Up for Discussion: The Mad Hatter

Dec 16, 2010

You wouldn’t know it to wander the halls of the Capitol on a casual Friday, but the House of Representatives does have a dress code.  When on the Floor, Members must observe the following guidelines:

“Members should dress appropriately, which has traditionally been considered to include a coat and tie for male Members and appropriate attire for female Members; Members should not wear overcoats or hats on the floor while the House is in session.

No eating, drinking, or smoking is permitted. The use of personal electronic equipment, including cellular phones and laptop computers, is banned on the floor of the House.”–House Committee on Rules

The rules were famously amended so that former Congressman Ben Nighthorse-Campbell, a member of the Northern Cheyenne tribe, could wear bolo ties instead of the traditional neckties.  So they’re not set in stone.  But one incoming Freshman legislator would like them amended so that she can wear her trademark hats on the Floor.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

From CNN:

Wilson is a connoisseur of hats, especially sequined cowboy ones, and she doesn’t take kindly to being told that the House doesn’t cotton to its members rocking Stetsons in its chamber.

“It’s sexist,” Wilson told The Miami Herald. “It dates back to when men wore hats, and we know that men don’t wear hats indoors, but women wear hats indoors. Hats are what I wear. People get excited when they see the hats. Once you get accustomed to it, it’s just me. Some people wear wigs or high heel shoes or big earrings or pins. This is just me.”

It would take a full vote of the House to change the rule forbidding hats, which has stood since 1837.  And while I don’t know that it’s high on the legislative agenda for the new Congress, I have to ask: Do you think the House should change the rules at let Rep-elect Wilson wear her hats on the floor? 

Discussions

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  1. Senate sider says:

    So if they changed the rules for hats…
    Does that mean the Memebers could wear baseball caps with logos, Mad Men fedoras, sequenced or plain cowboy hats, feathered monstrosities, Dr. Suess Cat in the Hat hats, jester caps, beanies, wide brimmed sun hats, fur Russian hats (could of used one of those this week), hunting caps with the ear flaps, fishing hats complete with lures?
    Where in the world would it end?
    There are rules for a reason. I would love to wear jeans and t-shirt everyday but I take my job seriously. She obviously does not.

  2. Anna Della says:

    Just let her wear the hat. If Congress will devote the small amount of time necessary to change the rules so a Senator can wear a bolo tie in lieu of a necktie–they can do the same for hats. It's really not a big deal (By the way, bolo ties are not sacred to the Northern Cheyenne [seriously, ask your friend Google], though I have definitely met a good number of Arizonans who would claim that bolo ties are a way of life).

    And in response to the question of “Can all Members be trusted to don hats responsibly?” I know populist hatred of Congress is “in” right now, but, seriously, they ARE adults, they can dress themselves (some better than others). Sequins is too distracting? If you're that thrown off by shiny objects, you've got bigger problems than your colleague's choice of headgear.

  3. Alison says:

    Ugh, NO!

  4. Senate sider says:

    So if they changed the rules for hats…
    Does that mean the Memebers could wear baseball caps with logos, Mad Men fedoras, sequenced or plain cowboy hats, feathered monstrosities, Dr. Suess Cat in the Hat hats, jester caps, beanies, wide brimmed sun hats, fur Russian hats (could of used one of those this week), hunting caps with the ear flaps, fishing hats complete with lures?
    Where in the world would it end?
    There are rules for a reason. I would love to wear jeans and t-shirt everyday but I take my job seriously. She obviously does not.

  5. Anna Della says:

    Just let her wear the hat. If Congress will devote the small amount of time necessary to change the rules so a Senator can wear a bolo tie in lieu of a necktie–they can do the same for hats. It's really not a big deal (By the way, bolo ties are not sacred to the Northern Cheyenne [seriously, ask your friend Google], though I have definitely met a good number of Arizonans who would claim that bolo ties are a way of life).

    And in response to the question of “Can all Members be trusted to don hats responsibly?” I know populist hatred of Congress is “in” right now, but, seriously, they ARE adults, they can dress themselves (some better than others). Sequins is too distracting? If you're that thrown off by shiny objects, you've got bigger problems than your colleague's choice of headgear.

  6. Alison says:

    Ugh, NO!

  7. Emil says:

    It's not a matter of indoor vs. outdoor – it's a matter of respect for the chamber and for other Members. With all due respect, take the hat off.

