A model in a Raygun sweater with a Ted Cruz sign illustrated by Van Holmgren. (Alyssa Bereznak/Yahoo News)
DES MOINES, Iowa — As every candidate’s campaign rushed to spam its email subscribers one last time on Sunday night, a group of young Iowans gathered downtown for an unlikely political event: a fashion show.
Hosted by the Des Moines Register, the nonprofit Give a Damn Des Moines and the Des Moines Social Club, it was the last in the series of educational gatherings meant to teach residents ages 18 to 30 how to participate in the state caucuses that will take place here Monday night. Earlier events included a beer caucus, where participants rallied for their favorite breweries rather than their favorite candidates.
A Jackie Kennedy-inspired look. (Alyssa Bereznak/Yahoo News)
The organizers aimed to use the near-200-person event, held at the Des Moines Social Club, to prove that younger Iowans can be politically active — and stylish.
“Des Moines is not known for being the most fashionable place,” the venue’s marketing director Bethany Arganbright told Yahoo News. “We even have an Onion article ripping on how unfashionable we are. We wanted to do a show that was well done and well produced.”
Three jars full of penne greeted attendees at the entrance of the event, each shaded with a different color to signal political affiliation: Democratic, Republican, or independent. As people walked through the doors to find a seat near the stage, they were encouraged to drop the piece of pasta they’d selected at entry in jars labeled for the candidates they backed. Cartoons of the famous politicos, drawn by local artist Van Holmgren, adorned the jars.
Jars with pasta votes. (Photo: Paige Kleckner for Des Moines Social Club)
The event kicked off with the help of a bearded, bespectacled host in patriotic suspenders, who greeted the crowd from behind a podium decorated with a presidential seal. First up was a collection by Dornik Couture, inspired by former first lady Jackie Kennedy. As Iowans strutted the catwalk in prim box hats and glittery heels, onlookers in the crowd — including a man in a patriotic bald eagle suit — snapped photos with their smartphones.
A man in an Uncle Sam bald-eagle suit. (Alyssa Bereznak/Yahoo News)
Highlights included a menswear line inspired by 26th president Teddy Roosevelt and modern POTUS and FLOTUS styles with hipster flair. But the star collection of the show was a collaboration between snarky T-shirt shop Raygun and Holmgren. Models hit the stage, scantily clad in patriotic crop tops and denim, holding up giant masks depicting each candidate. The Ted Cruz model ground up against the podium. The shirtless Donald Trump model threw money into the crowd. It was a spectacle rivaling the many rallies that took place across the state this week.
Guests were encouraged to color in the candidate faces before turning them into pins. (Alyssa Bereznak/Yahoo News)
As the group of model-candidates took a bow, the host in suspenders thanked the crowd and encouraged them to caucus.
“Iowa is rising,” he said. “And so are the sea levels. So they’re gonna have to move here eventually.”