TAMPA, Fla. — “Just look for women dressed like that,” said a rather scruffy young man from CNN, instructing a lovely Norwegian reporter on whom to interview. “They will be important.”
The woman in question wore an expensive-looking, tobacco-colored pantsuit, was slim and perfectly groomed, with big, blow-dried hair in a medley of honey brown and blond. She exuded upper-class privilege, and just a bit of snootiness.
Yep, I thought, definitely a good interview subject. She could have been a Republican National Committee co-chair, a state governor, or a wealthy guest. In any case, she was someone whose views probably matter.
“But maybe she’s somebody’s wife?” ventured the Norwegian journalist.
“Well, the Republican wives all look like that, too,” admitted her mentor.
The conversation, overheard in the Press Filing Center, where all the hacks covering the Republican Convention hang out desperately sniffing for stories, got me wondering: Is there a Republican “look,” and does it go beyond the sweater-set-and-pearls stereotype?
More Highway 2012: RNC Day Two — We built it!
The party celebs were, of course, meticulously turned out. Ann Romney was resplendent in a conservative red dress for her heartfelt paean to Mitt Tuesday night; the color and cut were both appropriate to the message. In fact, red seemed to be tacitly mandatory: Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Washington State Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers all sported the Republican color, in fairly predictable suits and dresses.
In the manner of prosperous women everywhere, they were trim and well taken care of, with skilful makeup, pricey haircuts and an air of entitlement (no pun intended).
Utah politician Mia Love would have looked great in a paper sack, with her Iman-supermodel face and figure, but she wore a well-cut beige suit to the podium.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley had a slightly tacky cream satin outfit paired with a neckpiece that looked like it might have come from the Taj Mahal, but she may have been capitalizing on her strengths and going for a more global look. The Republican Party has been tripping over itself lately trying to prove that it is not inimical to women and minorities, so Haley fit right in with the agenda.
Actress Janine Turner wore bright blue — I guess there are always a few who don’t get the word. Not surprising — her almost incoherent address at the convention Tuesday evening, delivered in an overly bright, almost robotic chirp, was not indicative of a piercing political mind.
The sartorial style in the hall ran the gamut from delegate costumes to individual glamor. Texans wore shirts that looked like they were made from the Lone Star flag, combined with straw cowboy hats. Those not outfitted by decree had to resort to imaginative attempts to deal with both the heat and the need for some sort of professional mien.
Sleeveless sheaths were the order of the day — some brightly colored and loose, others form fitting and neutral. Erstwhile presidential candidate Michele Bachmann spent the afternoon giving interviews to broadcast media at the convention center, in a tan short-sleeved dress.
Of course, there were the risk-takers, like the young woman in the bright pink sequined halter, or the delegate in the off-white ruffled flapper dress. They were refreshingly offbeat, and seemed a bit out of place.
The trio I passed last night coming out of a party had a different look — unless black spandex hot pants and midriff tops are part of some state’s themed outfit? They had convention credentials around their necks, but I could not see which kind. Perhaps they were part of some hostess “krewe” whose details were not included in my welcome packet.
The men were a bit disappointing — dark suits for the speakers, nondescript shirts and pants for the rest.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie cut quite a figure Tuesday night with his fancy French cuffs, but otherwise there was little aside from their ties (almost uniformly red) to distinguish one man from the other.
As for me, well, journos are not part of the pageantry. My wardrobe is deftly composed of what I like to call “fifty shades of black,” meaning I take every dark-colored article of clothing in my closet and throw it into a suitcase in advance of a trip. I may not be part of the passing eye-candy, but at least I do not furnish a distraction to hard-working reporters trying to compose a serious story.
Is there anything distinctly Republican about the tailoring on display in Tampa? I’ll let you know next week, when I get to the Democrats in North Carolina.
More: GlobalPost's full coverage of the RNC in Tampa