JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — There’s controversy over what women can wear to work in the Missouri House Chambers. Representatives recently passed house rules that included an updated dress code, requiring women to wear a jacket over their clothing.
Lawmakers said it is standard for representatives to vote on house rules at the beginning of a new legislative session. Any changes to the rules are presented.
According to the to Associated Press, Representative Ann Kelley introduced an amendment describing what women can wear on the house floor. The Associated Press said Kelley wanted to match the women’s dress code to the men’s.
“The dress code for men is spelled out very specifically,” Representative Mike Stephens said. “We are to wear suits with dress shirts and ties and dress shoes. For the women, it had not been quite so specific.”
The Associated Press said Kelley was recommending women were business attire, specifically a jacket including blazers.
“Previous years rules allowed for women to wear two layers of clothing,” House Minority Leader Crystal Quade said. “We could wear a dress with a blazer on or a cardigan as long as we had two layers and we were covering our arms. The change coming from a colleague of mine on the other side of the aisle was to make it so that women had to wear blazers only.”
Representatives said after almost an hour of discussing the dress code, the amendment was fixed to say women can wear jackets, like blazers or cardigans, over their clothing. Some lawmakers say the conversation took too long.
“As the details got debated more, the kind of absurdities of it became more apparent,” Stephens said. He said it’s important to outline the dress code for all members of the house. “I believe in the professional decorum of the House, and I believe that dress is an important part of that.”
Representative Quade also agreed lawmakers discussed the dress code for too long.
“Why are we spending an hour plus of our time debating what elected women have to wear on the House floor when we should be discussing how our citizens who live in Missouri, who are wheelchair bound, don’t have ability to come into the building, which was an amendment that we wanted to talk about,” Quade said. “I’m grateful that we added an amendment to the amendment to allow for cardigans again, but I did not expect it to last this long.”
Quade said in the senate the rules for dress codes are different. She said women can wear long-sleeved clothing without a jacket as long as their arms are covered.
“The dress code does come up quite a bit,” Quade said. “But really what we normally are discussing is actually going further in terms of what we are allowed to wear.”
Quade said the dress code is not impacting day-to-day decision-making. But, she thinks this will raise more questions from constituents.
“I do hope that getting national attention around the fact that in the Missouri legislature, they were making it more constrictive for women to just go to work and function is bringing attention to not only that, but also what are we doing in Jefferson City with taxpayer money,” Quade said. “I am really hopeful that this discussion and the attention that the media is bringing to this encourages folks to hold us accountable and to pay attention to what’s happening in their state capitol.”