Missouri House of Representatives Divided Over New Dress Code Regulations


Photo courtesy of Fernando Lavin on unsplash.com

Amanda Salanitri, Staff Writer

Lawmakers of the Missouri House of Representatives approved a package of rules on Wednesday, January 11th. One proposed legislation, made by Republican Ann Kelley, calls for a restricting female dress code. Since the introduction of this new rule, many members of the Missouri House of Representatives have expressed their opposing opinions on the dress code and its implications for women’s rights.

The previous dress code for women in Missouri’s House of Representatives was enacted in 2021, which listed some articles of clothing that were considered appropriate attire for female legislators and staff members, such as wearing “dresses or skirts or slacks worn with a blazer or sweater and appropriate dress shoes or boots” (The Hill). However, the proposed bill on Wednesday now defines acceptable dress as “jackets worn with dresses, skirts, or slacks, and dress shoes or boots” (The Hill). Kelley explained that the new restrictions for women’s clothing choices was for the purpose of ensuring decorum and moving closer to the male dress code. The subject of dress codes is typically debated every two years. However, there has yet to be debate over the male dress code in 2023.

Since the discussion of implementing the new restrictions on women’s dress in the Missouri House of Representatives, many Democratic members have spoken out in opposition to the bill, calling it “ridiculous.” In addition, some Democrats have expressed that women shouldn’t be judged on their appearance or how they choose to dress themselves, such as Rep. Raychel Proudie. She also put forth the idea that the new dress code, which required jackets or blazers to cover women’s arms, could make it difficult for pregnant women to comply. She reasoned that “they don’t make jackets or blazers for women who are pregnant. That could be very uncomfortable, particularly in a pro-life state” (AP News). Furthermore, other notable figures have spoken on the theme of women’s rights in light of Roe v. Wade being overturned by the Supreme Court last year. Virginia Ramseyer Winter, an associate professor at the University of Missouri School of Health Professions and director of the Center for Body Image Research and Policy, spoke in regards to the Missouri House dress code, saying “I do think that it also sends the message that we have to police women’s bodies” (AP News).

Proposing the amendment of the dress code, Missouri’s Republican Rep. Ann Kelley said that “It is essential to always maintain a formal and professional atmosphere on the House floor, and to ensure this happens, I have felt compelled to offer this amendment” (AP News). To contrast this, Democrat Rep. Ashley Aune stated “I’ve seen a lot of lack of decorum in this room in my two years here, and not once has that lack of decorum spurred from someone’s blazer or lack thereof … There are a lot of ways we could break decorum in this room. But a woman, what she’s wearing, that is ridiculous” (AP News).

Alternatively, Republicans in Missouri’s House of Representatives have explained their opinions in the debate over the new dress code requirements. One notable argument in support of passing the dress code is that it only clarified the required clothing for their work environment, implying that the debate regarding the new dress code was overdone. For example, Missouri’s Republican Rep. Doug Richey said “It’s a normal process for any entity regarding a professional work environment … We just happen to have a political context that we have to navigate and, because of that, it is ripe for some members to grandstand and try to make it into something that it’s not,” (AP News).

Following much debate from members of Missouri’s House of Representatives, the proposed amendment to the state legislation’s female dress code has been modified. According to the Washington Post, the proposal was passed, which now allows women to wear cardigans as well as jackets and blazers. Yet, the requirement to cover women’s arms still remains. Additionally, House members have emphasized the importance of other rules within the package that the dress code was originally accompanied by when presented on the 11th. Namely, Proudie has stated that “There are some very serious things that are in this rule package that I think we should be debating, but instead we are fighting, again, for a women’s right to choose something. And this time it is how she covers herself” (AP News).