Steffi Graf wearing a Carol Bader Design hat with husband Andre Agassi at the 2012 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) All photos courtesy Carol Bader.
On the first Saturday in May, tradition and romance walk hand-in-hand under the twin spires. In fulfillment of this annual, age-old custom, spectators adorn themselves in elegant fashions. Kentucky Derby (G1) outfits are an integral part of the experience, and evoke the nostalgia of a truly Americana moment. However, it is not the lady’s dress demanding the spotlight - it is her hat.
Travel plans must be made well in advance of this monumental race. This is also true of a lady’s Derby attire. No one knows this better than award-winning designer Carol Bader of Carol Bader Design, owner of Del Mar Hat Company. Bader’s pioneering efforts specializing in Kentucky Derby hat design have rippled throughout the millinery industry. She has spent seventeen years on the national stage designing hats for Kentucky Derby attendees.
It is no accident Bader finds herself as a leading hat designer for Derby connections and celebrities. The youngest of nine children, she was significantly influenced by her mother’s style. During the 1950’s, Bader’s mother grew up in a time when dressing like a lady was not limited to special occasions, but an essential part of everyday life, when hats and gloves were an almost daily accessory.
JAMIE PRESSLY DONNING A CAROL BADER DESIGN AT THE 2010 KENTUCKY DERBY WITH HER HUSBAND SIMRAN SINGH.
Not only did Bader grow up “old school,” as she puts it, but she also had an early love for horses that placed her on a unique career path. Though she spent much of her childhood showing horses, a particular moment drew her to horse racing. “I saw Secretariat run,” Bader said. “It made such an impression.”
This passion has led Bader to study in some of Italy’s premium design houses, spending twenty years refining her skills in Europe and the United States. Currently based in beautiful Del Mar, California, Bader works hard continually designing new products and implementing her creative ideas to fulfill her client’s needs. “It’s fun for me to help outfit people if they have a horse running.” She continues, “It’s special for them and they are excited. I believe in dressing for the occasion…they [the client] are celebrating that moment.”
CAROL BADER (LEFT) WITH ONE OF HER CLIENTS
Bader understands the significance of being associated with major horse racing events. “It’s important to observe what an accomplishment it is to be there, to acknowledge the accomplishment through their dress by appreciating and respecting the caliber of the event.”
CLIENTS OF CAROL BADER ATTENDING THE 2012 BREEDERS' CUP
The Kentucky Derby in particular is an event where people are not mere spectators but active participants in raising this sporting event to a level no other sport can claim. The Derby Hat is a common denominator among fans, horse connections, and celebrities. Carol Bader has become part of the heralded tradition of the Kentucky Derby by marrying her lifelong passions: design and horse racing.
“I think for people who have a horse running feel it is an achievement they want to dress for because they have worked hard to get their horse there. They know the back story. It’s an appreciation and respect of how the horse is doing.” Bader poignantly adds, “It’s a special day on many levels.”
For more information about Carol Bader Design visit http://www.delmarhat.com/
BADER'S DRAMATIC "MELA ROSE" DESIGN IS PART OF HER VAST DERBY HAT COLLECTION
BADER'S HATS FREQUENTLY APPEAR IN MAGAZINES
ELIZABETH GAINER PARTICIPATED IN THE 2012 BREEDERS' CUP FASCINATOR & FEDORA CONTEST
THE "MINI ABBY", FROM BADER'S 2013 SOIREE COLLECTION, IS AVAILABLE IN A VARIETY OF COLORS