A classy Derby outfit begins with the feet

May 03, 2004|LIZ MAPLES

LOUISVILLE - It takes more than a hat to make a Derby outfit a winner.

On the first Saturday in May, putty-colored skies and raindrops meant shoe choices could make the difference between being comfortable or getting all washed up.

As sure as there were half-moon horse shoes, so were there heels in a multitude of heights, straps and colors. But, to trot around the puddles that collected at Churchill Downs, some women shucked the three-inch heels in favor of rubber clogs or tennis shoes. Others ignored the weather and stuck it out in spring sandals.

After all, Derby comes but once a year.

It was Brit Chris King's first time at the races. She wore a pinstripe suit with rose embroidery, a lacy shirt underneath, and a string of faux-green pearls. The outfit was rounded off with a pair of white sneakers.


"I knew it was going to be a long day," she said. "I sort of heard about it on the television."

In the loo line behind King was West Virginian Kim Dunnington-Thompson, dressed in pink from head to toe. She bought her linen suit first - $200.

"It was so hard to match," Dunnington-Thompson said. "Do you know how many shades of pink there are out there?"

Rose. Mauve. Pastel. Hot. The shoes were a challenge, but she managed with a pair of leather thongs in pale pink from TRU Meaning for $50. The classic Derby wide-brimmed hat, $75, topped off her outfit. Worth every cent, she said.

"I had to do it," she said, explaining that the tailored-look was a must-have for her first Derby.

This was far from David Gassman's first time. The Louisville native said he knew that flip-flops on a rainy day in the infield just wouldn't cut it. There were plenty of mud-splashed toes to prove his point. Gassman had his feet covered up from ankle to shin in work boots, complete with torn fabric on the toes.

Showers drove some to cover their feet with grocery sacs or pieces of plastic. Boots were a must-have for the hundreds of photographers, jockeys and trainers out on the race track. They wore their mud-covered feet with an air of pride, a testament to their experience.

Linda Davis, of Savannah, Ga., had on boots too - cowboy boots. They stuck out from under a breezy, bloom-covered dress and a floppy white hat.

"No, my feet won't hurt" she said as she gestured to the white leather with a feather-trimmed scarf. "We're going to dance all night after this."

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