Missouri House toughens dress code for women, requiring arms to be covered

The Missouri House of Representatives kicked off its new session by tightening its dress code and requiring lawmakers to cover their arms and wear blazers while in the state capitol, much to the dismay and outrage of House Democrats.

Lawmakers met Wednesday to discuss changes to House rules, as is customary at the start of a new General Assembly every two years. The existing dress code, which was last updated in 2021, states that women must wear a “dress or skirts or pants with a blazer or sweater and appropriate dress shoes or boots.”

Republican State Rep. Ann Kelley proposed an amendment that would require women to wear jackets, defined as knit jackets and jackets, with dresses, skirts or pants, and dress shoes or boots. Kelley stated that the update is necessary because “it is essential to always maintain a formal and professional atmosphere.”

Members of the Missouri House of Representatives recite the Pledge of Allegiance as they begin their annual legislative session on Wednesday, January 5, 2022, in Jefferson City, Missouri.
(AP Photo/David A. Lieb, File)

He was met with swift opposition from Democrats who called him “ridiculous”.

The House of Representatives finally approved a modified version of Kelley’s proposal, which allows both cardigans and jackets, but still requires women’s arms to be concealed.


The move was denounced as sexist as the men’s dress code remained unchanged. Men are also required to adhere to a dress code in the Houses, and male legislators must wear “business attire, including jacket, tie, dress pants, and dress shoes or boots.”

Among those critics was state Rep. Pete Merideth (D), who called out his fellow Republicans for hypocrisy about how they handled health and safety guidelines when it came to wearing a mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“The caucus that lost its mind over the suggestion that they should wear masks during a pandemic to respect the safety of others now spends its time honing in on the fine details of what women should wear (and specifically how many layers their heads should cover). arms) to show respect in this chamber,” Merideth tweeted.


“Do you know what it feels like to have a bunch of men in this room staring at your top trying to decide if it’s appropriate or not?” said state Rep. Ashley Aune (D) on the state House floor, adding that the update motion was “ludicrous.”

Rep. Brenda Shields, a Republican, defended Kelley’s proposal as an effort to clarify rules already in place and suggested adjusting the language to allow cardigans to count as jackets.

The moon rises over the Missouri state capitol building lit by the afternoon sun in Jefferson City, Jefferson City is located in central Missouri along the Missouri River.

The moon rises over the Missouri state capitol building lit by the afternoon sun in Jefferson City, Jefferson City is located in central Missouri along the Missouri River.
(Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

In a Facebook post, Rep. Kelley shared that she received “a lot of hateful calls, emails and messages regarding this amendment, which is funny because we already have a dress code, all I was doing was correcting the mistakes and clarify the rule”.

He added that he submitted the amendment to the floor because the principal clerk of the House had “requested for many years to obtain [this] set in our rules.” And he denied wasting anyone’s time, said his speech had only lasted five minutes and blamed Missouri Democrats for prolonging the debate.


“How is it wrong to encourage professionalism?” Kelly added. “If ever there is a time to honor traditions and be professional, it is on the floor of the Missouri House of Representatives – I will not apologize for standing up for these things.”

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