Hats Off to the Kentucky Derby

by Miranda Hilderbrand

Where can you combine a day at the races, sipping Mint Juleps and THE hat fashion event in the United States? The Kentucky Derby, of course! Alternatively referred to as “the most exciting two minutes in sports”, it is undoubtedly one of the most famous horse races in the world. Occurring this year on May 4, it is expected that 150,000 people will attend the races, which doesn’t even begin to factor in the many spectators at literally thousands of Derby screenings, events and parties. While the race is the main attraction for the event, it is without question the hats that truly steal the show.

The first Kentucky Derby race took place in 1875 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. The race always takes place on the first Saturday in May. Louisville residents, out-of-towners, celebrities, presidents and even members of the Royal Families flock to watch thoroughbred horses compete along a 1.25 mile racetrack.

Since it’s beginning, the Kentucky Derby has always been a high society fashion event as well as a race. Derby founding father, Colonel M. Lewis Clark Jr., envisioned a racing environment that was both comfortable and extremely luxurious. Opulent dress has very much played a large role in the history of the event. For the social elite of the late 19th and early 20th century, the Kentucky Derby was an opportunity to see and be seen in the latest of fashions with hats as the crowning glory of the event. In fact, to find a lady without a hat during the event was almost considered a scandal, not just a mere fashion faux pas.

The term “Derby Hat Parade” is used to refer to the mass sea of stylish and elegant hats that are seen at Churchill Downs during the races. This is an event where you want to be noticed, so when choosing a Kentucky Derby hat, it is best to be as original as possible. In most cases, the hat is the main part of the woman’s attire. It is very difficult to be considered over-the-top in your hat choice, so the wider the brim and the brighter the colors, the better. Most hats you see are adorned with flamboyant embellishments including feathers, flowers, bows, ribbons, tulle or all of the above. Many women pair their hats with a simple, matching cocktail dress.

Of course, we cannot forget about the male attendants of the Kentucky Derby. Men’s hat fashion at the event is usually more understated and classic. You will more often than not see hats that are solid in color and take their inspiration from the 1920s. A man cannot go wrong with a classic Panama hat or even a traditional bowler, or derby, as it is known on this side of the pond. Men can also go a bit more unique with a classic Boater hat or even a straw top hat. And gentlemen, do not be afraid to embellish your hat as well, be it with a unique hat band or even a fun feather to match your suit.

Hatbox: A Modern Haberdashery looks forward to and prepares for the Kentucky Derby every year. We carry hats from many renowned milliners around the world, including Nigel Rayment and Louise Green as well as Austin’s own milliner, Milli Starr. We offer custom fittings and can assist you in selecting the perfect hat to accentuate your outfit, shoes and accessories. So prepare yourself with your very own unique hat and enjoy your day at the races.

Haberdasher Recommendations!

by Hatbox Haberdashers

New to Austin? Visiting for SXSW? Here are some of our Haberdashers’ favorite places in town! We’ll be adding to this list in the coming days so make sure to check back!


Annie’s – Congress Ave. – Good for dinner, coffee and desert
Jo’s – SoCo & 2nd – food and coffee
Austin Land & Cattle Co. – 12th & Lamar – Old fashioned steak house
Chuy’s – Various -Tex Mex
Driskill Café, 1886 – 6th – Cocktails, nice dinner
Franklin BBQ – East 11th St. – Long lines, best BBQ in the city
Frank – Warehouse District – Sausages, poutine, great brunch
Guero’s – South Congress district – Tacos, people watching
East Side King @ Hole in the Wall – UT/Campus – Beer bacon ramen
Hula Hut – West 6th – Burgers on the lake
Jackalope – 6th – pizza, burgers, wings, dive bar
Manuel’s – 4th & Congress, also: Arboretum – Interior Mexican, margaritas, mole
Matt’s El Rancho – S. Lamar – Easily seats large groups, margaritas
Moonshine – 3rd & Red River – Brunch hot spot
NXNW: North By Northwest – 360 & Stonelake – Brewery and new American fare — RVC
Kerbey Lane Café(s)/ Magnolia Café(s) – various – 24 hours, local

A History of the Haberdashery

by Miranda Hilderbrand

It is no secret that a haberdashery is not something you come across every day. We get questions such as what exactly do you carry to what is the history of the term to, simply, what is a haberdashery?

