Decoding a Dress Code = The Right to “Bare Arms”?

July 27, 2017

What’s a dress code? It’s a set of restrictions outlining what you’re allowed and not allowed to wear. Some schools require uniforms, others require students to wear specific colors, and some just ask that students refrain from wearing certain types of clothing, e.g., jeans. Whatever the dress code, kids who attend these schools must follow the rules.

What about adults? Are there dress codes for adults? When your parents go to work, do they wear a uniform? A suit and tie? Jeans? What about those who work for the government?

Well, for those who work for the US Congress, specifically those who have to enter the House Chamber and Speaker’s Lobby, there is a dress code: “dress appropriately,” with a reminder for men to wear a traditional coat and tie—but there is no such reminder or elaboration for women.

Despite a lack of formal reminders for women’s attire, it seems like there might be an unspoken reminder: no sleeveless tops and dresses, and no open-toed shoes. Earlier this month, female political reporters were stopped from entering the House Lobby because they were wearing sleeveless shirts and dresses.

via Twitter

That denial of entry sparked congresswomen from both the Republican and Democratic parties to speak up and “bare arms”—that is, wear sleeveless business attire! The event was called “Sleeveless Friday,” and it began when California Democratic Representative Jackie Speier announced that she’d be wearing a sleeveless dress to the House Floor. She encouraged her female colleagues to do the same, and even House Speaker Paul Ryan chimed in on the need to modernize the current dress code.

Democrats and Republicans might not agree on a lot of things, but it seems like the outdated dress code at the US Congress is something that both sides see eye to eye on.