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10 questions with local milliner Tiffany Woodard

Woodard’s floral fascinators come alive every Derby season at Oxmoor Center.

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If there’s one thing that Tiffany Woodard, local fascinator-maker + costume designer, wants you to know, it’s that you should buy your Derby hat here in town because there’s no shortage of talented, local milliners.

And Tiffany is no exception — her gold banana leaf and orchid fascinator is a must-see. You can check out her fascinator inventory at the Oxmoor Center until she sells out.

We caught up with her amid the Derby-season rush to ask her a few of her favorite Louisville things:

Describe your perfect day in Louisville in two sentences.

It would be coffee at Bean to start out, then brunch somewhere local, maybe Gralehaus or Wild Eggs. Then I would relax before the concert I’m going to at Iroquois Amphitheaterwhich is my favorite venue in town — and after that, I’d meet up with all of my friends at either The Merryweather or High Horse.

1a. Two follow-up questions, what is your order at Bean, and who are you seeing at Iroquois Amphitheater on your perfect day?

Black coffee — keep it simple. Then, my dream lineup at Iroquois Amphitheater would be Jenny Lewis opening for Brandi Carlisle.

Name 3-5 other local leaders, influencers, or movers + shakers you’re watching.

Ben and Sarah who just opened The Bellwether Hotel — they’re always doing really cool projects, pretty much everything they touch turns to gold. Natalie Kaelin is a local designer with Studio Nine Interiors + she’s got such a perfect aesthetic, I’m always looking at what she’s doing. Of course Bri Bowers — we worked together for KMAC Couture several years ago and I love all the stuff she comes out with.

You can only choose one local restaurant menu to bring with you to a deserted island — which one is it and why?

It would have been Rye before it closed, but I guess I would say Jack Fry’s. It’s so good. I would eat the whole menu but when we’re going there tonight, I’m getting the pork chop.

What were the last 3 things you did locally?

I went to Bean Coffee. I was also at the Thoroughbred Society on Sunday for the Old Fashioned Show + I had Kashmir for dinner.

Who are 2-3 other local leaders you’re inspired by? Why?

Jenny Pfanenstiel (owner of Formé Millinery). The design, her initiative — all of that is one thing, but it’s the fact that she is not a gatekeeper in a niche industry. She empowers and encourages. She’ll share all of her secrets with you, they’re not “trade secrets.” She’s never holding onto her business as if there’s not enough for everyone. That’s what I want to be like.

What first sparked your interest in making fascinators and costumes?

I grew up doing art and crafting my entire childhood. My mom was an interior designer so I learned to sew on her industrial sewing machines, and then from there, it was a lot of necessity — I had kids so I just started making them costumes and it sort of grew into its own beast where I was thinking about their costumes in July and August instead of the week before Halloween.

With fascinators, I could never find anything that fit my head or was comfortable to wear all day long. Out of necessity kind of grew into what I do now. I had been making headpieces and when I moved to Louisville in 2011, it grew into more of a Derby business because we’re in the home of the Kentucky Derby.


Giant red magnolia with small red magnolias fascinator by Tiffany Woodard. | Photo by Tiffany Woodard

6a. Follow-up, what is the costume you were most excited about that you’ve made for your kids?

I worked in retail for a long time so I wasn’t really flexing my creative muscles on a daily basis, so when I would have a chance, like on Halloween, I would just go nuts. When Penelope was four or five, I made her one of those illusion costumes that looked like she was a princess riding a dragon but her legs were the dragon legs and there were fake princess legs. She’d run around and it looked like this princess was riding on top of this animatronic dragon.

How busy are you this time of year?

Eating and showering are negotiable right now — I could eat or I could meet this deadline. This is the only time of year that I can make money in this business so every minute, it’s go-time. That’s how busy I am. I’m lucky because my studio is at home, so I’ll put the kids to bed and I’ll work until basically my body stops me. Sometimes that’s 10 p.m., sometimes it’s 2 a.m.

7a. Do you have any funny anecdotes of Derby’s past you can share with us?

I had a lady one time in my booth and she was laughing — which is normal sometimes when you sell stuff — and she was saying, “Well these are cute, but I don’t go to the infield.” I was thinking, “That was a really mean thing to say.”

Fast forward, we would go to the Derby and I would always think to myself, “I sold so many fascinators this year — like hundreds,” and I would never see anything I made at the Derby until one year we were on the third floor and I was like, “Oh my gosh, I made that! And, I made that!

And oh my gosh, this is where all my stuff is — it’s all up here on the third floor, not the infield.”

Can you tell us what your process is like when you go to make a new fascinator?

It looks different depending on what it is. Sometimes I’m inspired by a shape or a composition I see in the outside world. One time I saw a picture of a vase leaning on its side with a piece of grass coming up and I needed to recreate it somehow.

Other times I’m inspired by an actual flower that I see. Other times it’s a collaboration with the person who’s going to be wearing it — the coolest designs have come out of people telling me, “I like this, what if you also did this?” I love a good collaboration.

What’s something that every Louisvillian should know about?

There is a family cemetery in the parking lot of Bed, Bath and Beyond. If you didn’t know, you would just think it was a shrub.

What do you think Louisville will be known for in 10 years?

I think that there is some kid who is about to get accepted into Manual where they will build whatever it is — an app, an invention, innovation — and they will take it all the way and that’s what we’ll be known for. The next thing, 10 years from now whatever it is, it will be made by someone who is right now a child.

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