Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s tattered campaign shoes are now part of fashion history

Shoe-leather campaigning.
Shoe-leather campaigning.
Image: Reuters/Andrew Kelly
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People are obsessed with what congresswomen-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wears. The 29-year-old Bronx native has raised the ire of the alt-right for posing in a photoshoot in expensive clothes (which, she noted, she didn’t get to keep) and for allegedly exaggerating her financial struggles (as evidenced, they say, by dressing like a professional woman).

But long before people were creepily snapping pictures of her in the halls of Congress, or telling her where she should shop or how much she should have in her savings, Ocasio-Cortez was busy getting elected. To do so, she was knocking on a lot of doors in the 14th congressional district of New York. Like any sensible person in this situation, she needed a comfortable pair of shoes.

Those shoes are now part of an exhibition at the Cornell Costume and Textile Collection in New York titled “Women Empowered: Fashions from the Frontline.”  It will open on Dec. 6 and is focused on the “physical spaces where empowerment might occur: the sports arena, the street, stage, academy, and the government,” Jenny Leigh Du Puis, Cornell graduate student and member of the curatorial team, said. “In each of these public spaces, women have used fashion to overcome obstacles, become visible, and share their voice.”

The congresswoman’s worn-out kicks will sit alongside some of Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s iconic collars, a skirt suit worn by the first female US attorney general Janet Reno, gowns and accessories worn by suffragettes, and more.

Ocasio-Cortez’s shoes first attracted attention in June, when she tweeted a picture of their dilapidated, worn-through soles in response to critics who claimed her victory against longtime House Democrat Joe Crowley was down to mere demographics. The shoes, she countered, proved it was more about hustle.