Missouri House members face off after ‘ridiculous’ and ‘sexist’ new dress code for women is proposed

‘THIS lady has the final fashion word?’ Missouri House chamber descends into chaos after female lawmaker with her shirt untucked proposes ‘sexist’ dress code for women – banning bare arms and forcing them to wear blazers

  • Rep. Ann Kelley, a Missouri representative and Republican lawmaker proposed an amendment to the dress code for women to cover arms and wear blazers
  • She stated that the update is necessary because ‘it is essential to always maintain a formal and professional atmosphere’
  • The dress code – last updated 2021 – was a dress, skirt or slacks worn with a sweater or blazer, and appropriate dress shoes or boots
  • The proposed ban was met with swift backlash during Wednesday’s session 

Furious female lawmakers in Missouri went head-to-head after one of them proposed a ‘ridiculous’ and ‘sexist’ new dress code for women – banning bare arms and forcing them to wear blazers while in the House chamber. 

The original dress code for women in the House was a dress, skirt or slacks worn with a sweater or blazer, and appropriate dress shoes or boots. 

But now Ann Kelley, a Missouri representative and Republican lawmaker has proposed an amendment to the dress code, in which jackets – defined as blazer or knit blazers sweaters – must be worn over the arms.

She said the update is necessary because ‘it is essential to always maintain a formal and professional atmosphere’ but she was met with outrage during Wednesday’s House chamber session – and features in a video from the debate with her shirt untucked. 

In a video from the chamber, Democrat Rep. Ashley Aune told Kelley: ‘You know what it feels like having a bunch of men in this room trying to decide whether it’s appropriate or not?’

Kelley countered: ‘You would think… you would think… you would think that all you would have to do is say dress professionally and women could handle it.’

Democrat Rep. Ashley Aune

Republican Rep. Ann Kelley

Ann Kelley, a Missouri representative and Republican lawmaker proposed an amendment to the dress code, in which she stated that the update is necessary because ‘it is essential to always maintain a formal and professional atmosphere’

Democrat Representative Raychel Proudie also stood up and spoke out about the new rules.

‘There are very serious things in this rule package that I think we should be debating but, instead we are fighting – again – on women’s rights to choose something and in this time it is how she covers herself and the interpretation of someone who has no background in fashion.

‘Again, this is not a shot, it is inappropriate to wear sequins before 5pm telling me that I cannot wear a crispy good St. John sweater if it has too many buttons. 

‘I spent $1,200 on a suit, and I can’t wear it in the People’s House because someone who doesn’t have the range tells me that’s inappropriate,’ she said. 

Representative Peter Meredith spoke out about new dress code and some of the drama that unfolded during Wednesday’s session at the House chamber.

‘Yep, the caucus that lost their minds over the suggestion that they should wear masks during a pandemic to respect the safety of others is now spending its time focusing on the fine details of what women have to wear (specifically how to cover their arms) to show respect here.’ 

Kelley’s modified version of the proposal was eventually approved by the state House, permitting females to wear cardigans as well as jackets, but still requires no bare arms. 

Spectators on Twitter responded to the heated debate, many siding with Reps. Proudie and Aune – and some commenting on how Kelley herself was presented. 

Rep. Peter Meredith tweeted his reaction to the dress code announced in the House Chamber

 Rep. Peter Meredith tweeted his reaction to the dress code announced in the House Chamber

The Democrat, who represents St. Louis City, was elected to his first two-year term Nov. 2016

 The Democrat, who represents St. Louis City, was elected to his first two-year term Nov. 2016

‘She doesn’t even tuck her shirt in! Talk about professionalism!,’ Justin Long’s Walrus Suit tweeted:

Mia Nill tweeted: ‘THIS lady has the final fashion word? Normally I don’t care: BUT since she’s about ‘professionalism’ why’s the shirt untucked&jacket buttoned?

‘What’s with THAT blue/black/’Business Blah’ olive/brown? jacket combo? (this coat lives in her office and gets thrown on every day right?)’

The tightening of the dress code was announced on Wednesday during the new session, a standard protocol at the the start of new General Assembly when members discuss changes to the House rules, which takes place every two years.

‘Men are required to wear a jacket, a shirt and a tie, correct? If they walked in here without a tie, they would get gaveled down in a heartbeat,’ Kelley said.

‘If they walked in without a jacket, they would get gaveled down in a heartbeat. So, we are so interested in being equal.’

On Thursday in a Facebook statement Kelley spoke about the dress code modification to Rule 98 – a house rule on how members are supposed to dress in the House Chamber and on the floor during session. 

‘I have had lots of hateful calls, emails, and messages in regards to this amendment, which is funny because we already have a dress code all I was doing was fixing the errors and clarifying the rule,’ she said.  

‘Every business is in charge of their protocols and rules, when you run a meeting there are rules that must be followed. Before the House can begin their work, rules must be adopted. This was something that the Chief Clerk, who is in charge of decorum has requested for many years to get fixed in our rules. Now, it has been fixed.

‘Any time a bill is brought to the house floor, anyone has an opportunity to add an amendment and then that amendment is voted on by the whole body. There were over 15 amendments that were filed and less than five made it on the rules package, one of which was mine.

‘I spoke less than 5 minutes introducing my amendment, so time, I did not waste anyone’s time. Spending 5 minutes to fix a grammatical error in the rule book of the MO House of Representatives, in my mind is not a waste of time.’

Members of the Missouri House Committee (pictured)

 Members of the Missouri House Committee (pictured) 

Representative Brenda Shields was one of those members who defended Kelley’s proposal, Fox News reported.

Shields suggesting that Kelley was clarifying the rules that were already in place and suggested adjusting the language to let cardigans count as jackets.   

Nevertheless, the move was criticized as sexist since the men’s dress code in the Chambers – men are required to wear ‘business attire, including coat, tie, dress trousers, and dress shoes or boots’ – was left unchanged.

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