During my few days here in Tampa, I've spent most of my time bitching. Enough! Before I leave, it's time to step into the sun and embrace the reality of the fact that I'm here, my face hurts from grinning encouragingly at strangers, and I'm not going anywhere until later today. I've moved on. Bitch button paused (but only on pause; I'm not done here yet).
It's time to take a moment to admire the impeccable fashion sense and friendly, hospitable approachability of the ladies of the RNC. Say what you will about their politics; or the sexism inherent in the practice of talking to women about their clothing — sometimes, when national dialogue is as divisive and poisonous as it's been in the last two years, talking about shoes is all you can do to keep from shoving each other. Let's meet some of the regular gals of the 2012 RNC, none of whom shoved me.
Carol, delegate from Massachusetts
Who are you here to support? I'm here supporting the Republican party.
Did you support Mitt Romney during the primaries? He was not my first choice. I was a Ron Paul supporter.
Tell me about your outfit. I'm wearing a very cool lip mark with the American flag, some fringe, low rise khakis and my Sperrys. I actually got the shirt from Aero-postale — however you pronounce it.
Any trends in conservative lady fashion? I think they all kind of dress the same, to be honest with you. You always see business suit type of attire. You don't usually see them wearing anything funky or cool, it's always just, like, the khakis with the cashmere sweater or... I don't usually see them in anything trendy that would stand out to me.
Who is the best dressed woman here? I'm just gonna say— Carol Paul. Because she dresses comfortably, she doesn't fake it till she makes it. She is who she is. She's America's grandmother. She's beautiful.
Marva Johnson, VP for Government Affairs, Brighthouse Networks
What's your role at the convention? Brighthouse Networks is one of the sponsors for the women's pavillion, so inside the women's pavilion, we're the provider of the wifi that I hope you're getting to experience and enjoy. We're also the official communications provider for the convention. We're providing all of the high speed video, web, and voice services within the forum and the Tampa Convention Center, and as the Vice President for Government Affairs, I get to serve as the champion for our company for this effort.
Tell me about your outfit. As one of the hosts for the event, I thought it would be appropriate if I wore something that was very traditional, and very Florida, so I chose to wear some flowing pants that are, cream and very light colored so they would reflect some of the light from some of Florida's nice sunny days, and that they would also still be cool enough to not, you know, when you're sweating or running around. You don't want to trap heat close to your body. I also went with a layered approach so I have a sleeveless top on underneath so when we're outside, I can take my jacket off. I have a lightweight silk blended jacket that I thought was very Florida, very pink, very ebullient. And I just wanted to symbolize those things you traditionally think of when you think of Florida.
Do you see any trends here? Of course there's the red dress. Everybody had the red dress on. And in fact, that was one of my challenges. I found a red dress, but it wasn't my favorite, because it did not fit our traditional values. It was a liiiittle short. So I've worn it to a couple of less formal events for a short period of time. But the red dress has definitely been prevalent here, I've seen some gorgeous red dresses all around.
What Republican ladies do you think have great style? Our Lieutenant Governor, Jennifer Carroll, is always immaculately attired. In fact, last night, she wore a quilted red suit. It wasn't a traditional red. It was a really dark crimson red, it had a nice sheen to it. In fact, it might have been a silk, sort of quilted feel to it. She looked amazing. And Ann Romney looked gorgeous [Wednesday night] in that red dress. And when I realized how old she was I'm trying to figure out how to follow her around and figure out what she's doing to look that incredible!
Amanda, distributing flyers for a film screening
What's your role at the convention? Just here to support!
And your outfit? It's from Banana Republic. I just think it's a really good classic style, kind of retro, that's back. I love the color.
Any style icons here? Definitely Ann Romney. I mean, she looks fabulous. She's rocking the red lips, she's great.
What's the future of women in the Republican party? We've got a great group of women. Great group of power girls, and we've got a great future ahead.
Barbie Jones, jewelry designer and owner of Barbie Jones Studio
What role do you play at the convention? I like to think that I'm trying to bring both Republicans and Democrats because, just offering jewelry as a way to express your party. I think you can wear your political affiliation on your wrist — it's a fun way to bridge the gap between Republicans and Democrats through fashion.
Tell me about your outfit I have a kind of a conservative Brooks Brothers skirt but it has a vintage flair, a vintage feel to it. And then I have a nice pair of red satin pumps to add some patriotic spirit. And then I jazzed things up with an elephant necklace. I designed a special collection for the Tampa convention utilizing the Floridian colors, with a beachy, warm feel of coral and turquoise and pearls. And pearls have always been a favorite with the Republican party. I try to implement that in a way that's fun — not stodgy and too conservative. Fun. To liven up the feel of the pieces!
