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I’m Sorry, Are My Shoulders Distracting You?

(It should be noted that this piece is intended to serve as satire.)

In recent news, a female reporter was attempting to enter the Speaker’s Lobby of the House of Representatives when her dress was deemed too inappropriate for entry. The unnamed reporter, wishing to occupy the secured area outside of the House’s chambers for interviews, was wearing a sleeveless dress.


A pressing issue for the House of Representatives: shoulders, toes and midriffs alike have been the number one enemy of the lower House upholding its renowned greatness.

CBS News onlookers reported that in an attempt to gain entry, the woman “ripped out pages from her notebook and stuffed them into her dress’ shoulder openings to create sleeves.” However, chamber security was aware of what foul crimes had been attempted by the fiend and she was still denied entry.

More well known is Haley Byrd’s case. Byrd, a reporter for the Independent Journal Review, had been wearing a sleeveless dress while passing through the Speaker’s lobby.

“I was just trying to pass through the area to reach another hallway,” said Byrd, “They offered to find a sweater for me to put on […] but I opted to just go around instead.”

And then there are cases of downright daredevils defying the rules of the House. Former First Lady Michelle Obama was spotted more than once attending a State of the Union Address in sleeveless dresses. More recently, Ivanka Trump was spotted in the House Gallery wearing a “slightly off-the-shoulder dress” with hints of bra strap showing. Reckless.

Chairman of the Standing Committee of Congressional Correspondents Billy House roots this dress code dilemma that reporters seem to be facing in the concept of “proper decorum,” that dates back to Congress’ earliest days. He told CBS News, “anyone hoping to find any actual, official code of attire? Good luck.” While “proper decorum,” is mentioned at the start of each Congress session, clear definitions are never set.

“Original congressional source material that might add more specificity,” House said, “has either been thrown away with someone’s old knee breeches, or powdered wigs, or hidden away, or never actually written down and distributed.”

The only existing specifics for a House dress code exist in Jefferson’s Manual and Rules of the House of Representatives. In the 2015 edition of the manual, Speaker of the 96th Congress Tip O’Neill is quoted announcing “that [he considered] as proper the customary and traditional attire for Members, including a coat and tie for male Members and appropriate attire for female Members.”

These outlined rules quote the essentials for upholding the prestige of the House floor – it mentions that “hissing and jeering is not proper decorum in the house,” and naturally, neither are opened-toed shoes or dressing appropriately for the near 100 degree summer humidity in Washington, D.C.

According to CBS News, it was later amended to require members of the House “to wear proper attire as determined by the Speaker.” 

Officially, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has deemed “appropriate attire for female members,” to implicate no bared shoulders.

Perhaps exposed shoulders present a pressing safety issue to members of the House? House noted to CBS News that the “enforcement of a ban on sleeveless dresses, tennis shoes and open-toed shoes has been subject to the discretion of chamber security.” At this time, no further developments have been made with this particular lead.

Reporter Jeffrey Young added his notes on the issue via Twitter, stating, “I saw women shamed over her totally acceptable attire, or even because someone decided their very shapes were inappropriate.”

It remains clear that some reporters, much like this one, are not up to date on the official US dress codes of 2017. Shoulders are much too vulgar to be exposed in a place that respects “proper decorum” as much as Paul Ryan.

In similar news, Americans have the right to bare arms – so long as they are not a woman in a place where men have eyes.

Featured Image by Lacy Landre on Flickr
Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

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