The Kentucky Derby might be known as The Greatest Two Minutes in Sports, but everyone knows the race plays second fiddle to the dazzling display of Southern belles in the fanciest, most ornamented, most jaw-dropping hats around.

It's theater ... a grand, glorious stage, and anyone can participate, Sally Faith Steinmann, owner and milliner for Maggie Mae Designs, told CNN. My husband's mother went to the Derby when she was a teenager -- she's 98 years old -- and she remembers the sea of hats. In our culture, we don't have all that many occasions like this. There is nothing like it, from the infield to Millionaire's Row.

The Kentucky Derby hats are a nod to sheer glamour. How often does a woman get to leave the house in a tea dress, pearls, and a hat made of roses and ostrich feathers? Not very often.

Crafting the hats is just as thrilling as wearing them.

I love making the bodies of the hat out of the silk dupioni, but then when it gets to trimming the hat, and I can actually take a strip of fabric and weave it, wind it, and swirl it up with silk organza into a rose curl or a marguerite, and I feel like a sculptor, Steinmann told CNN.

Bleacher Report offered a little history lesson about the tradition of the Kentucky Derby hats. Since the race began in 1875, women who attended the Kentucky Derby always dressed to impress (and to stand out in a crowd). 

Check out some of the most fabulous hats from the 2012 Kentucky Derby.