From suit and tie to ‘Anything Goes’: The Senate dress code has unraveled before

Who cares what they’re carrying
On Most important Avenue or Saville Row?
It’s what you put on from ear to ear.
And never from head to toe that issues.

— You’re By no means Totally Dressed With out a Smile from the musical ‘Annie’

Apparently you possibly can put on something you now need within the U.S. Senate.

Smile or no smile – however with a caveat.

If you’re a legislative aide, a parliamentarian, a clerk, or work for the sergeant-at-arms, you will need to nonetheless go well with as much as enter the Senate chamber.

However senators could costume nonetheless they’d like.


U.S. Sen. John Fetterman usually wears informal clothes across the Capitol (Drew Angerer)


Senate Majority Chief Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., quietly instructed the Senate sergeant-at-arms workplace to give up imposing a Senate costume code rule — which isn’t actually a rule.

Bear in mind, that is the Senate. The Senate has 44 standing guidelines. However usually these guidelines pale in comparison with varied Senate precedents, customs and folkways.

It’s not written down anyplace, however the Senate purportedly has a customized which requires males to put on a coat and tie within the chamber. The custom is much less particular in relation to girls. However acceptable enterprise apparel is de rigueur for them.


And nobody has stated this particularly, however Schumer’s instruction to decorate down the costume code might be linked to Sen. John Fetterman, D-Penn. The freshman Democrat favors hoodies and dishevelled basketball shorts moderately than a Jack Victor go well with. Fetterman generally seems within the rear of the chamber, voting from a doorway in his informal getup moderately than making his manner all the best way into the properly of the Senate chamber. Fetterman is routinely noticed across the Senate in fitness center apparel.

Fetterman is allowed to put on his hoodie across the Capitol.

Sen. John Fetterman wore a white hoodie throughout a information convention on debt restrict on the U.S. Capitol on Could 18, 2023 in Washington, DC.  (Alex Wong)

And imagine it or not, this isn’t the primary time a lawmaker in a hoodie made headlines.

Return to March 2012 with former Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Unwell.

Rush — the one politician to defeat President Obama (in a major for a Home seat) — got here to the Home flooring to protest the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida. Martin’s loss of life drew nationwide consideration. George Zimmerman shot and killed Martin, however was later acquitted. Zimmerman stated he noticed Martin carrying a “darkish hoodie, like a grey hoodie.” It was argued that the hoodie made Martin look suspicious.

Rush needed to focus on how he believed Zimmerman racially profiled Martin due to his apparel. Rush got here to the Home flooring carrying a lavender shirt and a charcoal, pinstripe go well with. He donned a lilac tie. However beneath, Rush wore a hoodie.

“Racial profiling has to cease,” stated Rush on the ground, eradicating his go well with jacket to disclose the hoodie, sliding sun shades over his eyes.

“Simply because somebody wears a hoodie doesn’t make them a hoodlum,” stated Rush.


Former Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., presided over the session. Harper banged the gavel 29 occasions till a Home chamber safety aide escorted the Illinois Democrat off the ground.

Chuck Schumer speaks to press on debt ceiling

Senate Majority Chief Chuck Schumer directed the Sergeant-at-Arms to cease imposing a costume code for its members. (J. Scott Applewhite)

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) requested why Rush, who’s Black, was faraway from the chamber however different lawmakers who confirmed as much as vote in different apparel weren’t.

“Each time the foundations usually are not enforced, you create the chance for any individual to imagine they’ve been singled out,” stated Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., on the time.

But nobody stated a phrase when then-Home Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., who’s White, spoke within the Home chamber within the spirng of 2018 carrying a Washington Capitals jacket. Such a garment doesn’t technically comport with the Home’s costume “code.” A 1981 precedent famous that lawmakers couldn’t put on overcoats — akin to a jacket — on the Home flooring. Hoyer outfitted himself within the Capitals jacket to salute the staff for successful the Stanley Cup.

One member of the CBC recalled the Rush incident a couple of years prior and questioned to yours really if the Home handled Hoyer in another way as a result of he was White or as a result of he was the Minority Whip.

