Critics are calling the House dress code sexist and outdated after a female reporter was banned for wearing a sleeveless dress .
There’s no reason why women shouldn’t have the right to bare arms at work, according to etiquette experts.
Critics are calling a seemingly random, unwritten dress code rule at the House of Representatives banning women from wearing sleeveless clothing outdated and sexist after a female reporter was turned away from the Speaker’s Lobby for wearing a dress deemed “inappropriate” just because her shoulders were showing.
But some would argue it’s totally respectable work attire.
“If it’s a nice looking dress there shouldn’t be a problem,” etiquette coach Patricia Napier-Fitzpatrick tells Moneyish. “It’s summer, it’s very hot,” she adds.
While men are expected to wear a suit and tie, there is no set regulation barring women from exposing their shoulders in Congress, reports CBS News. A request to House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office to clarify the vague dress code requirement has not yet been returned.
The “rule” seems particularly arbitrary given that first ladies and first daughters have avidly worn shoulder-baring ensembles. Former FLOTUS Michelle Obama rocked a number of sleeveless dresses to State of the Union addresses inside the House Chamber. Ivanka Trump attended her father’s first presidential address in an off-the-shoulder dress showing what appeared to be her bra strap. And on the same day a woman was turned away from the Speaker’s Lobby for showing some shoulder, Melania Trump wore a sleeveless navy dress to meet the First Lady of Poland.
Someone even compared the odd wardrobe regulation to the sexist dystopia in Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
“Love the new uniforms for women on Capitol Hill,” tweeted Sarah Lerner with a photo of the characters in matching crimson capes, a symbol of oppression on the show.
Love the new uniforms for women on Capitol Hill. pic.twitter.com/AxZoehm1cz
— Sarah Lerner (@SarahLerner) July 6, 2017
As uncomfortable as it seems, women are judged on how they show up to work every day. According to a study in the American Economic Review, those who wear make-up can earn more than 30 percent more than women who don’t.
But that doesn’t mean you have to follow the superficial rules that, frankly, have no impact on your work overall work performance, some say. Last year, London receptionist Nicola Thorp was reportedly sent home from a corporate finance company without pay when she refused to wear heels.
Thus confirming that the United States Government is run by a pack of 7th grade boys. https://t.co/6gKQ393Tjo
— Sophie Vershbow (@svershbow) July 6, 2017
“I said, ‘If you can give me a reason as to why wearing flats would impair me to do my job, then fair enough,’ but they couldn’t,” she told BBC Radio London at the time.
And in 2014, Montana lawmakers tried to ban women from wearing leggings to work on the house floor, and said they should “be sensitive to skirt lengths and necklines.” But after much uproar, they vaguely revised the rules simply to “business casual.”
Wore a sleeveless, work-appropriate dress to Speaker's Lobby six years ago and was advised to "please cover up" next time. https://t.co/66biNrmbtQ
— Patricia Mazzei (@PatriciaMazzei) July 6, 2017
“It’s up to each company or organization to set the guidelines, but they need to let it be known that that’s what the dress code is so that people can come prepared,” says Napier-Fitzpatrick.
Clothing has a positive impact on how people view you in the workplace regardless of your gender, so it’s important not to confuse “casual” with “sloppy.” So showing up to work with wrinkles isn’t ever acceptable.
If your office has a relaxed dress code, it’s perfectly fine to wear sleeveless blouses or dresses. And it’s okay to leave your legs bare when wearing a skirt or shorts.
This goes without saying, but no matter how casual your office may be, never wear a crop top or low-rise jeans for obvious reasons.
Flip-flops are also always a no, according to Napier-Fizpatrick, who only recommends wearing strappy sandals during warmer months in casual work settings.
And, one is rule of thumb is simply to survey your surroundings.
“It’s a matter of dressing appropriate for your industry,” she adds.
© 2017 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved