A couple of weeks ago, a reporter was denied entry into the "Speaker's Lobby" for wearing a sleeveless blouse. This is an ornate area with a stricter dress code than the rest of the Capitol. The Hill said that there has been an influx of new reporters who were not aware of the longstanding traditions surrounding this area of the building, but in their defense, the rules are a bit vague. It's a coat and tie for men and "appropriate" dress for women.

One part of a dress code that people don't quite understand is that a clear dress code puts everyone on an equal playing field. As The Hill pointed out, there were lots of new reporters who didn't know what was and what was inappropriate, and since there was no clearly written dress code, the new reporters, apparently, guessed wrong. What could have been explained with a simple, clearly stated dress code, was handed down in tradition.

If you choose to go against the tradition, you often receive consequences. In most of the world, it means people silently judge you. In the Speaker's Lobby, it means you get kicked out. Even if you want people to not judge you for your clothing choice, they do judge you for your clothing choice. That's the reality we deal with.

People got all up-in-arms (pun intended) about the question of whether a sleeveless blouse was appropriate, with many calling the ban "sexist" or "antiquated," but is it? I've yet to see someone claim that a suit and tie for men is "sexist" or "antiquated," or that the Supreme Court should throw out their robes.

So, that makes us ask, what is "appropriate" in the workplace now--not just in the Speaker's Lobby. (Incidentally, this is where the term lobbying comes from--people would go and argue their positions with their representatives in the Speaker's Lobby.) The New York Times asked its readers and got an ear full. (I've corrected typos in the following quotes.)

Sara Jevo: "appropriate" = put together. The individual should determine it. I can't count the number of times a day I see guys in the worst fitting suits ever. That to me looks unprofessional. Just because dress code requires a certain "go to" doesn't mean that's the best way to dress in a professional environment. Sometimes certain people can pull off a casual look wayyyy better (and look on point) than just conforming to a certain standard.

Sarang Banne: As an employer, I really am not too concerned by what people wear to work so long as it's presentable. I care about the quality of their work and their productivity much more than what they wear. Perhaps congress should also change their priorities.

Diane Carlson: Outdated nonsense. I work with F'500 companies and people wear what they like: sleeveless, sneakers, jeans, suits, anything goes as long as it's pulled together and fits the culture. This outdated no sleeves rule is like something from the early 1900's.

Sabrina M Messenger: Personally, I'd like to see a return overall to proper dress in public. Under the guise of "comfort", so many people nowadays dress like total slobs (regardless of their politics.) It wouldn't kill men to go back to wearing suits and ties, and for women to dress more feminine...and yes, pantsuits can be feminine. As for Melania's sleeveless dress at the Champs-Élysées parade, I thought she looked nice! What's the problem? After all, isn't Paris supposed to be the capital of fashion? lol

Joseph Barnett: I once commented to a job applicant to look around at the offices she was applying to and to dress in the culture of the office. When men are expected to tie slip knots around their necks in professional offices, a dress code is part of the job.

Wendy Davis Smarkel:The code should be changed, for all. D.C. is unbelievably hot and humid in the summer. Men shouldn't have to wear a jacket.

I am strongly in favor of formal dress codes for places like the US Capitol building, and to be honest, when I go into a bank, I would be shocked to find the bank manager wearing a tube top, and probably wouldn't think so highly of that bank. But, if the bank manager were wearing jeans and a nice blouse, it wouldn't bother me.

What do you think? Just what is an appropriate business dress code?

Published on: Jul 26, 2017