Sleeveless Dress Controversy Prompts House Speaker to Announce Update to House Lobby Dress Code | NBC Bay Area
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Sleeveless Dress Controversy Prompts House Speaker to Announce Update to House Lobby Dress Code

Last week, female reporters were told that sleeveless dresses are not considered appropriate attire under a dress code that was in place for years

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    Sleeveless Dress Controversy Prompts House Speaker to Announce Update to House Lobby Dress Code
    Win McNamee/Getty Images
    Speaker of the House Paul Ryan answers questions during his weekly press conference at the Capitol July 13, 2017, in Washington, D.C.

    A so-called "sleeveless dress ban" in the lobby of the United States House of Representatives is likely to be slashed from the room's dress code after House Speaker Paul Ryan addressed controversy that bubbled up last week.

    The controversy was kicked off by a recent CBS News report about the dress code in the Speaker's Lobby outside the House chamber, sparking a debate over whether the rules are rooted in sexism. Female reporters said they'd been told that sleeveless dresses are not considered appropriate, with one reporter attempting to cover her shoulders with notebook pages, according to CBS News.

    Reporters who work on the Hill said the dress code has been enforced for years, while a Ryan spokeswoman, AshLee Strong, noted that Ryan inherited the policy.

    On Thursday, Ryan said he valued decorum in the House but said he's working on changing it to adapt to modern-day dress.

    "Decorum is important, especially for this institution. And a dress code in the chamber and the lobby makes sense. But we also don’t need to bar otherwise accepted, contemporary business attire. So look for a change on that soon," he said.

    Ryan also joked that "this is not something that was covered in my new speakership orientation ceremony."

    The move has women, from female Capitol reporters to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, celebrating "the right to bare arms," as the dress code is likely to take new styles in men's and women's fashion into account.



    Jennifer Lawless, a professor of government and director of the Women & Politics Institute at the School of Public Affairs at American University, said that what is considered "appropriate" for men and women varies, and has changed over time.

    "The rules have become irrelevant," Lawless told NBC last week. "Just because women are wearing sleeveless tops does not mean they're dressing inappropriately…To suggest that they have to dress in a particular way constrains their choices in a way that men are not."

    California's Rep. Jackie Speier has called on members of Congress to join her Friday on the House Floor for "#SleevelessFriday," she tweeted, "because women have the right to bare arms."