WASHINGTON — Mortified by the media storm over her desire to keep wearing one of her signature hats, incoming U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson says she's ready to come to the Capitol sans chapeau.
"There are too many serious issues affecting people like foreclosures," Wilson said Thursday, following weeks of coverage about her propensity for wearing colorful hats and matching suits. "People need jobs, people need healthcare. They don't need to be discussing my hats and my outfits. That should not be the news of the day.
"I am going to go into Congress and whatever the rule is now, I will abide by that," said Wilson, who had said she was going to ask incoming House Speaker John Boehner for a waiver of a House rule banning hats on the chamber floor. "I will observe the law of the land."
But the Miami Democrat, who has worn hats for 30 years — inspired by her grandmother — said she's not giving up the possibility that she might one day wear a hat onto the House floor. "I'll look at my options and I will proceed from there," she said.
Wilson noted she's received atta-girls from members of the Red Hat Society, which celebrates life after 50 by donning red hats, and African-American women's groups.
She landed Thursday on the front page of the Washington Post in an article by Pulitzer Prize-winning fashion writer Robin Givhan, who has written about then-New York Sen. Hillary Clinton's cleavage, former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris' makeup and then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's knee-high black boots.
Givhan, who suggested Wilson's "Technicolor exuberance" may be too much for Washington's "humdrum beige," quoted New York milliner Kokin — who has designed hats for Laura Bush, Barbara Walters and Queen Latifah — as a fan of Wilson wear.
"I love the fact that she was confident enough to go sailing into the old boys' network wearing that hat and that red suit," said Kokin, who goes by one name, referring to Wilson's appearance on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, resplendent in red suit and matching cowboy hat. "In her world, she's Lady Gaga."
TV outlets have called; blogs have buzzed. "The hysteria it's created is unbelievable," said Wilson. "I've worn hats for 30 years. I didn't get elected to Congress to wear hats."
Wilson said she hopes to steer future conversations more to what she wants to accomplish, including helping her strapped district, which includes Overtown, Liberty City, Opa-locka and parts of southern Broward County. "I don't know that (the hats) are that important, except that it's what I wear," she said. "It's like telling someone they have to go in barefoot because they are accustomed to wearing shoes."