+ Building a Wardrobe, + Career Style

Political Convention Do’s and Don’ts


From Upper Left, Julie Vos Elephant Pendant ($145) and Large Patriot Donkey Pin ($13) // BCBGeneration Open Front Blazer ($118) // Tahari Crepe Dress ($118) // Kate Spade Wedges ($298) // Ted Baker Red Lace Dress ($143) // WHBM Taffeta Skirt ($99) // Caslon Gauze Wrap ($149)

Every four years the party faithful, the press, and the protesters gather to celebrate republican democracy.  The days are packed with speeches, meetings, dinners and parties.  And with most attendees sleeping miles from the main site, you leave your hotel in the morning in the clothes that you will be wearing all day.

Dressing and preparing for such an event is a real challenge.  So let’s sort out some of the confusion.

Do Travel Light. When you leave for the convention hall every morning, be mindful that there is nowhere to store belongings.  If you pack it, you will carry it all day.  I like to travel light at such events.

I replace my wallet with a smaller card wallet.  If I need to carry a laptop, I bring a zip-top tote bag or my Lo & Sons OMG.  Need more organization?  Nylon pouches are a good way to separate your possessions.

The less you carry, they happier you will be.  For me a conservatively packed medium-size tote with a strong, wide strap that can be easily slung over a shoulder is best.

Don’t Wear New Shoes. Every year, I see women walking around the convention blistered and bleeding from uncomfortable or brand news shoes.  If you have a go-to pair of flats or high heels, bring them.  Even if they look a bit worn, you will be on your feet for most of the day, so be kind to them.

I prefer wedges for events where I am walking or standing a lot.  Dress wedges, like the Kate Spade pair above, provide stability without sacrificing looks.  Cole Haan’s go-to wedges are discounted on Gilt right now.  These Bandolino Yara low wedges are also a good choice.

Do Mind Your Tech. Please, please, do not be the girl sitting on the floor in the corner trying to power up your phone.  Instead, I rock a Mophie battery case and a Sonix charger, which gives me another 16 hours of battery life.

Also, if your staffing your boss, get a charger that will work on her phone as well.  If you can juice up the boss’s phone in an emergency, you’re the hero.

Don’t Overpack.  The biggest mistake made when packing for conventions and work travel is bringing too many clothes.  Instead of rushing to pack the night before, spend a few hours putting some thought into it.  Tailor your attire to your schedule, but most women will need one outfit per day of attendance, plus two extras (one casual, one dressy).  That’s it.

Do Choose a Color Family.  For work travel, I stick to the navy, white, and grey family.  These neutral colors coordinate and can be jazzed up with accessories.  This also means you get to pack fewer pairs of shoes.  For the convention, I’m going with a grown-up selection of red, white and blue pieces.  Because, why not?

Don’t Wear Clothes That Don’t Fit.  The last thing you want is to be tugging and pulling at ill-fitting clothes all day.  Wear pieces that you feel confident and comfortable in, you will thank yourself when you’ve been wearing the same dress for 12-hours.

Do Bring Longwear Makeup. I like Lancome Teint Idole Ultra Foundation with a good primer underneath.  If you want to touch-up during the day, take a small palette, a lipstick, a concealer, and a small translucent powder that you can dab on with your fingers.  You don’t need your whole makeup bag.

Don’t Forget the Aspirin.  And remember to drink water.  Nuff said.

Do Build Around Foundation Pieces.  When I attended convention, I was there for 3.5 days.  If I was repeating that experience this year.  This is how I would dress for each day, rehearing some pieces as needed to conserve space.

Arrival // Open front white blazer with a political tee and skinny jeans.  Red flat shoes.

Day 1 in Meetings and Convention Hall // Short sleeved navy dress with open front white blazer and nude wedges.  I’ll add a GOP scarf for the heck of it.  Need GOP or Dem items?  eBay has the best political clothing, by far.

Day 2 in Meetings and Convention Hall //  A navy pleated skirt and navy printed blouse with a red cardigan and a selection of GOP pins.  Wedges.

Day 3 in Meetings and Convention Hall // Navy and white wrap dress with the white open front blazer and a long elephant necklace.  Wedges.

Departure // Navy pleated skirt, political tee, red cardigan, nude wedges.

Backup Business Casual Outfit // Cotton poplin dress in white, v-neck navy cardi, and red flats.

Backup Dressy Outfit // A red dress in an office appropriate length, skin-tone pumps, and a gold clutch.  If you prefer something that can go day-to-night, try this day-to-night DvF Bevina.

