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Frederica Wilson Explains Her Distinctive Style

The Florida congresswoman is known for her hats.

Photographs of Wilson, clockwise from top left, by Sipa USA/Alamy, Patrick Fallon/ZUMA Wire/Alamy, Rod Lamkey/CNP/MediaPunch/alamy, WENN Rights Ltd./Alamy.

Florida congresswoman Frederica Wilson is accustomed to wearing clothes that people notice: brightly colored suits, stiletto heels, and a complementary cowboy hat. A former teacher and elementary-school principal, she’s been serving in the House since 2011, and her outfits immediately stood out—especially after she wore hats on the House floor in violation of a regulation that dated to the 19th century. Though she maintained that the rule was unfair, she decided to go bare-headed during congressional sessions. We talked to her about her fashion sense.

What influenced her style:

“I had a grandmother who was very stylish and who I try to be like. She was from the Bahamas and wore hats and gloves every day. She was a tall, pretty businesswoman who owned property and built houses and collected rent. Ain’t that something: not my granddaddy but my grandmother!”

Where she gets her colorful headwear:

“I get my hats from a place in Miami called Whittall & Shon. It’s two men who are married—they are my dear friends. I used to wear fedoras, [but then I] saw cowboy hats and started wearing them.

What she hopes to convey to the world through her clothing:

“I have a mentoring program for boys [the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project], and I always tell them that when you walk into a room, people get an impression of you by how you dress and look. Before you even say anything, they have sized you up, so always make sure you are presentable. I believe it’s important for me as a leader to leave a great impression before I say anything.”

This article appears in the April 2023 issue of Washingtonian.