Any bestsellers? Everything has sold really well, but it seems that people really love the clamper bracelets. And my little hairpins with the elephants, rhinestones, and crystals. Those have been a big seller. Of course, the coral and turquoise has been really hot for being in Florida.
What trends have you spotted? I've seen a lot of Lilly Pulitzer dresses and a lot of big pearls. A lot of people have been wearing my bracelets! It's a great feeling to see it.
What Republican lady has the best style? Ann Romney's style is absolutely fabulous. For what she wore last night, which I think was the perfect choice. She just looked elegant, yet her own personality shines out. And I think that's really what people have to take into consideration — just feel comfortable in what you're wearing. When you're comfortable with what you're wearing and comfortable with yourself, that's going to shine through. So don't be shy and try to wear what everyone else wears, but step out of that and try to wear something different. Last night's outfit — the red dress, the gold jewelry, the red lipstick, the red nails, she just looked so put together and absolutely fabulous. So I'd say Ann Romney is one of my top choices, and I'd love to see her in a Barbie Jones Studio piece!
Christine Sutherland, Florida Republican
What's your role at the convention? I am the secretary of the Florida Federation of Republican Women, and various of us man our little lounge here.
Tell me about your outfit. The vest is really unique. Well, my mother was here from Germany, in the winter, over wintering with us in Naples. We went to Chicos where we bought lots and lots of clothes, and she found this in there, and she said to me, "Try it on! Try it on! You'd really look good on it." And I tried it on and it's just amazing! I've never seen anyone like it, since then.
What trends have you spotted among ladies at the convention? I must say the women of the Florida Federation that I've seen and that I'm staying in a hotel with really seem to dress very nicely. They dress up to go to the convention. Though we all wear very very comfortable shoes. Low heeled, but shoes that still look nice. But when I was over at the forum yesterday, there's also an awful lot of people who just wear jeans and a tee shirt. Because they want to convey a certain message and it's usually printed on the tee shirt. I don't think everybody believes that it is a fashion event and they should dress up. I like when people are sort of smart casual, like you, for example, you look great in that. I'm not necessarily a tee shirt person.
Any Republican style icons? I'm going to be honest. Ann Romney wore a very lovely red dress. But the background seemed to be red, too. And the dress sort of disappeared in the background! Um, Nikki Haley came over to where we're staying for breakfast. She was wearing a very nice suit. And Jennifer Carol was wearing something nice. I think, I was amazed that Ann Romney was wearing a dress. Pleasantly surprised! Because most of the other women who spoke were wearing suits. Mia Love. I love Mia Love. Do you know Mia Love? I discovered her about six months ago and have been sending all my friends YouTube — she's on YouTube, in lots and lots of little video clips. And she's really great.
What's the future of women in the GOP? We're being really called not very woman friendly. And it's not true! It's not true. Look at all the women who spoke. I feel I'm being told that married women — because I just spoke to someone who just moved here from Britain — in Britain, women vote more conservative and here, he feels women do not so much here; I think it's single women who are very much in the Democrat camp, and I don't know whether all the other talk about, um, pro-choice and pro-life and free or otherwise not free birth control has anything to do with it, but I feel Republicans have got it right with women. We're all promoting women. As a federation. We want women to enter into the process of becoming a legislator, or a school board member or whatever. But we don't just promote women because they're wearing skirts. We promote very, very capable women who have a good machine behind them, who are actually capable of fundraising. Because say whatever you want to say — you need to fund raise. Or you won't win. We also, this year, sponsored Women to Watch. It's on our website. We want to issue a definitive guide to what a woman needs to do in particular to win a race. That is really our project for this year.
Meree Putnam, delegate, southwestern Missouri
What's your role here? I'm here to support the party's nominee, Mitt Romney. I supported Rick Santorum during the primaries, but now it's time for us to unite behind our candidate.
What's the future of women in the GOP? Women better get involved. It's time for us to speak up. Women have a unique perspective on head issues and heart issues.
Any conservative lady style icons? I like Jan Brewer's gutsy approach.
Bryce and Jeff, Ron Paul supporters
What's your role at the convention? We're here for the Ron Paul Rally. The party establishment is horseshit. They're afraid of Paul getting momentum. I don't wanna dis anyone, but the establishment is basically composed of old people who want to preserve how things have been before. Ron Paul is addressing problems people want to talk about.
Any fashion trends? Old. Suit and tie. Straight laced.
Unknown woman who refused to answer any questions but insisted I photograph her anyhow
Interpret that as a microcosm of the GOP at will.