Aretha Franklin on the Hat That Created a Worldwide Sensation

Aretha Franklin performs at the inauguration on January 20, 2009. Ron Edmonds / AP

Three years ago I looked everywhere for a hat to wear to President Obama's inauguration. I was so excited to sing, because it was such an important moment for our country. It had to match my collarless and double-breasted coat, similar to some of the coats that Jackie O. used to wear. It had to be just the right chapeau. I talked to all the houses in Europe in my search for the perfect accessory. I compared the hat selections of Lanvin, Dior, and Chanel from Paris. I even considered ones from Milan, and I just didn't see what I was looking for.

I looked and looked and was beginning to think that I'd never find a hat that would be just right. Finally, I went to one of the local dealers in Detroit, Mr Song Millinery, and I saw it. I said, "That's the hat that I want!" They had to work on it a little bit, because I wanted it edged in tiny rhinestones. And the bow was on the left side, but I wanted it on the right. I have a favorite side, and the right side is my favorite. I just think it photographs better. The mistake I made was that I was looking at famous designers worldwide for something that ended up being right down the street.

So I picked it up and wore it at the inauguration—and that hat created a worldwide sensation. People were calling me from Europe! At first, I was calling them, looking for the hat, and then they were calling and writing about how much they loved it. That was one fabulous hat, and everybody liked it. I think it's because it was so stylish and gorgeous. The hat took on a life of its own. I understand that the hat has its own Facebook page. As a matter of fact, I went to the NAACP dinner in Detroit recently, and a young lady came to shake hands with me, and she had on the same hat, only it was white.

It seems as if this hat may even end up in a museum one day. I loved my hat, and the lesson I learned is that sometimes you could search for something long and hard, until you realize that what you're looking for is right at home.

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But did it help my performance? Oh, please.

Interview by Ramin Setoodeh

Aretha Franklin on the Hat That Created a Worldwide Sensation | Culture