Pictured: Rebecca Vance
By Avery Walts | Photo By John Sodrel
REBECCA VANCE wore hats to church every Sunday growing up in Milltown, Ind.
When she was 10 years old, her step-grandmother decided it was time the young girl learned to make her own hats and clothes.
“I didn’t make any hats for years because they went out of style and people didn’t wear them anymore,” Vance said. “I had wanted to make Derby hats for years and I always worked two jobs, so I didn’t have the time.”
That changed nearly two decades ago when she stood on top of a tour bus and sold 20 hats in 10 minutes in a Jeffersonville hotel parking lot. Then, she invested what money she had into her new business venture. Today, Vance is the owner and creator of Rebecca’s Hats, an 18-year-old Kentucky Derby hat and fascinator business she operates out of her home. She makes an average of 300 to 400 hats a year with orders coming from all over the country, each one ranging from $50 to $600.
“Most of the women bring a dress in, and we apply the decorations to match the outfit,”
she said. “I will go as crazy or as understated as they want. It’s their choice. My job is to make them feel beautiful.”
Despite years of keeping up with the latest trends, Vance still loves the big, beautiful, classic Pretty Woman-style hats. However, the Derby is, for many, a hat party accented with horse races, so hats that garner attention while bucking tradition are always in great demand. “You’re only limited by your imagination,” she said.
Each year, 72 hours before Derby morning, Vance runs around getting every last detail finished before women invade her home that first Saturday in May. That’s because brushes, cans of hairspray, dresses and hats will be flying everywhere that day – all before noon – with women intent on achieving the perfect look. The atmosphere is enough excitement Vance said she feels like she’s gone to Derby by the end of it.
Vance grew up going to Churchill Downs with her family, but never on Derby Day. In fact, the maker of Derby hats has yet to attend the Kentucky Derby. “The funny thing is, I love Churchill Downs and I’ll go any time after the Derby, but I’ve always said I wouldn’t go to the Derby even if they drop-lifted me in a helicopter onto Millionaire’s Row,” she said. “I just don’t like crowds.”
- Always set the hat flat on your head like you would put a lampshade on a lamp. It’s not meant to ?fit on the crown o? your head.
- Looking ?forward at a mirror, place two fingers sideways above your brows. The hat should start at the top of the finger closest to your hairline.
- If? you have long hair, it’s best to put your hair behind your ears. It opens up your f?ace.
- Stand tall, smile and enjoy yourself. Strut your stuff. Confidence makes everyone beautiful.