I am proud and excited to say that I created the hat worn by a Kentucky Derby winner, specifically, Mary Ellen Bonomo, owner of “Always Dreaming,” the horse who won the 143rd Kentucky Derby.
“How did this happen?” you may be asking, imagining me hanging around the horse stalls sporting my big flower fascinator. This was a special instance where the clouds parted, and Lady Luck aimed her bright, gorgeous ray of sunshine on me and my business. For that act of good will I am extremely grateful.
Unless you are a milliner you will not know that the two weeks before Kentucky Derby are extremely hectic. Customers have placed orders, which are being picked up, last minute celebrities are walking through the door, and people are shopping for Kentucky Derby parties. Basically, it is mayhem.
Within this madness I received a call from Mary Ellen Bonomo, who told me,
“I am sooo late! And me with a horse in the race.”
“Ok, a horse”, I thought for a minute.
“We are still fine for time, I can make your hat”, I told her. We scheduled an appointment for 8:30 am Sunday morning, which at this point was one week before the Kentucky Derby.
I had been working like a maniac, putting in fifteen hour days for weeks. My day was packed with sewing, selling, and doing hourly mental gymnastics about other orders, ( “Will the straw match the yellow dress?”, “Will FedEx get the box there on time” etc.), so I was operating in the moment, as I learned from my lifelong meditation practice.
Mary Ellen arrived in my Orchard Street store that morning. She was the cutest, nicest lady, a petite blond who knew exactly what she wanted. She proceeded to order a big cream hat with a giant blush pink silk cabbage rose. I told her I would have her order completed the following Wednesday.
When she came in for her fitting a friend who was with her told me,
“Mary Ellen is in The Post today. They favor her horse to win”.
He went out and got me a copy of The Post, and there it was, The Post had picked her horse,“Always Dreaming”, to win the 143rd Kentucky Derby.
’Wow, that’s cool” I said.
Our appointment went perfectly, she loved everything and took it with her. I was happy about the outcome and moved onto the next job.
Finally, after a monster amount of salted dark chocolate, cream lattes, Vitamin C, and late night sewing marathons watching naughty Donald Drapper on “Mad Men”, I had arrived at Kentucky Derby Race Day. Derby Day was spent from 9 am on working with clients coming in for parties, changing trims, and even one last minute request at 3 pm for a hat to be messengered to a hostess at her Derby Party.
At this point, the race was the last thing on my mind. I was happy and grateful that everyone had their orders, and all the hats were delivered and perfect. I could finally go home, have a martini, eat sushi and have some space in my brain for something other than hats.
When I got home my Mom called me and said,
“I think your horse won, turn on the TV!”.
There was Mary Ellen on the screen in my hat with it’s giant rose, being interviewed after Always Dreaming had won the race! What a blast!
Always Dreaming winning the 143rd Kentucky Derby made a great exclamation point to my awesome Kentucky Derby hat and fascinator season. I so appreciate that Lady Luck, on this occasion, chose to smile on me. Mary Ellen was such an elegant lady, and so nice. The icing on the cake is that now her winning Kentucky Derby hat is on display as a part of the permanent collection in the Kentucky Derby Museum. In NYC anything can happen, so be ready!