On Tuesday, Jezebel reported on a minor outrage at the Republican National Convention: it appeared that some RNC staffers were enforcing a dress code for women journalists that included a ban on sleeveless tops. Though it ultimately turned out that the policy was aimed at all journalists and simply demanded “professional attire,” the case got me thinking about what it means to dress the part at the Republican National Convention, at least in-so-far as photojournalism has shown it to us. So, here are 9 RNC fashion basics (slightly tongue-in-cheek): 6 for those inside the convention hall, and 3 for those outside.
The caption for this photograph, as given in the article “See the Fashion Trends from the Floor of the Republic Convention,” begins “Women accessorize while some men wear classic pinstripes.” Given the problems Donald Trump appears to have among female voters, not to mention the radical anti-abortion politics of his pick for Vice President, the stylistic resonance with the 1950s here and the fact that the men’s clasped hands pass right over the headless woman’s uterus might be a bit more telling than accessories and pinstripes.
Despite finding myself writing about RNC “fashion,” I’m rather a know-nothing when it comes to actual fashion. Treating the Trump kids’ polished look definitely requires such insight, though, so I called on the brilliant Lapsed Victorian, whose eye for couture never fails. She pointed out the coordination between Donald Jr.’s tie and the dove gray of Ivanka’s dress and commented that “The various Trumps’ dresses were all about clean lines, understated colors, and preppy shapes. The looks aren’t exactly memorable, but they’re the clean-cut, ‘anyone-for-tennis?’ sort of looks that one might expect.”
Trump’s children have received many kudos for their speeches, helping grant their father some of the gravitas called into question by the noticeable absence of elected officials on the program. In this photograph, looking tall and aloof in a sea of admirers, they model a softer, more youthful, more acceptable version of their father’s egotism for those in the nation already entranced by their family’s combination of celebrity, business and politics.
Elephants, flags, and sequins … national conventions do bring out the flair. It’s notable that photographs from inside the convention center show almost none of the more raunchy anti-Clinton gear getting attention outside the arena. This “Git Her Don” shirt is about as wild as it apparently gets inside—and the man is wearing a press pass, making his actual allegiances somewhat murky. Is the lack of attack t-shirts a matter of what photographers are choosing to show or does it reveal a sense among delegates that their status requires some wardrobe decorum, despite a definite willingness to chant “Lock her up”?
Reports put the number of African American delegates at the RNC somewhere between 18 and 80 out of 2,472 (that’s between .7 and 3%). With Trump polling at zero percent among African Americans in Ohio and Pennsylvania, it’s perhaps not a surprise that the most common look sported by delegates is not the Lone Star shirts of the Texas delegation or rumpled suits of men who have been sitting in folding chairs too long, but the melatonin-challenged skin of the people Steve King says have made all the contributions anyway.
The Onion stole my commentary on this photograph of Paul Ryan gaveling open the second day’s session, noting, “Paul Ryan Delivers Impassioned 10-Minute Pained Facial Expression.” Here looking very alone and very resigned, Ryan—like other establishment Republicans during the event—is impeccably dressed in discomfort, desperation, and plans for 2020.
Usually being “wrapped in the flag” has different connotations, but at the RNC, the U.S. flag has served a special wrapping role: it’s been used to surround protestors attempting to interrupt the event. Wrapping protestors in the flag covers over their threat with patriotism, both sending a message to the interloper and shielding convention-goers from their presence (though, as this photograph suggests, some symbolic acts still escape the flag). I’m also struck by how the woman in the upper right is holding her flag. Is it care for the sacred colors or disgust at the protestor that makes her extend the stars and stripes away from her body, holding it gingerly with fingertips?
The flag has also been an accessory of choice outside the Convention, where protestors of various stripes, from Anonymous to the Westboro Baptist Church have gathered to make their voices heard. Who wore it best, though, seems to be a matter of some contention, an apt visual analogy for the conflict between those wanting to “Make America Great Again” and those figuring Trump as the end of American democracy.
Despite reports that the Cleveland police union had hoped to minimize open carry during the convention, news photographs of handguns and rifles on ready display outside the arena suggest that the right to bear arms is not only a guaranteed freedom but also an essential fashion accessory for the Republican National Convention.
Photographs of bicycle cops gone sci-fi have been particularly popular on my Facebook feed since the Convention began. Masks, helmets, body armor, and bikes present an odd mishmash of friendly community patrols and militarized force. It turns out, though, that bikes aren’t just for peddling anymore. They too are immensely practical accessories for looking and acting the part during the 2016 presidential campaign.
-Christa Olson | @christajolson
Photo: Landon Nordeman/TIME. caption: Bold patterns and big beads on the floor of the 2016 Republican National Convention on Monday, July 18, 2016, in Cleveland. photo 2: Landon Nordeman /TIME. caption:Women accessorize while some men wear classic pinstripes on the floor of the 2016 Republican National Convention on Monday, July 18, 2016, in Cleveland.photo 3: REUTERS. caption: All of Trump’s adult children – (from left to right) Donald Jr., Ivanka, Eric and Tiffany – were together on the convention floor as the real estate billionaire officially sealed the GOP bid for the White House. photo 4: Eric Thayer / The New York Times. caption: People stand on the convention floor at the start of the Republican National Convention at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland on Monday. . photo 6: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images. caption: Speaker of the House Paul Ryan delivers a speech on the second day of the Republican National Convention on July 19, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. photo 7: Toni L. Sandys / The Washington Post. caption: People use American flags to cover up the Code Pink protester. photo 8: Andrew Kelly/REUTERS. caption: A demonstrator faces a police officer during protests outside the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, July 19, 2016.photo 9: Hilary Swift / The New York Times. caption: Tyson Gross of Greenbelt, Md., attended an America First pro-Trump rally, openly carrying a gun, at Settlers Landing Park. photo 10: @markpetersonpixs/Instagram. caption: Politics in Black and White… Police are RNC fashion ready in Cleveland Ohio July 17, 2016.”