Slob in the Senate, Pantyhose in the House
Dress code dropped for Fetterman to wear hoodie and shorts is part of the post pandemic slide into gym clothes for formal work attire.
When I worked on Capitol Hill, women were required to wear pantyhose to go to the House floor.
One particularly hot and humid summer, my female chief of staff determined to end that part of the dress code. She lobbied the House Sergeant at Arms to free our legs in the interest of avoiding heat stroke. We were thrilled when the hosiery requirement was lifted. It seemed a huge step forward, pun intended.
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Even with bare legs, we still dressed in conservative business clothes. The dress code did not allow for sleeveless dresses, so we used scarves or sweaters to cover our shoulders when we went to the floor. We respected the institution and felt honored to work there.
Fast forward to today, the Senate has dropped all of its dress code rules for members. This is not just about politics. The pandemic changed what is considered appropriate to wear for work, church and job interviews. Dressing to show respect is a dying tradition.
The Senate floor was always a sea of dark blue suits and conservative dresses until Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) started wearing his trademark hoodie sweatshirt and shorts to votes. He got around the rules by keeping one foot in the cloakroom.
Majority Leader Schumer (D-NY) indulged Fetterman’s antics this week by instructing the Sergeant at Arms (Senate doorkeepers) to stop enforcing the tradition of business attire.
“Senators are able to choose what they wear on the Senate floor,” Schumer told Axios. “I will continue to wear a suit.”
The relaxed dress code policy only applies to elected officials. Staff and visitors have to continue wearing business-appropriate clothes. (Rules for thee!)
No more neckties
Fetterman took a victory lap Tuesday in shorts, an open-neck, short-sleeve shirt and Hoka sneakers (see the photo above.)
“They’re freaking out, I don’t understand it,” he told AP. “Like, aren’t there more important things we should be working on right now instead of, you know, that I might be dressing like a slob?”
The Senate dress code ending has drawn an unsurprising partisan divide. Republicans like institutions and tradition.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) joked she might as well “wear a bikini tomorrow to the Senate floor” because doing away with the dress code “debases the institution.”
Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) had my favorite criticism, describing Fetterman’s outfits as "the very sloppiest that a person would dress even if they're going to a gym by themselves.” She also said, "I've never seen civility enhanced or a sense of decorum enhanced by dressing like a slob."
Some senators quickly embraced the relaxed dress code. Aides and reporters spotted these guys at votes on Monday without ties:
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