Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Thursday that he will work with the House sergeant-at-arms to update and modernize the dress code in the chamber and Speaker’s lobby after complaints about how the rules are being enforced.
Some female Capitol Hill journalists have recently been barred from entering the Speaker’s lobby, the private hallway connected to the House chamber, because they were wearing sleeveless dresses or open-toed shoes. That sparked complaints from reporters about selective enforcement of the dress code, which only calls for professional attire.
Ryan’s announcement came a day after Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) ridiculed the dress code during a speech on the House floor, saying she was dressed professionally, “which happens to be a sleeveless dress and open-toes shoes.”
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Ryan defended the sergeant-at-arms’s interpretation of the dress code but said it could be relaxed a bit.
“The sergeant-at-arms was simply enforcing the same interpretation of the rules as under my predecessors. It’s nothing new and certainly not something that I devised. At the same time, that doesn’t mean that enforcement couldn’t stand to be a bit modernized,” Ryan said.
“Decorum is important, especially for this institution, and a dress code in the chamber and the lobby makes sense,” the Speaker added. “We also don’t need to bar otherwise accepted contemporary business attire, so look for a change on that soon.”