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Hats are tops with party crowd Race day brings out variety of headgear


We have to take our hats off to the Preakness for being the single festive occasion in Maryland that brings out all the ladies in their wonderful hats. Why does it take a horse race? If they knew how terrific they looked, they never would pass up an opportunity to wear one.

Yesterday's Preakness party crowd outdid itself. Under gray skies, women on promenade in the corporate party tents in the grassy infield turned the climate into a greenhouse.

There was a garden variety of headgear. And it wasn't the price of the hat that made the look, it was the attitude underneath.

Some modest straws, which might not have been intended for anything more festive than a day at the beach, were trimmed up with yellow and black ribbons and black-eyed susans. On top of a simple, little dress, they stepped up in class. Other confections were beautifully shaped organzas and stitched straws, which were prettied with everything from a simple grosgrain bow to trailing yards of tulle. The fashion plus that hats provide is that they make a woman hold her chin a little higher, which naturally throws her posture into a model stance.

Great form.

Short skirts prevailed in suit combinations of crisp cotton and linen. Black and white was the leader, with navy and white a close second, and the ultra bright pinks and fuchsias all over the field.

The soggy infield took its toll; there was more than one pair of ruined, sodden heels. Too bad, a low heel would have looked better with some of the very short clothes and made the walkabout easier.

Maryland men seem to be locked into the blue blazer and tropical-weight pants mode as the preferred attire for all occasions. The old boys seem to be able to sort out the fashion variations of blazer buttons. But they always look fine, though predictable. Black-eyed susan boutonnieres were presented to party-goers. Thanks, the guys needed that for a lively touch.

That was the luncheon bunch. The picnic crowd in the infield didn't seem to know that they were required to dress in racing form. The look there was more college spring break at the beach. Shorts of all lengths, from mid-knee baggies to cut to the cheeks were seen on both sexes. Ditto for T-shirts and tank tops. The necessary accessories were a beer can and a huge grin.

The high rollers at the clubhouse dressed to the nines, many women choosing very short, in elegant neutral shades of silk -- nothing as bright as their stable colors.

The mega-stars played it cool. Oprah swept through in black and white -- a black jacket with geometric white applique trim. She wore narrow black pants.

Hammer, too, was in black and white. He sported a black, velvety, double-breasted jacket over white trousers. His best accessory was a bare chest.

Stars know that less is more when it comes to fashion.

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