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Lousville milliners, hat shops tackle Derby week

Updated: Apr. 26, 2021 at 5:08 PM CDT
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Co-owners of The Hat Girls, Kate Smith and Rachel Bell spent the Monday before Derby boxing up...
Co-owners of The Hat Girls, Kate Smith and Rachel Bell spent the Monday before Derby boxing up orders and taking phone calls from customers.(WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Despite Churchill Downs’ 50% capacity cap for the Kentucky Derby, many local milliners and hat shops are moving full speed ahead as out-of-state customers and last-minute locals select their Derby hats five days before the big day.

“Unexpectedly, it’s been crazy,” Rachel Bell, co-owner of The Hat Girls said. “We had no idea what to expect going into this year after COVID and also still being in COVID, but it’s been booming.”

The Hat Girls told WAVE 3 News the company has already met the same numbers from 2019, but not without some challenges the year prior.

“2020 was a rollercoaster,” Bell said. “March 13 we were opening that weekend to open for the Derby season and we ended up closing due to the start of the lockdown.”

On the plus side, because The Hat Girls sold a few hats and fascinators last year, their inventory is up for 2021; the majority of their customers are ordering from out-of-state which Bell said is not typical.

Bell and co-owner, Kate Smith spent Monday packing up orders to ship out-of-state and answering phone calls from inquiring customers.

The Hat Girls told WAVE 3 News the most popular style has been the fascinator this year, a smaller head accessory compared to the hat.

“This year we have definitely been suggesting fascinators to people, because by the time you have the mask and hat on, (and sunglasses) you’re not going to see much of your face,” Smith said. “We’re suggesting fascinators and also stud earrings because you’re going to be taking your mask on and off so that will make it a little easier the day of.”

Down the road, fascinators at Dee’s Louisville are also selling more often than hats.

“I think people are going for a fun look and an easy look,” Kathy Olliges, the owner of Dee’s Louisville, said. “If they’re wearing a mask, they want it to be easy, and a fascinator is a fun thing to wear.”

Olliges told WAVE 3 News sales are good this year considering Derby capacity is set at 50%. Many of her customers have been newcomers to the Derby.

“Some people who have never been to a Derby are able to go just because of the way the tickets’ availability has changed this year, so they’re taking advantage of it this year, or people who don’t like to be in crowds are going this year because it’s a great year for that,” Olliges said.

Both Dee’s Louisville and The Hat Girls will be open throughout the week.

For more information about Dee’s, click here.

For The Hat Girls’ hours of operation and to view inventory, click here.

Copyright 2021 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.