Let’s Recap // I have three pair of shoes: red flats, skin tone pumps and wedges.  Four dresses: one navy sheath, one red cocktail, one wrap, and one semi-casual white cotton dress.  One navy pleated skirt, one pair of jeans, one blouse and one t-shirt.  If I was going to add some emergency pieces, I would choose a simple white blouse and a stand-alone grey work dress.

Do Have a Bail Bondsman’s Number in Your Phone.  Better safe than sorry.

Any more convention tips?  Post them in the comments.

Leave a Reply to Claire · cancel comment


  1. Molly says:

    I want the bail bondsman story!

    July 13, 2016/Reply
    • Nina says:

      Lol right, Molly! You read my mind!

      July 13, 2016/Reply
    • Claire says:

      That was my first question too!

      July 13, 2016/Reply
    • Belle says:

      I’ll save that for my memoir. But one word, interns.

      July 14, 2016/Reply
  2. Nina says:

    Belle, these tips are amazing and can be used for several different trips (not only convention). Thank you for this super helpful post!

    July 13, 2016/Reply
  3. Morgan says:

    Thanks for putting this together! I travel frequently for work (3-5 days at a time twice a month) and I would love more posts like this sprinkled into the blog. It’s hard to feel inspired by a travel wardrobe when you’re trying to pack light, mix and match pieces and select options that won’t wrinkle to the high heavens.

    July 13, 2016/Reply
  4. neenz says:

    can you confirm if this is the same blazer? trying to get free shipping where i can 🙂


    July 13, 2016/Reply
    • Belle says:

      It is.

      July 14, 2016/Reply
  5. Kate says:

    As a Clevelander (who both takes public transportation and works across the street from one of the convention sites, I would like to add please be mindful of your tote bag on public transportation. Also, if you’ll be walking around the city, a small umbrella and sunglasses are useful if you can fit them in your tote. Our weather is notoriously mercurial.

    July 13, 2016/Reply
  6. Elegance says:

    layers. You have the white jacket to provide potential warmth. I am always cold or hot at conventions–so always include either an actual cashmere sweater (Boden has some great all season ones) or jacket of some kind, plus skirt allows top layers to add/subtract. Also, I need hose or tights if it’s cold–I know nude pantyhose are not everyone’s favorite thing–but matte Donna Karen nudes are a survival necessity for me–and do go on sale.

    July 13, 2016/Reply
  7. Courtney says:

    Oh, I’ve missed this type of post! Thank you!

    July 14, 2016/Reply
  8. Jennifer D says:

    Best of luck to everyone attending the conventions – I’m sure this advice will keep everyone comfortable and prepared. Given the crazy-town atmosphere around the DNC and especially the RNC, I would love, love, love a post to hear everyone’s greatest “hits” from the conventions. Consider a prize for the best one, especially if it involves bail bondsmen, interns, _and_ flip flops (the apparent bane of Belle’s fashion existence and noticeably absent from her recommendations)?

    July 14, 2016/Reply
    • Susan says:

      My husband got in a fight, at – wait for it…. Coyote Ugly, at the first night of the DNC in Denver in 2008. A guy sucker punched him. The culprit had apparently read Belle’s blog, because he had a bail bondsman’s card in his pocket.

      July 18, 2016/Reply
      • Belle says:

        Bondsmen are a political must.

        July 18, 2016/Reply
  9. Pb says:

    You forgot the wrap dress in your round up of how many dresses you’re bringing

    This is a useful list for conferences too.

    July 15, 2016/Reply
    • Belle says:


      July 15, 2016/Reply
  10. Julie says:

    I attend several professional conferences a year and your blog was spot on!!! Great information.

    July 16, 2016/Reply
  11. Susan says:

    In general I found this to be very good advice. Philly will be my 7th DNC. Our delegation has scored the very best hotel assignment and I’m flying Southwest (2 BAGS FREE!), so I’m taking advantage and am planning 3 wardrobe changes a day. Business for daily mandatory delegation breakfasts, changing into casual for daytime activities, business does back on for the convention hall, and then a quick change into cocktail attire for late night. I did buy the ridiculously cute democratic donkey TOMS as my comfy shoes that will live in my tote for the whole trip. As I’m a Clinton whip I expect to wear them a lot on the floor too.

    July 18, 2016/Reply
  12. Kip Demmer says:

    This one seems simple, but Capitol Hill has seen its fair share of intern horror stories. Some female interns come to work in short, low-cut and body-hugging mini dresses, while at least one male intern spent an entire summer with a single tie.

    August 7, 2016/Reply