(Photo: Kendall Mitchell Gemmill/For USA TODAY NETWORK-Tennessee)
Pastel blazers, floral dresses and wide-brimmed hats dominated the fashion scene at the annual Iroquois Steeplechase horse race in Nashville.
But it’s those who took a departure from the preppy ensembles who got all the attention.
That’s what happened to Carolyn Smith Bryant, a New York City transplant who now lives in Leiper’s Fork.
Just a few feet away from the grassy track, where horses cleared hurdles on the 3-mile track, attendees lightly tapped her on the shoulder and asked, “Can I take a picture with you?”
Despite the heat — temperatures hovered around the mid-90s Saturday afternoon at the 77th annual Iroquois Steeplechase at Percy Warner Park — Bryant wore a floor-length orange dress made of a light material. Across her body, she wore a sash of sheer orange fabric dotted with red flowers.
It was her hat, however, that really turned heads.
Her oversized green hat was over 1 foot tall — a far departure from the more commonly seen wide-brimmed straw hats and fascinators.
Plastic lemons and bananas sat on the brim of her hat. On top, there were garlands of red flowers, green leaves, a butterfly, sunflowers, sparkly green ribbon and dark green and red feathers.
“I was inspired by Carnival in Brazil,” Bryant said.
She said she also was inspired by Carmen Miranda, a late actress known for her large fruit basket headdresses.
While there were attendees engrossed in the horse races, fashion was a big draw, with many taking pictures of their outfits and admiring other outfits.
Amid a sea of khaki pants and collared shirts, some men opted for a more playful style.
Some men wore pastel-colored rompers that hit mid-thigh, a style more commonly seen in women’s fashion. Instead of seersucker or solid colors, some men stood out in blazers with bright floral or fruit designs.
Lynn Lancaster had a more traditional outfit. She wore a black dress with a light pink floral print. Her wide-brimmed hat, from Dee’s Crafts in Louisville, Kentucky, had a similar theme.
Fashion, whether traditional or funky, is part of what keeps her going back. She’s attended Steeplechase for the last 11 years.
Hours before the race, Kim Benefield, of Columbia, Tennessee, stood in the shade of her tent, greeting visitors as they snapped pictures of the dozens of flamingo decorations. A pink chandelier with pink flamingos hovered above her.
“We wanted something fun and something that brings a smile to everyone’s face,” Benefield said. “We were like, “OK, what’s happier than a flamingo?”
Reach Melanie Balakit at email@example.com.