A few weeks ago a gentleman came into our shop asking this very question. He told us that upon hearing of Hatbox, he did a google search on what a haberdashery actually is. Google gave these two definitions:
A Haberdasher’s shop
The goods and wares sold by a haberdasher.
And if you look up the term “haberdasher” it comes up as “one who works in a haberdashery”. This does not help at all! Upon hearing this, we knew it was time to give a proper to answer to this question.

While we can trace back several centuries of haberdasheries, the origin of the term is unknown. There is one belief that the word could have been derived from an Anglo-Norman word, hapertas, which means small ware. The word “haberdasher” did appear in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales to describe peddlers who sold items such as needles, buttons and so on. This dates the word back at least to the late 14th century and definitely ties it to the Anglo-Norman roots it may have come from.

A haberdashery was originally an all-purpose specialty-clothing store for men that focused on accessory items such as hats, gloves and scarves as well as notions such as buttons, needles and thread. This would be the equivalent of a Medieval five-and-dime store. There has been one description of a 16th century English haberdashery that specialized not only in accessories but also drinking glasses, birdcages, mousetraps and shoe horns.

Today the term has several definitions depending on how the word is used. In the United Kingdom, a haberdashery is more of a craft and sewing shop that carries needed items such as buttons, thread or ribbons. Here in America, the term has become associated almost exclusively with hats and hat accessories. Today a modern haberdashery will cater to men and women with most hats being unisex in their design. Many, including Habox, also carry such items as gloves, suspenders and umbrellas.

The origin of the haberdashery may be shrouded in mystery but there are many notable haberdasheries of the 1600’s – 1900’s that we use to define ourselves today. It is with this spirit that Habox has created its own take on a modern haberdashery. We still honor the knowledge and history of our forefathers yet have added our own unique spin and strong passion for hats. From our custom styles to our expert fittings, we work with you to find that perfect hat and might surprise you with the perfect bow-tie, sunglasses, or scarf to complete the look!

Rebirth of the Cloche in Roaring 2012

by Miranda Hilderbrand

The fashion world has spoken, and it is very clear that 2012 is the year of all the jazz of the roaring 20’s. Many designers have drawn inspiration for their new collections from the classic deco style and the razzle dazzle of the 1920s. What better to top of this fabulous look that with the cat’s meow of the era: the cloche!

The cloche was first invented by Caroline Reboux, a very well known Parisian milliner, in 1908. Fittingly, “cloche” is the French word for “bell”, and a cloche can be described as a fitted hat that covers a lady’s head from just above the eyebrows to the back of the neck. While cloches were commonly made of felt in their beginning and designed for the fall and winter months, straw versions were created for the spring and summer to ensure its status as a seasonless classic.

The cloche became so famous that one could even have it embellished with beading and lace for cocktail parties, soirées, and even bridal apparel. It also became customary for women to relay messages to on-lookers by affixing ribbons to their hat. My favorites include a firm knot signifying they were married and unavailable, or one could embellish their cloche with a flamboyant bow to signify she was single and interested in mingling.

This amazing hat forged through the 1920s as THE accessory to don, but shockingly and suddenly became obsolete between 1933 and 1934. It began to look as though the fashion world would lose this stylish beauty.

Thankfully, the cloche came back with a bang in 2007 when many designers re-exposed it in their fall collections. It was being featured in numerous magazines, and made its way to the silver screen when Angelina Jolie donned the style in the 2008 film “Changeling” (which was based in the 1920s). This fantastic exposure left many fashionistas taken by the cloche and wanting their very own to complete their personal collections.

Without showing any signs of fading, the cloche made two fabulous reveals in recent history: one in film, and one on New York City’s catwalk. French actress Bérénice Bejo wore many fabulous cloches in the 2011 silent film “The Artist”. The cloche was also an accessory of choice in Fashion Week 2012 for numerous designers including Ralph Lauren, Sonia Rykiel, and Christian Dior.

Mark Bridges (costume designer for “The Artist”) commented on the cloche by saying that “they sort of hide your face and are very coy”, which encapsulates the style perfectly. They give women an air of feminine sophistication, as well as a bit of sexy mystery, AND they are the perfect accessory for a bad hair day! The cloche is definitely a must for every woman’s personal collection, and I strongly encourage every woman to release their inner flapper and have fun with this adorable and timeless trend.