  8. BunnyB says:

    Totally inappropriate in all ways. No hats!

  9. stacey says:

    One of the reason personal electronics are not allowed is because they are a distraction, and an annoyance. So is a huge sequined hat. No hats.

  10. Stephanie says:

    This woman needs to get over herself.

  11. Hannah says:

    i'd be pretty upset if i were in this woman's constituency – she clearly is not taking the responsibilities of her office seriously if she insists on having to look a certain way to carry them out. she's also wasting the time of every other representative and the House's resources to ask them to vote on this.

  12. Jessica says:

    I say let her wear the hat! ūüėÄ

  13. Bianca says:

    I interned in the Florida Senate when she was in office, and it was very distracting to see her on the floor wearing those hats. But in all fairness there are a few other female members of Congress for now that wear things a little over the top.

  14. Bianca says:

    I still don't like them….but apparently(according to wikipedia) “She wears one every day to honor her late grandmother.”

  15. E says:

    I agree with Jessica, let her wear the hat!

  16. Danae says:

    Should anyone be allowed to wear a sequined Stetson? Anywhere?

  17. Stephanie says:

    I'm sure her grandmother would rather see her granddaughter be a respectful, productive member of Congress who values her chance to serve her constituents than a self-centered person who demands that the House use valuable time to address whether the rules ought to be changed to suit her fashion preferences. If I had a granddaughter behaving like Wilson, I'd come back from the grave to give her a good slap upside the head.

  18. Belle says:

    For me, it's not about one woman and a hat. Because if you allow her to wear a hat, you have to allow all the Members to wear hats. And I know many Western Congressmen and women who would start sporting hats.

    So the question is: Should we allow hats at all?

  19. L says:

    They previously made adjustments for cultural reasons, the fact that she seems to like glitter does carry a whole lot of weight for me. Respect the history and the decorum of the institution and take the hat off please.

  20. L says:

    Typo, sorry! Doesn't not does.. whoops

  21. Sarah says:

    This is what she wants to spend the House's time on? Whether or not she can wear a hat? For heaven's sake…

  22. K says:

    No on the hat. She can wear it the rest of the day if she wants to.

  23. Nina says:

    This should not be allowed, it's a stupid stunt. And trust me I am a super-liberal feminist who is known to be a 'that person' who calls people out on sexist remarks and rape jokes – but even I think the whole 'it's sexist' remark is bullshit. “It dates back to a time when women wore hats indoors.” We do not live in that time anymore! And women had to wear hats indoors so men wouldn't think they were prostitutes (the only brazen hussies who would do such a thing). And saying it's sexist that we don't live in a time where there was more sexism is completely backwards!

    On a related note: “Members should dress appropriately, which has traditionally been considered to include a coat and tie for male Members and appropriate attire for female Members;” those are some really vague regulations for women. I had no idea.

  24. annie says:

    she thinks it's sexist to not allow anyone to wear hats? what about amending the rules to let some jokester of a newbie wear hats on the floor but not the men?

    seriously, keep up the decorum. no sequined stetsons. ever.

  25. Allison says:

    Her choice of topper is ridiculous hands down.

    But should members be allowed to wear hats, I say no. Being able to hides one's face during votes, or block your mouth, I don't know, I imagine that could be taken advantage of to be sneaky. I used to work in Tennessee state government and there were lots of amusing hats, and some members fell asleep under them during session. (Although after working in the Fed congress I doubt that would be as big of an issue, but still, no snoring on the floor!)

    Also, members look more professional when they have less wardrobe options. A hat would just give someone the opportunity to look unpolished.

    Sarah-Belle pointed out that this is not a hot topic in congress. It's something being covered in this FASHION blog because it is fashion related.

  26. I think she's being a tad dramatic (read: a LOT dramatic), but I really don't see why she shouldn't be allowed to wear her hats. It's not like she's wearing ballcaps; African-American women have historically worn large, ostentatious, fancy hats as a means of dressing up for important occasions – kind of like the Queen of England! I don't see it as disrespectful.

