Legislature dress code updated to allow women to wear sleeveless dresses, blouses

The legislature’s dress code has been updated to allow women to wear sleeveless dresses and blouses, the Speaker said Monday.

A dress-code review by acting clerk of the house Kate Ryan-Lloyd concluded that for women, professional business attire can include sleeveless dresses and tops, said Speaker Darryl Plecas.

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Sergeant-at-arms staff will not be responsible for enforcing the dress code — individuals will be left to determine for themselves if their outfits are appropriate for the Speaker’s corridor. Men will still be required to wear shirts, ties and jackets.

The update to the 40-year-old dress code comes after several female staffers and members of the press gallery were asked by sergeant-at-arms staff to cover their arms or wear a jacket. Several women donned sleeveless tops in protest.

Green Party house leader Sonia Furstenau said one of her staffers was asked to wear a slip under her skirt because it was clinging to her legs.

Several female MLAs, including Finance Minister Carole James, said it was time to update the dress code to recognize that a woman can wear a sleeveless dress and still look professional.

The previous dress code, which dates back to 1980, emphasized a “conservative contemporary approach” in which gender-neutral business attire required layered clothing and covered shoulders.

Ryan-Lloyd’s initial recommendations state that the dress code should not be “overly prescriptive” and should respect the judgment of MLAs, staff and press gallery members.

James said on Monday she’s glad the dress code has been modernized.

“As I said on Friday, I certainly believe this is a professional environment and people know that, who work here and they don’t need to be policed,” she said.

Shannon Waters, legislative reporter for B.C. Today, said she’s pleased the review was conducted so quickly.

“I appreciate the fact that the Speaker acknowledged that there hasn’t really been rules made for women because this place has always been about men,” Waters said. “And that acknowledgment that it’s a workplace that has been dominated by one gender for far too long.”

kderosa@timescolonist.com

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