Milliners are using Kentucky Derby hat supplies for protective face masks

christine moore hat

Switching gears: Milliners are using Kentucky Derby hat suppliers for protective face masks

Fancy hats and protective face masks. Kentucky Derby milliners across the country have swiveled their talent to protect America’s health care workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.

A month and a half before May 2, the biggest day at Churchill Downs — things were humming along as planned at The Christine Moore Millinery and Olivia Griffin’s The Mysterious Rack hat shop in downtown Louisville.

In New York City, this was crunchtime for designer Christine Moore, who along with her five staff members, was hustling to fulfill hundreds of custom hat orders for customers from across the country in advance of the 146th Kentucky Derby.

But then the coronavirus began its sweep across the country, and suddenly production at the sought-after milliner’s workshop and showroom ground to an unexpected halt.

“I needed to disband my staff and send them home with work,” Moore said. “They carried what they could onto the subway, and I loaded my car with fabric, ribbons, feathers, my streamers — all the supplies I needed to continue fulfilling orders,” said the New York City-based hat designer.

A Featured Milliner of the 146th Kentucky Derby who sells custom hats at Louisville boutiques, including Rodes for Her, Moore tossed one other item into the trunk of her overstuffed car. Along with the sinew and silks, the esteemed hat maker made room for some light-weight, thin gauge wire.

“I wasn’t using it for my 2020 Derby designs, but for some reason, I thought it might be important,” she said.

At this point in the coronavirus pandemic, everyone is wearing a mask if they are going anywhere in New York City, Moore said, and that gave her an idea for all the Kentucky Derby hat materials she hauled to her home in Queens.

“I was contacted by a nurse on Long Island who had bought a hat from me for Derby,” said Moore. “She loved the hat but said what she could really use now were masks for her team.”

Another customer who buys hats from Moore for the Belmont Stakes each year reached out in need for masks for the hospital where she works in housekeeping.

And so the designer who sells Kentucky Derby hats for hundreds of dollars apiece got busy. Using a pattern she designed after researching how Asian countries are sewing protective face masks, Moore began to turn the materials she intended for Kentucky Derby hats — cotton broadcloth, skinny ribbon, elastic and that fine gauge wire — into hundreds of masks.

Reprint of the Louisville Courier Journal newspaper – Photo by Christine Moore