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Sleeveless in Speakers’ Lobby? House may update dress code


    Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., wears a sleeveless dress while speaking on the floor of the House on Capitol Hill in Washington. House Speaker Paul Ryan says the House is looking at modernizing its dress code.

WASHINGTON >> Sleeveless in the Speakers’ Lobby? It just might happen in the hidebound House.

Speaker Paul Ryan said today that modernizing the decades-old dress code is under discussion after reporters were barred from Speakers’ Lobby, a corridor off the House chamber, for failing to wear appropriate attire.

The rules bar women in sleeveless dresses or tops and require men to wear jackets and ties. More recently, Ryan reminded lawmakers that they must meet certain sartorial standards on the House floor as well.

“This is nothing new,” he said. “It’s certainly not something that I devised.”

But that doesn’t mean enforcement couldn’t be a bit modernized, Ryan told reporters at his weekly news conference.

“So that is why we will be working with the sergeant-at-arms to ensure the enforcement of appropriate business attire is updated,” he said. “Decorum is important, especially for this institution. And a dress code in the chamber, in the (Speakers’) Lobby, makes sense,” he said.

“But we also don’t need to bar otherwise accepted contemporary business attire. So look for a change on that soon,” Ryan said.

Reporters who had been barred last month took to Twitter and other social media to complain about rules that have been enforced inconsistently. On Wednesday, Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., gently flouted the rules in a speech on the House floor.

“Before I yield back, I want to point out, I’m standing here in my professional attire, which happens to be a sleeveless dress and open-toed shoes,” McSally said. “With that, Mr. Speaker, I yield back.”

In a tweet, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., signaled she welcomed a possible change.

“Glad to see Speaker Ryan is updating the dress code for the House Floor. These unwritten rules are in desperate need of updates,” Pelosi said.

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