On Jan. 19, the day before President Donald Trump was sworn into office at the U.S. Capitol, there was different kind of inaugural ball. More than 1,000 people attended the Anti-Inaugural Ball in New York City, according to Kevin Jennings, co-chair of the event and former assistant secretary of education between 2009 and 2011 during President Barack Obama's first term. The ball was open to anyone, but it was meant to be a space for those who are looking to prepare for a Trump presidency. After all, considering that Trump insulted immigrants, women, and a host of other people during his campaign, there are many Americans who were less than joyous about his swearing-in — and the Anti-Inaugural Ball was a place for them.
The event took place in a real ballroom at the Wyndham New Yorker Hotel, with an open bar and tables of hors d'oeuvres sprinkled across the room. Attendees got to enjoy standup comedy by actress Judy Gold, television producer Dominick Pupa, and actress Caroline Rhea, perhaps best known for her role in Sabrina, The Teenage Witch. Although the name of the Anti-Inaugural Ball suggests an elegant dress code, the unofficial dress code was essentially wear what you can afford and what you want. There were men and women in dapper suits, glittery ballgowns, and pro-feminism attire. People wore hats, and heels, braids and bow-ties.
Beyond the dancing and mingling, however, was an atmosphere of restlessness from people who are passionate about supporting inclusion and equality for all, and who are looking for ways to fight for the rights of all Americans.
At the Anti-Inaugural Ball on Jan. 19, I asked six people how they picked their outfits for the night and what their attire says about the causes that matter the most to them:
1Jessica Robinson, 34
"I think I knew that it was a ball so I wanted to look great. I can honestly I didn't choose the color red for any particular reason. I chose this dress because I thought it was something that was professional and representative of a strong woman. I honestly don't wear it that much, but I wanted to wear it tonight just as a sign of strength, because that's what I feel about this dress."
2Shubhada Saxena, 51
"I picked my outfit today because of the weather here for sure in New York. But more importantly, it does represent a little bit of Asia. I'm an Asian-American, and a lot of times, South Asians are not counted as Asian over here. I wanted to make sure my ethnic heritage is shown and that I respect it and I want that to be reflected in the place where I live now."
3Eugene Resnick, 28
"I'm wearing a purple shirt and a purple tie, and I'm thinking that this is all about coming together. Red and blue makes purple. I lived in the U.K. for the past five years. I was an intern at the White House, and I moved to London for five years, lived there. The vitriol, the hate...it's almost like we live in two different countries on the same continent. I think no matter who is president — and now we have Donald Trump — we have to come together. I think the trends that we're seeing — people watching what they want to watch, people hearing what they want to hear, the fake news problem, the information wars on both sides of the aisle — it feels like we're not listening to each other. It feels like we're literally living in two different countries, and it's not sustainable. I think this color scheme represents that we need to come together. We're not always going to agree, but we do have common values. So, I think there is hope."
4Chloe Chik, 22
"The dress is white, and that is the color of women's suffrage. They wore white dresses to march. A lot of people say that evolved into the white pantsuit. I don't own a white pantsuit. I'm wearing a white dress because I think it's symbolic in that way, and I chose this one with this particular cut because it reminded me of JFK and the 1960s, a really progressive era on Democratic politics."
5Maura Minsky, 52
"I'm raising two young girls, so I'm really looking at issues around gender, sexual assault, and reproductive justice. They're nine and 11, and I never thought that Roe v. Wade was going to be an issue for them. When I left the house today, because we're going to the [Women's] March in D.C. tomorrow, my 9-year-old said, 'How does an activist dress?' And I'm like, 'Exactly like that!' My t-shirt says, 'The future is female.' I bought this t-shirt after the election because I wanted to demonstrate to my girls that this is their life, this is their future. They own it and they can walk into it with their head up."
6Maya Gittelman, 24
"I am queer. I like the bow-ties. They're kind of a little nod in that direction. I'm not rejecting femininity. It's that I'm rejecting your understanding of what a woman necessarily has to look like. When I present myself in a public or professional way, I'm always just trying to give a nod (to that). At the same time, I need to present as a professional, I need to not necessarily be 'out there' because I want to be taken seriously. This is how I feel, this is how I like to present but it's still a little bit tame.
This means that I am ready to work and accommodate and adapt in a professional sense, in a public sense. I want to be here however I can in a professional manner for what needs to happen moving forward. At the same time, I'm here, I'm queer, and I'm not sorry."