How To Spend A Ton Of Money, Trying To Save Money, On A Derby Hat


OK, so I’m a little late for the Derby, but here in New York we have the Belmont Stakes which is basically the same thing, only on Long Island, and just cause we ain’t in Kentucky doesn’t mean we don’t like to get fancy.

But then, because we aren’t in Kentucky, getting the right kind of fancy can be a bit of a challenge.

Men have it easy. Those who choose to get dressed up, typically don seersuckers. With the right kind of vision, a dude can put this together on the cheap at Marshall’s. But while women can find inexpensive dresses to wear, we have an entirely different dilemma when it comes to procuring the main accessory, the piece de resistance, the item that truly makes or breaks your Derby worthiness:

The hat.

Now certainly there are millinery shops in the greater NYC area that would happily sell you headgear for well into the hundreds of dollars but let’s get serious. As much as I like to do it right when it comes to costuming, I’m not going to spend my retirement fund (HAHAhahaha! I don’t have a retirement fund) buying something that I will almost surely, never wear again. That’s why this year, I decided to make my own. Then I thought, why not share my nifty ideas with all six of my readers and call it a tutorial? So here you go:

The Official RheelDaze Guide To Doing It Up At The Derby

I wanted to keep the price of my hat under thirty dollars so naturally I went to Michael’s and spent nearly seventy on all the accouterments necessary to craft my masterpiece. I bought waaaay too much though, so you can save some coins by not falling into that trap. Really, all you need is four or five flowers of varying sizes, not a bunch that could make up the goddamn centerpiece at a royal wedding. Also I got myself a new glue gun which I didn’t need but this one is so much better than my old one, that it was totally worth it.

You can get the hat for under ten bucks at Burlington coat factory, which I might add had the best selection of old lady church hats out of anywhere I went. So if I hadn’t bought all the extra crap, this would have been right around $25 total. Not bad!


Looking at all of these supplies was rather intimidating at first, making me question why I embark on DIY posts when I have no idea what the hell I’m doing. But then I was struck by brilliance and thought to look up a video on YouTube telling me what to do. This entire article should really just be a link to said video but I didn’t spend an hour torching my fingers to the bone to give CraftEMagee all the credit.

Surprisingly, this turned out to be a really easy project.


 I started by laying a white ribbon over a black one and gluing them together at the ends.


Then wrap it around the hat’s base and glue the ends together in the spot where you plan on having all of your flair so no one can see it.


Now get started making your bow. You might want to check that your health insurance is still valid (HAHAhahaha! I don’t have health insurance) before attempting this because you will most definitely have developed arthritis by the time you are done.

Here is a good video on the basics of bow making.


I was feeling pretty cocky, which is why I used two ribbons of different colors but you might want to start with one because this is the hardest part.

After I spent damn near twenty minutes trying to twist these things into the proper proportions using a heavy ass metal wire that I had laying around the house, instead of a pipe cleaner to secure them, and leaving two long tails at the end Vanna says to me “You know you can buy those pre-made at the store, right?”

Shut up Vanna.


Next I added these two little birds by threading their wire through the one I used to bunch the bow. If you’re like me, this stage of the process will cause you to have a category five melt down because it flattens out the archs and appears to ruin all of your craftsmanship, but don’t worry, you can reshape it after you’re done.


Now for the fun part! Gluing all your decorative elements.

I should mention that if you’re someone who likes to commit crimes, this is the project for you, because by the time you are finished making this hat, you will have burned off all of your fingerprints.

Start by placing a decent amount of hot glue on some long stems and then shove them in there behind your main ribbon. Then press the glue, whose temperature is only slightly warmer than what you would use to melt steel, with your bare finger against the hat’s fabric.

I’m just kidding. Don’t do that. Put on a rubber glove or something lest you end up like I did, doing the rest of the decorating with the freezer door open to give you easy access to the ice.

Next cut your silk flowers off of their stems. You might want to use wire cutters instead of scissors to do this because these silks stems are serious business as evidenced by what happened when I tried taking a hard line with them. After your done cutting off the stems, attach them any which way you want.



To fasten the bow, you can use the leftover wire that you used earlier to hold it’s shape, to puncture the brim of the hat and secure it on the underside.



 Ta da!

I wanted to take a picture of myself wearing the entire getup, dress, pearls and all, to show how pretty my piece looks when it’s actually on my head but I live alone and my cat couldn’t figure out how to operate the camera, so I guess you’ll just have to wait until I’m around actual people at the races next week to see the full deal.

