Dems’ party clothes

Times Staff Writer

A POLITICAL convention is not really the place to find people serious about fashion, at least not judging by the preponderance of T-shirts and goofy campaign regalia on display last week on the opening night of the Democrats’ quadrennial shindig in Denver. And anyway, for sheer fashion cool, who on Earth is going to try to trump Sen. Barack Obama and his fashion-mad wife, Michelle?

Still, among the throngs jostling through the Pepsi Center, it was possible to find some folks who put some thought into their attire.

Two 21-year old convention volunteers, Patrick McDermott of Boston and Justin Bethel of Maryland, embodied the hipster spirit with shaggy hair and ever-so-slightly tight suits with ties. They said they had been told to dress in “business casual.” “It’s a convention,” said Bethel. “You want to look your best.”

Dan Rather definitely got that memo. The former face of CBS News looked tanned, rested and ready -- he’s now managing editor and anchor of HDNet’s “Dan Rather Reports.” And he was wearing a perfectly fitted pin-striped suit.


When asked who his tailor was, he apologized for not remembering, then opened his lapel to show the maker of his bespoke suit: Fioravanti, one of New York’s top men’s tailors. (Prices range from $6,000 to $18,000, according to New York magazine.)

Detroit’s Catherine Kelly, 34, publisher of her family-owned black newspaper, the Michigan Citizen, had picked out a green silk slip of a dress, which she wore with a black scarf and gold gladiator sandals. “My boyfriend is a superdelegate,” she said, “You always try to look your best at a convention.”

Before leaving Oklahoma City for Iowa in December to volunteer for Barack Obama, Jeff Bezdek bought a pin-striped Billabong trilby hat, which seemed to open doors for him wherever he canvassed for his candidate -- Des Moines, San Francisco and Texas. “People love it,” the 26-year-old self-employed contractor said with a shrug. “It’s become my trademark.”

The Rev. Preston Marshall, 72, of Miami, in screaming mustard pants and a brilliant Hawaiian shirt, had been given instructions to represent his state, sartorially speaking. “They told us to look tropical,” said. “I turned a few more heads than anyone else.”


Turning heads was exactly the goal of Kelly Jacobs, a 49-year-old persimmon farmer and peace activist from Hernando, Miss. She bought eight “peace flags” -- red and white stripes with a white peace symbol on a blue background -- and sewed herself some dresses. Pinned to her chest was a silver pin with the dangling numerals 4145. “That’s how many troops have died in Iraq,” she said. “At least it was when I left home to drive up here.”