  27. Senate sider says:

    So if they changed the rules for hats…
    Does that mean the Memebers could wear baseball caps with logos, Mad Men fedoras, sequenced or plain cowboy hats, feathered monstrosities, Dr. Suess Cat in the Hat hats, jester caps, beanies, wide brimmed sun hats, fur Russian hats (could of used one of those this week), hunting caps with the ear flaps, fishing hats complete with lures?
    Where in the world would it end?
    There are rules for a reason. I would love to wear jeans and t-shirt everyday but I take my job seriously. She obviously does not.

  28. Anna Della says:

    Just let her wear the hat. If Congress will devote the small amount of time necessary to change the rules so a Senator can wear a bolo tie in lieu of a necktie–they can do the same for hats. It's really not a big deal (By the way, bolo ties are not sacred to the Northern Cheyenne [seriously, ask your friend Google], though I have definitely met a good number of Arizonans who would claim that bolo ties are a way of life).

    And in response to the question of “Can all Members be trusted to don hats responsibly?” I know populist hatred of Congress is “in” right now, but, seriously, they ARE adults, they can dress themselves (some better than others). Sequins is too distracting? If you're that thrown off by shiny objects, you've got bigger problems than your colleague's choice of headgear.

  29. Alison says:

    Ugh, NO!

  30. Belle says:

    Anna Della,

    Believe me, I'm very aware that bolo ties are not some sacred item of clothing. But I think they had no choice but to grant it because Nighthorse Campbell said it was because he was Native. If they hadn't granted it, they would have looked terrible.

  31. Belle says:

    Senate Sider-

    I don't know if it's that she doesn't take her job seriously, but I would say that like Patty Murray's signature white sneakers, the hats are her schtick. She's trying to protect her brand. And I guarantee if they allow this to happen, you will see MANY Western members on the floor in cowboy hats.

  32. MAB says:

    Absolutely not!

  33. Ashley says:

    No hats. Congress is an institution to be respected. And since when is it okay for women to wear hats indoor!?

  34. ~M says:

    I think she does make a good point about women traditionally wearing hats indoors while it is rude for men to do so. If there is an exception to make for bolo ties (ugh) I don't see the difference in making an exception for hats. Although, I do believed sequined hats are only acceptable for 5-year-olds in their first dance recital.

  35. gingerr says:

    I think she takes her job seriously. She's grown her political brand with hats.

    Personally I think the one in the picture is downright silly and I have some doubts about how seriously her colleagues can take her with that on her head.

    I'd be willing to amend the rules and let it go. She's dressed-up. Hopefully she has some less-costumey models to wear on regular days.

    What would we do if a conservative Jew or Muslim woman – whose relgions dictate head coverings- were elected? If they amend the rules for this woman then down the road when a woman whose beliefs govern head coverings is elected it won't be an issue. All because someone in a sequined cowboy hat lead the way.

  36. Sean says:

    To say one is a connoisseur of sequined, brightly colored cowboy hats is like saying one is a connoisseur of white zinfandels. Both are in bad taste. Lose the hat.

  37. I Do Declare says:

    Aren't hast considered a weather dictated accessorie?. You don't wear sun hats whent he sun goes down. You don't wear winter hats when you're warm inside. You don't bring your schtick to Congress, and you don't wear hats on the Floor.

  38. CR says:

    I tend to side with the majority. While her reasons for wearing hats are all well and good, the question is whether hats in general are appropriate on the House floor. They're not. Same as outerwear – I don't want stetsons, beanies, or even cute cloches and fedoras on the floor.

    And major shennanigans on the sexism accusation. Please.

  39. dm58 says:

    gingerr, I am neither a conservative Jewish nor a Muslim, but I am quite appalled that you would equate a REQUIRED religious head covering with a sequined hat! I am fairly sure that these religions do not want a woman who simply prefers (ugly) sequin hats to “lead the way” in a change. And you and I both know that, in this country, the allowance of a religious head covering would be permitted in an instant. Neither groups need Ms. Wilson for a champion.

    I will not even get into addressing the question of whether their religious head coverings even come into the definition of “hats” that have been banned. As a visitor to Congress, you cannot wear a hat to watch the proceedings. You can, though, wear a religious head covering. My muslim mother-in-law wore her head covering without a peep from security personnel when we visited the House a few months ago to watch the proceedings.

  40. Anony says:

    No to tacky hats! (and to stylish ones too)

  41. Jessie says:

    I'm from Florida, and am very familiar with Senator Wilson's hats…all I can say is- they are entirely too entertaining. (And it really won't feel the same to see her without one.)

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