As temperatures have been soaring above 90 degrees in Washington, D.C. this summer, several female journalists covering Capitol Hill have reported recently being barred from the Speaker’s lobby outside the House Chamber for wearing sleeveless tops or dresses.
According to a new report from CBS News, one female journalist was recently not allowed into the Speaker’s lobby because of her sleeveless dress, which she was told was “inappropriate.” CBS News said that the journalist even tried to use notebook paper to make faux-sleeves, but was still denied entry.
The vague policy is apparently nothing new. House chamber security and the House Sergeant at Arms enforce the requirement for “appropriate business attire” for all women and men who pass through or enter the lobby, which is a key spot for post-session interviews with representatives. Women have been told they’re not allowed to wear sleeveless blouses or dresses, sneakers or open-toed shoes, CBS News reports. Men are expected to wear suit jackets and ties.
CQ.com reporter Kellie Mejdrich tweeted and told Jezebel that she received a warning after wearing a sleeveless ensemble, with security telling her that “next time” she would be removed.
Can confirm I was warned the next time I would be removed https://t.co/M0BTcFYchO
— Kellie Mejdrich (@kelmej) July 6, 2017
This is real. Fellow female reporters barred from Speaker’s lobby for wearing sleeveless dresses while doing their jobs. (It’s hot in DC) https://t.co/8evY6wQmA8
— K Tully McManus (@ktullymcmanus) July 6, 2017
Yet another female journalist, Haley Byrd, told CBS that she was kicked out of the lobby for her own sleeveless dress.
Said Byrd – of the Independent Review Journal – “When I was kicked out that day, I was just trying to pass through the area to reach another hallway, but I was told I was violating the rules. They offered to find a sweater for me to put on, so it wasn’t some tyrannical end of free press, but I opted to just go around instead. But recently they’ve been cracking down on the code, like with open-toed shoes.”
Just last month, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan advised that “members should wear appropriate business attire during all sittings of the House, however brief their appearance on the floor may be.”
— CSPAN (@cspan) June 23, 2017
But what qualifies as “appropriate” attire isn’t laid out in specifics, other than the requirement of a coat and tie for male members, according to The Washington Post.
Chairman of the Standing Committee of Congressional Correspondents Billy House told CBS that dress code enforcement has long been subject to the discretion of chamber security.
“The committee expects enforcement to be geared and directed not just to reporters in the Speaker’s lobby – but lawmakers and congressional staffers, as well,” he said.
Notably, similar rules are not in play on the other side of the Capitol building in the Senate.
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This is far from the first time the Congressional dress code has come into play, however.
Back in 2015, then-House Speaker John Boehner issued the same decree as Ryan, according to the Post. But, he added, “You know who you are.”
Yet, some rules are made to be broken. As CBS reported, former First Lady Michelle Obama chose sleeveless ensembles for multiple State of the Union addresses inside the chamber. And in February, first daughter and special advisor to the president Ivanka Trump bared her shoulders while sitting in the House gallery.