From Armani to eBay: How Stars Sourced Their Style at the Kentucky Derby

Kentucky Derby -Split-Main-Getty-H 2019
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Bode Miller, Patrick Warburton, Wilmer Valderrama and David Alan Grier suited up for the 145th Run for the Roses.

Whacky, over-the-top looks are never in short supply on the Kentucky Derby red carpet, from fantastical, feather-bedecked hats to ensembles that resemble costume more than fashion. But a variety of stars embraced effortless elegance for Saturday’s 145th Run for the Roses — even if the race’s winner remains the subject of ongoing controversy, the best sartorial bets were easy favorites.

For men, seersucker is often the suiting of choice, and Patrick Warburton was among those wearing the summer-friendly fabric, thanks to some ingenuity on the part of his wife, Cathy Jennings. “She found this on eBay — it cost all of $30,” said the actor, a first-time Derby attendee.

“I took it to the dry cleaner, and we also had it tailored; I think we spent more on that than the suit,” Jennings chimed in. “I knew he was only going to wear it once, so I was thrilled to find this.”

At the other end of the price spectrum, Travis Tritt wore a taupe suit by Giorgio Armani, with coral-hued accessories that matched the floral dress and wide-brimmed hat worn by his wife, Theresa. “Most of the time I like to be comfortable, but I will dress up when it’s called for, and there’s no better day for that than the Derby,” said the country-music legend.

Also in neutrals was Wilmer Valderrama, whose mushroom-hued double-breasted suit was by Billy Reid, which the NCIS star said was coordinated with the help of his stylist, Evan Simonitsch. “We talk a lot about what I want to say with the look, and he has such a good eye with putting things together,” Valderrama said. “Because it’s double-breasted and it has sort of a relaxed elegance, I feel a bit retro and Sinatra-esque, which is exactly what I wanted.”

Pastels also rank high in style statements on Derby Day. Bode Miller sourced his blue windowpane-plaid suit with a pink shirt and tie from Erik Jarvey of Palmdale’s The Created Gentleman. “Erik always hooks me up and takes good care of me, and it’s a mobile service, so he comes out to me and makes it so easy,” Miller said.

Upstairs in Churchill Downs’ The Mansion, a tony clubhouse area for sponsors and VIPs, Steve Harvey paired his white Dolce & Gabbana suit with a lavender wide-brimmed hat by New York-based Esenshel, while David Alan Grier wore a blue-gray suit and pastel accessories by John Varvatos, which he finished with a straw boater he purchased at J.J. Hat Center on New York’s Fifth Avenue. “I was going to wear seersucker, but I put this on, and it fit me like a glove,” he said. “And I own a billion hats, but I’ve never owned a boater. I get all my hats from J.J., and I love adding this to my collection.”

Indeed, sartorial splendor takes myriad forms at the Kentucky Derby, but elegance rules the day. Just ask Pascal Savoy, U.S. brand president of Longines, both the official timekeeper and watch for the race. Each year on the Friday preceding the Derby, Longines sponsors both the Kentucky Oaks race for 3-year-old fillies and a fashion contest, which this year went co-ed, with 200 men and women entering (the man and woman declared the best-dressed among the field each wins a Longines timepiece).

“Everyone has a different expression of elegance, and we love to see all of those interpretations,” said Savoy, who served as one of the contest judges. “It’s impressive to see how much time and effort people put into their style each day, especially the women. But no matter how you define elegance, you’re expressing yourself through your style, and in doing so you’re also expressing a certain confidence, and we love both of those things.”

If anyone exuded confidence at the Kentucky Derby, it was Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles, tasked with singing the National Anthem on Derby Day. On the red carpet prior to the race, Nettles admitted that she was nervous about her performance, but as a nod to Savoy’s theory, she admitted that she chose her look partly to convey a bold attitude: “I just wanted to feel like a beautiful spring day in Kentucky, and super Derby,” she said of her lilac tiered dress by Brazil-based designer Fabiana Milazzo, paired with a seashell-pink floral fascinator by Arturo Rios. “He made it so easy,” Nettles added of the Los Angeles-based milliner. “The second I tried it on I said, ‘Yep, that’s the one.’ And I absolutely love it; you know it’s a good hat when you never want to take it off.”