Here are 3 tips from the pros to make sure you find the best Kentucky Derby hat

The Hat Girls, Rachel Bell and Kate Smith, have been designing and making hats and fascinators for Kentucky Derby fans for more than a decade. They are the Official Milliners of the Kentucky Derby Festival and Featured Milliners of the Kentucky Derby with a studio and boutique located at 211 Clover Lane.

Here are their tips for finding the perfect topper for your Kentucky Derby outfit:

Spend time doing online research before entering a store

Rachel Bell, left, and Kate Smith are The Hat Girls, one of three Featured Milliners of 149th Kentucky Derby. Mar. 9, 2023
Rachel Bell, left, and Kate Smith are The Hat Girls, one of three Featured Milliners of 149th Kentucky Derby. Mar. 9, 2023

With so many sizes, colors and styles of Kentucky Derby hats, spend time online looking through different milliners' websites and social media accounts before you head to the shops.

"Walking into a boutique or hat shop with hundreds of options is overwhelming for a lot of people," said Bell, co-owner of The Hat Girls. "Browsing online can help you whittle down the type of headwear you'll feel most comfortable wearing. We also offer ideas on our Instagram page for coordinating your hat or fascinator with ideas for dresses, shoes, purses and accessories."

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Think about if you want a big brim or fancy fascinator

Rachel Bell works on a Derby creation in The Hat Girls shop located at 211 Clover Lane in St. Matthews. The Hat Girls are one of three Featured Milliners of 149th Kentucky Derby. Mar. 9, 2023
Rachel Bell works on a Derby creation in The Hat Girls shop located at 211 Clover Lane in St. Matthews. The Hat Girls are one of three Featured Milliners of 149th Kentucky Derby. Mar. 9, 2023

Smith finds that many women attending the Kentucky Derby for their first time will want to wear a more traditional wide-brim hat.

"Where you will be watching the Derby makes a difference to the size of hat you'll wear," she said. "A lot of customers like a smaller fascinator if they know they are going to spend the day in a crowded area as it's easier to maneuver. But really, it's all crowded on Derby Day, which is why after the first year, we find customers don't want to fight with a hat and prefer a fascinator on a headband."

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Order your custom Kentucky Derby hat early

Kate Smith works on a Derby creation in The Hat Girls shop located at 211 Clover Lane in St. Matthews. The Hat Girls are one of three Featured Milliners of 149th Kentucky Derby. Mar. 9, 2023
Kate Smith works on a Derby creation in The Hat Girls shop located at 211 Clover Lane in St. Matthews. The Hat Girls are one of three Featured Milliners of 149th Kentucky Derby. Mar. 9, 2023

This is a pretty simple task as long as you've done your homework by browsing online ahead of shopping in person.

"When you know what style you would like to wear and have an idea of the color(s), you are going to be happiest if you order as earlier as possible," Smith said. "For a custom design, it's never too early to start working with the designer. And the earlier you visit a hat shop or boutique, the better selection you'll find."

The best hats and fascinators sell quickly so it's best to start your search by early April if you are going to the races in May.

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Reach features reporter Kirby Adams at kadams@courier-journal.com.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: The Hat Girls offer tips to finding your perfect Kentucky Derby hat