Congressional attire

The definition of proper attire is always changing.  It hasn’t been that long since women had to worry about whether the seams of their nylons were straight, and of course a true lady would not be dressed for church without her hat and white gloves.


The photo of the incoming House of Representatives gives us a snapshot of what America now regards as proper business attire.

Newly elected members of the House of Representatives pose for an official class photo outside the U.S. Capitol on November 14, 2018 in Washington, DC.

First, the men. The only accepted attire is the two-piece dark gray or navy business suit. No tan. Ties are mostly blue or blue striped, although there are a few red and what I would call some kind of beige. While I have been under the impression that facial hair is making a comeback, it does not seem to hold true for politicians. There are only a couple with mustaches, clean-shaven is obviously the rule and the mustache is the exception. There are a huge number of American flags being sported on lapels.

Flashback: the Obama tan suit controversy, with bonus Ronald Reagan suits:
Now the women.

First, the women seem to have escaped the lapel flag epidemic. While there are a number of dresses with low heels and nylons, including two LBDs, as well as skirted suits, the most common attire seems to be the suit with pants. Skirts are just below the knee–this is very uniform.  The necklace does not seem to be obligatory, and most are large and chunky rather than small. There are a few large white, or maybe pearl earrings, but this also does not appear to be a uniform.  Sheer hose is the most common, although there are a couple of examples of opaque (black and white). There are a couple of sport jackets, but they are worn over all-black outfits and with necklaces that make them seem less casual. There is some variation in color, moreso than the men, but the standard is still neutral gray, black, or navy.  Is red still a power statement? There are three wearing red.  Most hair is shoulder length, but there are a few with very short or very long hair, and two with hair pulled back.  I count at least twelve with blonde highlights, this is definitely a Thing.

We will see if they start dressing more alike after they have been in Congress for a while.

13 thoughts on “Congressional attire

  1. On the topic of judgement of the attire of elected women, there has been an ongoing stir here after the 2018 Quebec Provincial election, when left-wing (ébec_solidaire) Catherine Dorion reported for duty at the National Assembly wearing green Doc Martens and wearing tank tops and t-shirts; there was obviously criticism, and others of her party (of both genders!) have since followed in her footsteps in their own way as well.

    Here’s English-language news to get you started if you’re interested:

    Part of it is just the latent usual bigotry against women/LGBT but the discussion around decorum and attire for elected officials regardless of gender expression is not an uninteresting one. Why wouldn’t they wear jeans or whatever’s comfortable? Aren’t they elected to represent the residents of their ridings (who presumably don’t wear suits in majority)?

  2. It probably depends somewhat on the occasion or what psychological advantage is desired. If you visit a Legislative Assistant when Congress is not in session you might see sneakers, but not if rally /occupy is in town. I would say jeans are never okay, that is really really informal here even though other countries seem to regard it as very fashionable. I am also reminded of the film “Runaway Jury,” where Dustin Hoffman plays a scruffy lawyer who deliberately chooses bad ties so as not to alienate the jury.

    Here is the pink flamingo t-shirt, she also seems to be wearing dirty underwear that shows under the shirt although who knows, in Quebec this might be a fashion statement. In any case since she won the election she should be able to afford new underwear. Hmm, one of the guys quoted has no photo, this is barely a stub.

    The boots I think not so much a problem, but they are out of the price range of most, who are willing to spend money for basics that will last for years, but not the latest trend they will have to replace in the next season when something else is in fashion. I had just got over a craving for Dr. Martens boots though, telling myself I did not want boots with yellow stitching. Now that I know they exist in green I cannot bear to be without them.

  3. Dirty underwear? Are you referring to her seafoam-color bra??? Wearing a wide-collar shirt with visible bra straps isn’t a fashion statement or particularly noteworthy, I didn’t even notice it since it’s so pedestrian. As for the shirt in the clip, presumably she didn’t realize that a light-colored thin shirt would be slightly see-through under the inteeeense spotlights on stage.