The underside line is that sartorial choices have all the time been a problem on Capitol Hill. 

Former Home Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, periodically reminded members from the dais about his expectations that they put on correct apparel on the ground. But the Home “rule” on correct apparel was primarily based on the same utterance from the chair by late Home Speaker Tip O’Neill, D-Mass., within the Nineteen Seventies. The Home rulebook is rife with precedent in regards to the Congressional wardrobe. The presiding officer didn’t acknowledge a Member to talk as a result of they weren’t carrying a jacket in 2012. One other presiding officer chastised a Member for not carrying a jacket in 2001. 

Democrat Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman

Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) arrives for the “AI Perception Discussion board” on the Russell Senate Workplace Constructing on Capitol Hill on September 13, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Nathan Howard)

There was a name to arms for feminine reporters when former Home Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., ran the present. Chamber safety personnel prohibited feminine reporters from getting into the Speaker’s Foyer as a result of their arms weren’t coated. Ryan then eased the coverage, granting girls a proper to reveal arms.

The Home has banned hats within the chamber since 1837. That’s a concrete Home rule: Rule XVII, Clause 5. Therefore, the invention of the Democratic and Republican cloakrooms off the Home flooring for members to hold their hats and “cloaks.” Then once more, nobody actually wears a “cloak” any extra besides Dracula. It’s unclear if the Home has a spot for Drac to retailer his tooth.

Late Rep. Bella Abzug, D-N.Y., all the time wore a hat within the Nineteen Seventies to tell apart herself from workers. There weren’t many feminine lawmakers on the time. Most girls who labored on Capitol Hill then served as secretaries. Abzug might put on the hat anyplace however on the Home flooring.

Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., all the time wears a signature cowboy hat round Capitol Hill and in committee hearings. However Wilson is barred from carrying a hat on the Home flooring.

Late Rep. Pat Schroeder, D-Colo., stated her outfit in 1973 enraged fellow lawmakers — largely males.

“The day I wore a pantsuit onto the ground, you’d have thought I requested for a land base in China,” stated Schroeder.

Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., all the time wears a signature cowboy hat round Capitol Hill and in committee hearings. (Mark Wilson)

As for the modifications within the Senate costume code, some lawmakers don’t give a sew.

“I haven’t thought one second about it,” stated Sen. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo.

When particularly requested by a reporter about “Fetterman’s costume code,” Hickenlooper provided this rejoinder. 

“I’ve spent much less time fascinated with that,” replied the Colorado Democrat about his colleagues vestments.

Nonetheless, Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., isn’t as buttoned up.

“Talking of latest lows,” stated Cramer, pivoting to the style dialog after discussing a possible authorities shutdown. “The thought of turning the US Senate right into a sports activities bar may be very unappealing to me.” 

That stated, perhaps changing the Senate right into a sports activities bar could possibly be an enchancment.

Think about the Senate opening at daybreak on Saturdays for folks to look at the Premier League. Or, folks might cluster into the Ohio Clock Hall to look at Deion Sanders coach Colorado later that very same afternoon.


However Cramer has some severe grievances in regards to the modifications.


Sen. John Hickenlooper stated “I haven’t thought one second about” Fetterman’s Senate apparel. (Anna Moneymaker)

“It was once that folks checked out Members of Congress and a minimum of regarded as much as them a bit of bit,” stated Cramer. “Now all they need to do is look down.”

As we wrote, the costume “code” now solely applies to those that work within the Senate chamber who aren’t senators. Consider it or not, imposing a costume code for lawmakers to enter the chamber to vote could possibly be unconstitutional.

Article I, Part 5 of the Structure permits the Home and Senate to make their very own guidelines for operations. However Article I, Part 6 of the Structure contains one thing referred to as the “Speech or Debate Clause.” That provision bars anybody from inhibiting lawmakers from performing their Congressional duties. Interval. 

It doesn’t matter what they’re carrying.


Maybe the Broadway manufacturing of “Annie” and by no means being “totally dressed with out a smile” isn’t one of the best musical to confer with in these circumstances. 

Perhaps dial up some Cole Porter, as an alternative. 

Within the Senate as of late, “Something Goes.”

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