FACT CHECK: Did Paul Ryan Ban Sleeveless Dresses On Capitol Hill?

Kush Desai | Fact Check Reporter

A female reporter was recently denied entry into the House Speaker’s lobby on Capitol Hill for wearing a sleeveless dress. A flurry of headlines and tweets that followed decried the House’s “new” prohibitive dress code policy for women.

Verdict: False

The House has always maintained a strict formal dress code for men and women. The claim that either the House or Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan recently instituted a “new” dress code prohibiting sleeveless dresses for women is false.

Fact Check:

CBS first reported that a “young, female” IJR reporter was denied entry into the Speaker’s lobby for wearing a sleeveless dress. A series of highly critical reactions followed.

“The House has a new ‘no sleeveless’ dress code for women,” Jezebel tweeted.

“Women aren’t allowed to wear sleeveless tops in the House chambers, thanks to Paul Ryan,” Mic later tweeted. 

The tweets from Jezebel, Mic and other claims blaming Ryan for the dress code are false.

“These [decorum] rules or ‘standards’ apply not only to the Chamber itself, supposedly, but to the Speaker’s lobby where reporters hang out,” Billy House, Chairman of the Committee of (Congressional) Correspondents, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“They’re not written down anywhere,” House explained, “We’ve searched… [and] we have not obtained any original Congressional source material.”

Enforcement of these unwritten rules is at the discretion of House Chamber security. Officers may kick offenders out or issue a simple warning for future dress code transgressions.

“It’s subject to the discretion of the chamber security,” House explained, “so there’s chance for confusion.”

The officers assigned to chamber security report to the House Sergeant of Arms, House also explained.

“We don’t make the rules,” the Sergeant of Arms’ Office told TheDCNF, “That comes from the Speaker’s Office.”

However, current Speaker Ryan did not create the controversial no-sleeveless attire rule for the Speaker’s Lobby. The House chamber and Speaker’s lobby have long maintained formal dress codes for male and female Representatives and reporters alike. Female reporters have been kicked out of the Speaker’s lobby for inappropriate and sleeveless attire well before Ryan, including during Democratic Representative Nancy Pelosi’s tenure as Speaker.

Other attire like heavy jackets, hats, and bags are also prohibited in the Speaker’s lobby. Men are required to wear jackets and ties.

Ryan did reiterate proper “floor practice” for House Representatives including a vague dress code of “appropriate business attire” in late June. However, claims that sleeveless attire was recently prohibited from the House and Speaker’s Lobby or that Ryan promulgated any such rules are false.

Speaker Paul Ryan’s Office could not be reached in time for publication.

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Kush Desai

Fact Check Reporter