucky Derby and accentuate beautiful and sometimes extreme fashions.
Derby Decades, Simply Chic will feature a retrospective of Derby fashion worn by winning Derby horse owners, local residents, couture designers and celebrities who have attended the Derby and related parties and events.
The exhibit will be unveiled at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 9. A fashion show will be held at 6:30 p.m., with a silent auction planned for the evening as well. Tickets include cocktails and appetizers and are $35 if purchased by April 2 or $50 at the door.
Fashion has had a huge impact on the Derby. This will be shown through the display of about 70 lavish gowns. One early fashion example from the late 1800s is a blue silk, high neck gown, said Treinen. Derby fashion “runs the gamet” of style, she said.
Contemporary gala gowns are also on display, including several elaborately beaded ones on loan from Kentucky Derby celebrity hostess Tricia Barnstable. These gowns denote the flavor and excitement associated with the Derby.
The Kentucky Derby Museum contains a second floor exhibit space where this exhibit will be showcased, said Treinen. The area will be transformed into a festive atmosphere, resembling a Gala party.
“It’s the very first exhibit of this kind dealing with Derby fashion that we now of,” said Treinen. Sometimes demure and often outrageous, high fashion is associated with locals and out-of-towners as a pre-requisite for attending the Derby.
Kentucky Derby Museum Executive Director Lynn Ashton had always been interested in putting on such an exhibit, said Treinen. Oldham County resident Jo Ross and her business partner, Bob Stuecker, have designed the exhibit and will install it.
“I actually formed a Costume Collection for the Museum of History and Science, which is now the Louisville Science Center, back in 1978 when it opened,” said Ross. She is a fashion expert with 40 years experience in the business.
“There are 22,000 historical fashion pieces in storage there.”
Many of the items on display at the Kentucky Derby Museum will be on loan from the Louisville Science Center, the Speed Art Museum and the Elisabeth Sage Collection at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind.
After Aug. 1, the focus of the exhibit will shift to hats, accessories, suits, sundresses and more casual wear, said Treinen. Currently, the exhibit is comprised only of women’s clothing.
The Kentucky Derby Museum is located on the front steps of historic Churchill Downs. In June 1999, the museum underwent a $10 million renovation and a 10,000-square-foot expansion. It has welcomed more than 2 million visitors from all over the world since opening in April 1985.

• Tickets may be purchased by calling (502) 637-1111, ext. 226, or by visiting: www.derbymuseum.org.

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