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Celebrating Derby 150: Amy Streeter’s Derby Rose Dress Poised for its 12th Debut on the Red Carpet

By: Amy Streeter, Owner, Susan’s Florist

Photos provided by: Susan’s Florist & John Nation

It was nearly twelve years ago that we dressed Rachel Wagoner in the first Rose Dress for a Derby season fashion show. My daughter, Margaret, who was only seven at the time, loved being involved in the process of making my vision come to life. She was my “right hand” backstage at the fashion show, helping me adjust the tightly sewn fresh rose skirt and lei for Rachel before she walked the runway. That experience began the “labor of love,” and really solidified this as a yearly Streeter family tradition.

Every florist is going to have their fair share of chaos, and Derby time in Kentucky is nothing short of beautifully chaotic. The rose dress alone entails cutting and cleaning over 500 roses, hand sewing and placing the blooms delicately on the fabric of the dress, and transporting the dress to and from the track. I think of the Derby Rose Dress as a living piece of art.

2019 was the first year that Margaret donned the rose dress. This dress was a particularly special creation, as it was an honor to her late brother, Robert Streeter, who passed away in 2018. When Margaret turned around, viewers saw the “R” which was constructed out of bamboo and adorned with deep red spray roses. The “R” has been a piece that I have included in my design in years since.

My inspiration for the rose dress is pulled from many different facets of our city, and “pretty things” that catch my eye. Each year, I start the process with an image in my head and rough sketch on paper. However, it never is exactly that image, since the dress truly evolves during the process. In the end it is molded into a unique showpiece I am thrilled to highlight on the first Saturday in May. When I designed the first Rose Dress, it felt important for me to show my appreciation to the Derby. I created the skirt as an ode to the Derby Rose Blanket, and the lei as a tribute to the rose garland. Shannon Burton then beautifully presented the Derby Rose Dress for five years.

In 2021, the Rose Dress was worn by Jessie Smith and featured a dramatic bow across the shoulder and a lace cape, of course, all embellished with beautiful roses. Being the first Derby after the pandemic, I wanted my design to celebrate our community and be a remembrance to those we lost. The cape added a “superhero” aspect to the dress to display our gratitude to all our local heroes and to remind all of us that we are all superheroes in some way.

In the last twelve years, four models have assisted in showcasing the Rose Dress. I am thrilled to create a special piece that my daughter will wear to the 150th Run for the Roses. Margaret’s dedication and poise has added an irreplaceable element to the final product as she radiates a sense of pride and admiration walking on the red carpet. It is a long, exhausting adventure but one we consider a privilege. Our labor of love.


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