Speaker of the House Paul Ryan announced on Thursday that he will "modernize" the House of Representatives' unwritten dress code. Currently, the dress code bans women from wearing sleeveless tops in the House Chamber and Speaker's Lobby.
Ryan's announcement followed outcry on social media and a short speech from Representative Martha McSally (R-Arizona) on Wednesday, in which she called the sleeveless dress and open-toed shoes she was (illicitly) wearing "professional attire."
"I'll be honest, this was not something that was covered in my new speakership orientation ceremony. The sergeant at arms was simply enforcing the same interpretation of the rules as under my predecessors. This is nothing new and certainly not something that I devised," Ryan said at his weekly press conference. "That doesn't mean that enforcement couldn't stand to be a bit modernized." Ryan pledged to work with the House's sergeant at arms, who enforces security and decorum in the lower chamber, to update the dress code.
CBS News reported last week that female journalists were being asked to leave the Speaker's Lobby because they were wearing sleeveless tops. Several outlets mistakenly reported that the the policy was new, when in fact enforcement of a ban against sleeveless dresses has been around since at least the last administration, when John Boehner made dress code a priority. The current mandate calls for men to wear suit jackets and ties in the House Chamber and Speaker's Lobby, for women to cover their shoulders, and for all to wear close-toed shoes.
Under Ryan's new changes, tank-top blouses and professional sandals could potentially be allowed. "A dress code in the chamber and in the lobby makes sense," Ryan said. "But we also don't need to bar otherwise accepted contemporary business attire. Look for a change on that soon."