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Odds are Queens woman had hand in races fabulous hats

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Although most eyes were on Summer Bird as the horse surpassed Dunkirk and Mine That Bird for a first-place finish in the Belmont Stakes, there was another attraction at the Elmont, L.I., racetrack Saturday that commanded attention and, unlike the thoroughbreds in contention, was a sure bet.

The fashion, that is. Or, more specifically, the ladylike yet attention-grabbing chapeaus designed by Briarwood milliner Christine A. Moore.

Moore, unofficially dubbed the official hat designer of the Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby by her Kentucky fans in April and who was featured on The Today Show with Al Roker and Amy Robach this year, has been a mainstay on the Triple Crown circuit for the past six years.

In addition to designing hats for the equestrian set, Moores creations are sold at boutiques nationwide, including three Medici locations in Manhattan, Jeannies Dream in Cedarhurst, N.Y., and the Brooklyn Museum.

Sunnyside resident Jeanette Richards purchased one of Moores creations at the Brooklyn Museum about a year and a half ago. The black fabric hat featuring an understated band bow spoke to the free-lance fashion consultant and food entrepreneur, who described Moores designs as fashion-forward, yet classic.

Her hats are so outstanding — they make a statement, said Richards. The hats enhance the person, they dont take over.

For two days prior to the Belmont Stakes, Moore showcased her handmade wares at the posh Garden City Hotel on Long Island, where she anticipated drawing roughly 600 customers in a retail ritual she was performing for the fifth year.

Horse racing and fashion are a natural fit as both provide the opportunity for participants to strut their stuff.

Theres the contest — women outdoing each other, said Moore. I think that right now, women look forward to dressing up, and dont feel guilty spending the money to do it. Horse racing is a huge party, especially for the women.

The bad economy has been good news for Moore since women are more willing to splurge on a fantastic hat, even if they wear a dress they already own. She said her sales were up 15 percent for the Kentucky Derby and about 60 percent higher for the Preakness Stakes this year.

I think that people needed a chance to celebrate and do something fun, Moore said.

Mary Beth OBryan, owner of Luna Boutique in Louisville, Ky., a prime destination for women attending the Kentucky Derby, said the response to Moores hats has been phenomenal since her store began carrying the line in 2004.

Christine is able to design such a wide range of styles, yet her personality shows through so that you know it is a Christine Moore hat, said OBryan. Her look is clean and sophisticated, even though she is designing for customers who want a wild and show-stopping creation.

Moores creations range from $120 for a rain hat to $750 for the Corrine, an elegant wide-brim hat featuring feathers and sculptural flowers constructed from ribbon. Some of her more outlandish, custom-order creations cost more than $1,000, as in the case of the Patty, a hat specifically designed for a customer at the Kentucky Derby.

The hats are designed and made by Moore and her staff of three at her midtown Manhattan studio. Rain hats typically take one hour to make, while elaborate creations like the Corrine take about eight hours to complete, said Moore. Each hat features a drawstring sewn into the sweatband, which allows for a perfect fit and prevents the hats from taking flight during high winds.

Designing hats for races like the Belmont Stakes allows Moore to let her creativity run wild, whereas her everyday creations are a bit more constrained and functional.

The skys the limit for designing for horse racing, said Moore. I can be as creative as I want to be. For street-wear, it has to do with durability and wear-ability.

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