Women Can’t Wear Sleeveless Dresses in Some Parts of the Capitol

The First Lady and First Daughter are exceptions. Photo: Getty Images

The Capitol Hill fashion police didn’t come for Mitch McConnell when he wore a regrettable beige suit while pushing the Senate’s regrettable health-care bill. But according to a CBS News report, they frequently waylay female reporters and staffers who dare to expose their shoulders in certain parts of the Capitol.

For instance, one female reporter told CBS that she was kept out of the Speaker’s Lobby, a room outside the House chamber where reporters frequently conduct interviews, because her shoulders weren’t covered:

Forced to improvise, she ripped out pages from her notebook and stuffed them into her dress’ shoulder openings to create sleeves, witnesses said. An officer who’s tasked with enforcing rules in the Speaker’s lobby said her creative concoction still was not acceptable.

Another, the Independent Journal Review’s Haley Byrd, told CBS she was kicked out of the room the day the House voted to pass its health-care bill because she was wearing a sleeveless dress. “It wasn’t some tyrannical end of free press,” she added. “Recently they’ve been cracking down on the code, like with open-toed shoes.”

Weirdly, there’s no actual written dress code, so it’s up to the officers tasked with enforcing the rules to decide what constitutes “proper attire as determined by the Speaker.”

Notable exceptions include First Ladies and First Daughters, who can (and do) bare their shoulders both in the Speaker’s Lobby and in the chamber itself. But staffers and lawmakers are also expected to comply with the rules. They might not be allowed to show their shoulders, but hey, they’ll always have seersucker.

Women Can’t Go Sleeveless in Some Parts of the Capitol