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A Female Representative Just Flouted the House's Unwritten Dress Code

Representative Martha McSally (R-Arizona) ended a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives on Wednesday with a jab at the lower chamber's controversial unwritten rule barring women from wearing sleeveless tops and open-toed shoes in the House Chamber and Speaker's Lobby.

"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, wearing a pink, diamond-patterned sleeveless dress.

Last week, CBS News prompted a social media outcry when it reported that journalists waiting for representatives to exit the House Chamber for interviews were being turned away from the Speaker's Lobby for wearing sleeveless dresses and tops. The report was confirmed by several journalists. The requirement for women to wear sleeves, men to wear ties and suit jackets, and all to wear close-toed shoes has been enforced periodically since 1979 but does not appear explicitly in any rulebook pertaining to the House. In June, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan reminded members to sport "appropriate business attire" in all sittings in the House.

New York reports this is not the first time McSally has protested government-issued dress codes. While stationed in Saudi Arabia as a fighter pilot in the Air Force, McSally sued Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for requiring women in the military to wear an abaya off-base, given that men did not have to dress in local attire when they were away from the workplace.