The Senate’s Dress Code

Noting that Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman’s preferred attire would not pass muster for a worker in a fast food restaurant let alone the notionally more dignified U. S. Senate, the editors of the Washington Post take a stand:

We vote nay. Dressing formally conveys respect for the sanctity of the institution and for the real-world impact of the policies it advances. Putting on a suit creates an occasion for lawmakers to reflect, just for a moment, on the special responsibilities with which the people have entrusted them and on a deliberative process that at least aspires to solemnity. Judges are perfectly “able to choose” what they wear while on the bench, but court wouldn’t be court unless they put on black robes.


At the risk of idealizing the place, the Capitol is, or should be, thought of as the temple of the world’s oldest continuous democracy. Within that, the Senate floor is its most sacred space. It was the setting for America’s most consequential debates on war and peace, freedom and slavery. Throughout history, those who participated in its proceedings dressed accordingly. Admittedly, the appropriate level of dignity is subjective; you know it when you see it. And when a senator comes to the floor in pickup softball gear, you don’t.

My own preferences are:

  1. Work from home. The Senate should adopt rules and technology that allow them to meet officially from their homes.
  2. Repeal the 17th Amendment

There are all sorts of points of departure I could take on this subject. Let’s go with this one. What is the end point of the present slippery slope in Senate decorum? I don’t think it’s Maine Sen. Susan Collins wearing a bikini on the Senate floor, a spectacle from which I’d just as soon be spared.

6 comments… add one
  • Andy Link

    My 2 cents:

    – I’m a casual person and hate wearing ties, but there’s such a thing as too casual. Loosening the dress code rules is appropriate, but dispensing with them completely is not.

    – I think Senators and Representatives should be able to vote from anywhere. As far as “work from home” I think there are still things that can only be done in person.

    – Strongly disagree with repealing the 17th amendment.

  • Zachriel Link

    Everyone should wear powdered wigs—like the Founders intended.

  • steve Link

    ” thought of as the temple of the world’s oldest continuous democracy”

    Temple? They should be wearing robes and sandals. I would say let them vote from home and they can attend meetings from home if they want, but if they want to speak they have to attend in person. Informal is fine. Maybe it will let some people without a lot of money into the club.


  • Maybe it will let some people without a lot of money into the club.

    You’re kidding, right?

    2/3s of senators are millionaires and Sen. Fetterman is one of them.

  • CuriousOnlooker Link

    I propose we adopt a “minimum” dress code. As in government officials need wear as little as possible.

    The possibility that voters must see scantily clad octogenarians may incentivize a constitutional amendment for limits for Congress, and that octogenarians must “reveal” themselves creates an unofficial age limit for Congress.

  • I greatly prefer that Sen. Fetterman wear gym shorts over his not wearing gym shorts.

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