Women attempting to enter the speaker’s lobby outside the House chamber have recently been denied entrance based on their shoulder-baring sleeveless shirts and dresses.
According to CBS News, multiple female journalists have reported that they’ve been turned away from the speaker’s lobby because of their bare shoulders — a policy not shared by either the Senate or the White House.
The dress code was enforced in May, when, according to the report, Independent Journal Review‘s Haley Byrd was kicked out of the lobby due to violating the rule.
“When I was kicked out that day, I was just trying to pass through the area to reach another hallway, but I was told I was violating the rules. They offered to find a sweater for me to put on, so it wasn’t some tyrannical end of free press, but I opted to just go around instead. But recently they’ve been cracking down on the code, like with open-toed shoes,” she told CBS News. “I suspect the rules are being emphasized now that it’s summertime and excruciatingly hot outside and everyone is dressing for the weather.”
The CBS report details the experiences of another young reporter who was told she couldn’t enter the lobby because of her dress. She improvised by tearing pages from her notebook to create “sleeves” — but was still turned away.
The speaker’s lobby is one of the prime places to conduct quick interviews during breaks, and as the report noted, men are expected to adhere to a suit-and-tie dress code too. Women, on the other hand, apparently cannot wear shoulder-baring blouses or dresses, or open-toed shoes.
The House dress code rule vaguely states women must wear “appropriate attire” — a statement very open to interpretation.
“These rules are far from clear cut and there are no visible signs defining them,” the report noted.
The dress code policy has reportedly been in place since at least Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), but it has not always been enforced.
President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka wore an off-the-shoulders dress to his State of the Union speech in February. But in June, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) warned that “members should wear appropriate business attire.”
Read the experiences of two other reporters who clashed with the House speaker’s dress code below via Twitter.
(Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly suggested that the dress code originated with Speaker Paul Ryan.)