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Derby fashion: Fascinators compete with traditional wide brims

There was a touch of royalty at this year's Derby, with many women taking their fashion cues from the recent royal wedding. Just as at Westminster Abbey, the fascinator — more of a shrunken headpiece with feathers, flowers or beads than a full-size hat — was everywhere.

Emily Mays of Toronto wore a floral design of her own creation. "It started out as a hat," she said of the pretty pink petals perched at an angle on her head, "and ended up as a really large fascinator."

Sally Rosenthal of New York said a smaller topper was just the thing for her. "I'm 5-2 and I just disappear" in a bigger hat, she said. Her sculpted design added height and interest, with matching feathers woven throughout.

That's not to say the traditional Derby style of a sweeping brim was not popular. Tamara Sorrell of Austin, Texas, wore a purple topper that swept beyond her shoulders. The Derby first-timer said she thought, "Oh, I can't come to the Derby without a hat." She ordered one online, and she and her mother accented it with fabric flowers. Sorrell completed the outfit with spring wedges and a short cotton dress in a matching color.

Another traditional Derby look, seersucker, got a new twist in a strapless dress worn by April Gorny of Harrisburg, Pa. (It was a look by well-known designer Betsey Johnson, who was scheduled to be at the Derby.) For extra pouf, Gornby added a pink-and-blue petticoat.

Men tended to stick to the tried and true. Joel Bates, 17, of New Hampshire gathered the elements of his outfit at a thrift shop before coming to his first Derby. He came prepared for all kinds of weather, with a fedora and sneakers made for walking. "I'm an Eagle Scout," he joked as he joined the crowd around the paddock.

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