Professional Dress Code

Washington, D.C. Capitol dome

(Photo by Fashion Belle of the United States Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.) Many young women in high schools around the United States have acquired, through long practice, a highly developed ability to violate school, camp, church and work dress codes without being caught. The prevalence of this skill was unknown to me until the spring of 2011 when I began to serve as a resident counselor for my state's Senate Page Program. During that spring, I learned by visiting with about 150 young women from high schools around my state about how difficult it is for any institution that serves teenagers to enforce a dress code for females, especially considering the type of clothing that is marketed to juniors in our culture. Even with a generous dress code in regard to modesty for the program in which I continue to work, roughly a third of all teen women who arrive for service bring clothing that violates our dress code, and most of those who bring such clothing do so intentionally and are amazingly sly in figuring out ways to slip past the monitors. For example, coats may temporarily cover low necklines, skirts may be pulled down low for approval then pulled back up later, and when confronted with a violation, some young women debate their choice of clothing and try to emotionally manipulate the people who are assigned to enforce the rules.

For staff who may be researching professional dress code and enforcement policies, I would like to share the material that I have worked with my supervisor to develop and implement for female teen workers in my state's senate chambers and senatorial offices. The standards themselves were established by our state senators, so they are a little more lenient than I would choose for myself or feature in clothing reviews elsewhere on the Fashion Belle site. When working with a dress code, the key is impartial enforcement of whatever rules are chosen. If that means half of the group is required to change clothing and that it takes two or more changes for some violators to finally meet the code, then that is what it will take. Stand firm and enforce the rules. Word will eventually get around, and the job may become easier in time.

Senate Dress Code

The Senate legislative page dress code is designed to conform to the more formal Senate decorum and may be more stringent than [our state's] public or private school dress codes. The Senate requires that both male and female pages dress appropriately during session and evening activities. While at the Capitol, this means conservative business attire and proper professional appearance. It is mandatory that our pages conform and follow this code, and it will be strictly enforced. They are in the public eye at all times while in the Capitol and a reflection of their senator, family and community. We want that impression to be positive. Every morning before the pages leave the hotel for the Capitol, their attire will be approved by the resident counselor. If it does not pass the dress code, they will be sent back to their rooms to change.

Ladies, your requirements for the Capitol are as follows:

  1. Appropriate and conservative suits, skirts or dresses
  2. Skirt or dress length maximum is 2" above the knee. THIS IS MANDATORY. You will be leaning over, bending down in the Senate Chamber and when lengths are too short it can be embarassing and inappropriate.
  3. Pants can be worn with blouses, sweaters or suit jackets.
  4. Capris are allowed but must be below the knee and loose-fitting.
  5. Leggings are allowed, but tops must be knee-length or no more than 2" above the knee.
  6. Blouses and tops must be professional and not low-cut. No cleavage at all.
  7. No spaghetti straps or bra straps should be visible. No undergarments should be visible, e.g. spanks, camisoles.
  8. Dresses cannot be backless, and no thin straps are allowed.
  9. No blouses or tops with see-through or sheer material are allowed, not even with a camisole underneath.
  10. The temperature in the Senate Chamber is very cool. Please keep that in mind and bring a jacket or sweater with you every day.
  11. Any type of clothing with denim IS NOT ALLOWED.
  12. No caps or hats
  13. No t-shirts with any type of design imprinted on them.
  14. We recommend tennis shoes or flat, comfortable walking shoes.
  15. We discourage high-heeled shoes. You will be walking on marble floors every day for 5 to 7 hours. If wearing heels, you must wear hose to help with preventing blisters.
  16. No body piercings, with the exception of earrings, are allowed.
  17. No bare midriffs, army boots or shorts will be allowed at the Capitol.

Senate Dress Code Violation Report

I, (print name) ____________________________, have been asked by the Resident Counselor to change out of clothing I am wearing that violates the Senate Dress Code. By initialing all items that apply and signing below, I affirm that the following is true:

Sufficient Warning

____ Prior to arriving for service, I received by mail a copy of the Senate Dress Code along with notice that it would be strictly enforced.
____ I attended one or more orientation lectures during which the Senate Dress Code and its zero exception enforcement policy were clearly explained.
____ I refused the Resident Counselor’s invitation during Sunday night orientation to schedule a room visit for pre-approval of my clothing in order to prevent a last-minute morning change.
____ I signed a Senate Page Contract stating that I would adhere to the dress code.
____ I was given an opportunity on Sunday night to purchase appropriate clothing during a group trip to Target or Walmart.

Punctuality for Dress Code Check

____ I arrived on time today at 7:20 a.m. or earlier for dress code check.
____ I arrived late today at 7:21 a.m. or after for dress code check. Because of my tardiness, I understand that I may be required to return to the hotel to change after the rest of the pages have been dropped off at the Capitol so that group activities may proceed on schedule.

Items in Violation

____ Skirt or dress higher than 2” above the knee
____ Low neckline (no cleavage at all is allowed)
____ See-through material—including transparent woven fabric or loosely knit sweater
____ Spaghetti straps, bra straps or undergarments visible
____ Tight-fitting pants or capris
____ Clothing that is not professional or other violation (please describe):

___________________________ Signature and Date, Senate Page
___________________________ Signature and Date, Supervisor