Convention delegates are known for their funny, attention-getting outfits. Either they are laden with buttons and pins they’ve traded with other attendees, or they’re decked out in a patriotic extravaganza of red, white and blue. So, as I walked the halls of the Tampa Bay Times Forum during the Republican National Convention, I kept my eyes open for folks who didn’t run with the herd. And I found some. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack, but I found them.
The key to inclusion was the shoes. Nothing ruins a beautiful dress or a suit like a pair of shoes that are inappropriate for the outfit (i.e. running shoes or flip-flops with a suit) or are just plain ugly (i.e. Birkenstocks or Crocs with anything). You aren’t dressed to the nines when your shoes are zeroes. As you’ll see, the folks I found were the complete package.
Anna Gatlin caught my attention on the red-carpeted floor of the Tampa Bay Times Forum as Republican Party chief Reince Priebus briefly called the convention to order on Aug. 27. Normally, I’m not a fan of animal print anything. But the Ole Miss graduate’s simple, slightly above-the-knee dress and black heels earned my admiration, especially in that venue. When I complimented her outfit, Gatlin said, “I’m Southern, and we really like fashion.”
Caroline Shinkle and I collided on the Forum’s floor a few hours later. Her shortened sleeved white textured coat grabbed my attention. The peek of black skirt from under the coat made for a smart look. Like Gatlin, Shinkle had a ready pose. But before I got my camera ready, the MIT sophomore who was the youngest member of the Massachusetts delegation, raked her hair from the back to over her shoulders for a look that was very Marsha Brady — in a good way.
My plan was to avoid patriotic apparel, but Alice Butler-Short had me at the shoes. Her flagged footwear were show-stoppers. I wasn’t the only one to stop the alternate delegate from American Samoa, who actually lives in northern Virginia, for a photograph. But when I asked the Irish immigrant where she got them, her response was just too rich. “I ordered the shoes from Beijing,” Butler-Short said. “I couldn’t find them anywhere else.”
As with Gatlin and Shinkle, Butler-Short had a ready pose. Like Shinkle, she had her right foot forward. How fitting for the RNC.