Laura Moser and her husband C.D. traveled from their home in Baltimore to attend their first Kentucky Derby in 2008. At the time, she couldn’t afford to buy a hat, so she decided to make her own. They loved the Derby so much they came back in 2009 and 2010, and Laura donned her own hat creations each of those years as well. As they drove back to Baltimore in 2010, C.D. suggested they retire to Louisville one day because of their love for the Derby. Fast forward to present day, they are now living in Louisville, and Laura’s dabble in hat making has flourished into a business, Simply Laura’s Millinery. In the city of Louisville and throughout the country, many people have come to love the one-of-a kind style of Laura’s handmade hats.
“I was actually born in Louisville and spent many wonderful summers here, visiting family. We didn’t live here, though, until December of 2015 when my husband retired from American Airlines,” Laura says. Although the move to Louisville was much desired, it was also bittersweet. Their son David had succumbed to stage 4 melanoma in July of that year. “I was at loose ends and C.D. suggested that I open a hat business as a way to channel my grief. That first year I did what many people do–just glued a bunch of stuff to a hat.”
In the second year, Laura began hand making the hats from start to finish. After a few more years, Laura traveled to Australia and France for training, and attended a London Hat Week to further advance her skills. Each creation is unique and designed to the specifications of the individual who has commissioned her work. Today, she is one of the Official Milliners of the Kentucky Derby Museum.
“People who have known me for a long time are a bit surprised because I’m not a particularly domestic person,” says Laura. “I worked for American Airlines for 35 years, so it’s certainly a nontraditional approach. Many milliners have come through the fashion industry, but I think that’s a wonderful thing. You can be a creative person with good instincts and find your way to a terrific career in millinery. It’s a neat side road to fashion.”
Laura’s business is booming. When we met, she was preparing for Zoom calls with women in Los Angeles and Nashville who had commissioned her for their Oaks and Derby headwear. While the majority of her pieces are for Derby events, Laura’s clients reach out for her distinctive hats for weddings, and even daily wear like felt fedoras and cowboy hats. “When I get pictures from my clients and I see them happy in their whole ensemble, I just love it. I wish hats would come back for men and women,” Laura says.
By Megan S. Willman | Photos by Erika Doll
P.S. Hosting a Derby party this year? Check out this bar cart for inspiration.