    I looked but Martin Oullet doesn’t seem to have any freely-licensed pics online. One day. Elected officials at this level are considered implicitly notable so there’s a lot of stubs around, I imagine the same is true for many politician articles in other countries.

  4. The straps were showing yeah and it looked ready for the laundry. I thought it looked like what they call a racerback style, that is supposed to go under a tank top, not that I am an expert in women’s underwear. I thought the ones that were showing intentionally were supposed to be obvious by the color.

    Well, maybe someone will bump into these guys and take their pictures. I myself bumped into your governor or whatever you call it when I was up there, Philippe Couillard. Very nice guy and good with the small talk, even though I was not likely to vote for him, he happened to mention that Hillary was vacationing there.

    1. Hahahaha “Governor” I’m sorry I don’t mean to laugh at you :p

      I guess State Governors and Provincial Premiers very roughly equivalent, in a “head elected official of province/state” although States and Provinces are so fundamentally different there is little to compare.

      We don’t vote for Premiers, we vote for MNAs (Member of the National Assembly) in the riding where we reside (one MNA per riding), and whichever party has the most MNAs elected forms the government; the “leader” of the party is elected by the party members well in advance.
      That’s actually the system both within each province as well as for federal (national) elections. We didn’t vote for Justin Trudeau as Prime Minister directly, but because the Liberal Party members chose Justin Trudeau as their leader and Canadian residents elected a Liberal Party MP (Member of Parliament) in a plurality of ridings, the Liberal Party forms the government and their leader is the Prime Minister.

  5. Oh and Philippe Couillard isn’t the Quebec Premier anymore, instead we got our own lite version of Trump. Although nominally centre-right (and surely furthest right of the main four parties), he’s barely centrist by international standard because there is such an inherent leftist lean here that our right-wing is more left than USA Democrats. François Legault, advocating for more free market, more private business, more structured immigration, less ecology, more education, stricter secularism; I won’t bore you with the details of local politics. You can read all about it in the 2018 Quebec Elections Wikipedia article

  6. Oh, so you vote for the party and not the individual as we do (at least in theory), seems vaguely British.

    I think I see now what you meant by “sea foam”, in the later interview the strap is more obviously pale green, but the color washes out onstage. Weird hat though, although I do think you have to make some allowances for people who have to live with so much snow.

    1. Please don’t refer to tuques as “weird hats” in the presence of Canadians hahahahahahah :p

      As for the elections some see it as voting for the party but sometimes I’ve voted for an MNA whose party didn’t represent my value but it was the MNA candidate which I trusted the most to do a competent honest job regardless of ideology. And yea it’s very British…. I give you three guesses why….. >_>

      And yeah last year was pretty intense on the immigration side, of course immigration being a federal issue provinces have limited powers but there was a significant influx in Quebec in the past 18 months especiall from Syria and especially here in Montreal we had larger-than-usual influx of Haitians coming from the USA fearing Trumportation ( But Canada has always had big waves of immigrants and refugees in times of international crisis, it’s how we’ve rolled for 150 years and that won’t change, more than 1 in 5 Canadian was born abroad ( There’s a reason Montreal has an Asian-Canadian-owned convenience store on every corner, why some Western Canada towns have a majority of Ukrainian-Canadians, etc., our big metropolitan areas (Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver) as completely multiethnic, Montreal is less than two thirds so-called “white”

      1. First poutine, and now tuques, I don’t know if I can cope.
        The pronunciation is here, can’t understand the 6th day of Christmas though, at about 18:30 “six packs of …” what?

          1. Tuque is a French-Canadian word borrowed into Canadian English. In English it’s pronounced “too-kh” (or maybe “tyoo-kh” if you’re a dirty yankee), in French it’s “ts-uhk” I guess? Not too familiar with IPA but en=/tuːk/ and fr=[tsʏk]

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