All things considered, when you figure that a hat as involved as this might go for six hundred dollars in a proper hat shop (am I giving myself a little too much credit here?) spending only around $76 starts to sound like a bargain, with the upside being that now you can take all that extra money you saved and blow it on a trifecta box.

Happy Racing!

  • http://charter Oma

    Well Kelly Muffin, you can make me such a pretty Hat anytime! (not for 76.00 Dollars naturally) Have fun at the Derby.
    Besides, what is a trifecta box?

  • Gabriele

    What’s with the ridiculously heavy steel wire to wrap up that delicate ribbon? I’ll buy you some pipe cleaners for your birthday so you can fasten a ribbon much easier for your next project. Bows aren’t that easy to make to begin with. I can do them, but it took me a lot of time and practice…and working at flower shops…to learn how to do it perfectly. But Darling…I must say, that hat looks Devine! I also love the colors! Bravo! And enjoy the races. Love them myself.

    • Michelle

      Apparently she learned nothing from your “Floral Inspirations” days because I vividly remember you using a glue gun all the time to make arrangements…right or am I making that up my beautiful Aunt Gabrielle?

      • Kelly

        Yeah well she was only paying me two bucks an hour and most of the time she had me washing buckets and filling water tubes. I’m pretty sure I went on strike at one point. In fact, she may have had the honor of being the first, of many bosses, to fire me.

      • Gabriele

        Hello My Beautiful Niece, Michele, and thank you for calling me by my true name, although the “Beautiful” part is wearing a bit thin as I age. That’s why I won’t Skype…not a flattering venue at all! And yes, I have used the glue gun to apply many of my decorative accoutrements to hats, wreaths and such. However, when it comes to ribbons and bows, you do need to use a wire or a pipe cleaner. But when you’ve spent $76 on supplies for a hat you’re only going to wear once, it probably is wise to save some money and recycle what you have at home. Of course, replacing a thin flimsy wire with one that is equivalent to a coat hanger wasn’t quite what I was thinking of, go figure. But who am I to question the ever creative Kelly Rheel. She has proven herself to be ahead of her time. When she was just 14 she was the 1st live Mannequin, standing in the display window of my flowershop, displaying a beautiful bouquet of flowers. The little village of Congers didn’t quite appreciate her, too bad we weren’t in NYC at the time. Such a trend setter, that one. And as for the $2/hr she complained about, I’ve got news for you, she was probably making more money than I was. I would never have fired her! Never I say! I appreciated her talent and wit. I just loved having her around to entertain me as well. It’s so good to hear from you my Beautiful Niece Michele. Hope you and your family are doing well.

  • Lauren

    Who needs fingerprints when you’ve gotta hat like that. Am I wrong? Am I wrong?

  • Damien

    OK, it sort of goes against ‘The Guy Code’ to comment on anything fashion related, but I have to tell you that I am 100% impressed by your ingenuity and resourcefulness. And this looks so much better to me than anything I have ever seen in an actual fashion magazine.

    If you could just keep this comment between you and I it would be swell!

    • Kelly

      I really want to take this as a compliment, but I am skeptical as to the amount of fashion magazines you have poured through. Judging on the parties you go to, from your latest post, where everyone is dressed up in real life as hipsters do when they’re trying to be ironic, (I laughed out loud when I read that by the way) I’m thinking your bar for innovation in emerging trends is placed pretty low. Through no fault of your own that is. I do appreciate the sentiment though! It’s between you, me, my mom and my grandmother. Pretty much all the people that read this blog.

  • Lloyd

    Pièce de résistance, accoutrement et un fancy hat! Très magnifique

    • Kelly

      How did you get all those accents? yours look way more Fronch than mine do! Thanks Llyod!

      PS I meant to spell Fronch that way.

      • Lloyd

        Très facile. Write in MS Word, then cut and paste — et voilà

  • chip

    Dont forget to bring your earplugs for the end of the race!

    • Kelly

      Jesus, this scared the crap out of me. For a minute I thought it was real! Now I just feel like when I sent an issue of the Onion to my dad with a picture of a frazzled George Bush on the front page and the headline “Everyone just calm down a minute and let me think” and my father said to me this almost looks like a joke.

  • Beedee

    OMG! Did your Mom not teach you how to make a bow? It looks great in any case… So, want some old hats?

    • Kelly

      For sure. I can’t wear the same one next year. That would be totally de classe.