GOP Legislature Releases Mandatory Dress Code, Modesty Standard for Women

GOP also decrees:  Don’t get caught in fleece, jersey, or open-toed sandals

The TEA Party House Republican leadership of the 2015 legislature has issued a new edict, the first of its kind that I have seen.

Because they love freedom and personal liberty, they’ve issued a formal mandatory dress code for anyone who seeks to be allowed into the House floor.  Besides demanding “business formal” dress, the new decree calls on women to mind their necklines and skirt lengths.   House GOP leadership are empowered to police the new edict.

This important policy is written in all capital letters, of course, because what else would you  expect from world-class leaders.

Since this new dress code is not particularly clear, the Cowgirl Blog has provided a handy guide below.   After all, the dress code is not just for legislators but also for “LEGISLATIVE STAFF, MEMBERS OF THE MEDIA, INTERNS AND AIDES” who  “MUST ALSO ABIDE BY THIS POLICY IF ON THE FLOOR WHILE THE BODIES ARE GAVELED INTO SESSION.”

Once you see what’s in the dress code, it’s clear it is targeted at women–and probably reporters.  After all, reporters are really the only people who can access the house floor besides the legislators’ own staff–and a handful of high school “pages.”  Last session, reporters were required for the first time to get special permission or “passes” to be on the House Floor at all.  Then the next thing we know, the senate president is looking into evicting the Associated Press from its capital office. Now this. But let’s get right to the dress code. There are eight rules in the edict, however, rule #6 was not released and we must presume it is being kept secret for some reason.

UPDATE:  GOP Speaker of the House Austin Knudsen is now  blaming his staffer for the dresscode, as you can see in the Bozeman Chronicle article that just came out.

First,  women are ordered to be “SENSITIVE TO SKIRT LENGTHS AND NECKLINES.”

(No similar guidance was provided to men to be mindful of tight or sagging pants and hideously short eagle-carrying-an-assault-rifle-in-its-beak neckties.)

The dress code also bans leggings. The legging ban may be a dig at the young women of Skyview High School who are fighting a dress code policy that unfairly targets young women in Billings.

So leggings are out, as are open toed sandals.  However, under this dress code concealed carry holsters under beige suits with bolo ties would definitely be okay –at least once the legislature passes the obligatory “concealed carry for everyone” bill the TEA Party introduces every year. 


Next, I see that “FLEECE AND JERSEY (SWEATSHIRT) MATERIAL ARE NOT CONSIDERED “BUSINESS FORMAL.”  Somebody needs to tell the dudes that wrote this that jersey and sweatshirt material are two entirely different things, but alas until then the rule stands.  Jersey tops like this are banned:

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While this polyester number as shown on former TEA Party Sen. Joe Balyeat is just dandy:



It also appears that men and women are required to wear suits, or suit jackets at all times or, for women  “a suit-like dress” may be worn, whatever that is.  Unfortunately, that means some of the clothing worn by GOP lawmakers in their own official legislative photos does not meet the new code.

This attire on GOP Rep. Christie Clark is now banned:

christy clark 2

Rep. Christy Clark (R-Choteau)

Also banned would be any reporter who showed up to help inform the public dressed like this – as cardigans have been nixed:


While this garb (the closest thing I could find that might resemble the item supposedly known as a “suit-like dress,” and which ceased to be made 30 years ago) would be allowed:


suit-like dress


The dress code also specifies that “JEANS OR DENIM MATERIAL, INCLUDING COLORED DENIM, IS NOT ALLOWED.”  Which means the apparel worn by TEA Party Rep. Nancy Ballance would be banned:

Nancy Ballance


No mention is made of Colonel Sanders ties, but this must be an oversight and I expect further guidance on this Montana Legislature wardrobe staple soon (shown on former TEA Party Rep. Alan Hale).


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But it when it comes to requiring respectful behavior, there are some who would say this dress code appears to be geared more toward cracking down on women than on respectful behavior from men.

(I mean, it certainly would make everyone happier if men were more sensitive about the length of athletic shorts worn at the house/senate basketball game and if all Looney Tunes and Tasmanian devil ties were burned – but the dress code makes no mention of these.)

Instead of forcing backward modesty standards on women, here are some guidelines that the 64th Legislature would do better to adopt:

1. Legislators shall not refer to women as livestock, farm equipment, or household pets – and when debating a bill on breast cancer prevention, shall not berate their colleagues for supporting the “boob bill.”

2. Legislators shall take a breathalyzer test before they are allowed a vote, since they seem to think drug tests should be mandated on poor families.

3. High school pages shall be allowed to learn about the legislative process and not relegated to fetching 57 ice-cream sandwiches a day while being ogled creepily.

4. Legislators shall stop trying trying to hide their actions and true plans from the public and the press.

Bozeman Chronicle reporter Troy Carter tweeted a reaction from House minority whip Rep. Jenny Eck (D-Helena) this morning.  Eck said dems had nothing to do with the dress code.

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56 Comments on "GOP Legislature Releases Mandatory Dress Code, Modesty Standard for Women"

  1. Words fail me!!! This is beyond childish. It is 2014 isn’t it?

    • If the tea party and other right-wing politicians have their way, we’ll be no better off that those ruled by the Taliban….dress codes and religious doctrines.

    • Hold on a minute- by not setting a specific skirt length and neckline, and by empowering leadership to through legislators and reporters off the floor if these don’t meet leadership approval, they are allowed to through you off the floor even before a vote- and most women are obviously dems

  2. This policy also bans militia uniforms, tri-corner hats, clerical collars, and traditional ethnic attire. It’s a haberdasher’s and dressmaker’s manifesto that will fill many an anal retentive high school principal with joy.

  3. Any bets how many more times the new GOP leg leaders will screw up before the session even starts. This session is going to be a complete train wreck.

    • GOP leadership wants to divide the party. Many responsible Republicans want/need to distance themselves from these people who are walking on the edge of the cliff. Democrats, help them come over – welcome them. Show us what a little of that bipartisanship you were crowing about all summer is really about.

      • You raise a good point regarding “reasonable” people within the repub. party looking on in horror, but your trajectory is very wrong. Those “reasonable” ones have been pandering to this wingnut crowd for at least 20 years. If you don’t believe me look at all the laws in the past 20 years that are patently unconstitutional and yet stand becuz of lack of funds to take each and every one of them to the MT Supreme Court. They’ve been getting away with murder–of our environment, of our school systems, of low-income women (!!!) etc–BECAUSE of their pandering enablement of the most regressive and authoritative elements of our society. Now they would like a hand? How about a mea culpa first, and then a movement away from Atilla the Hun (or the Taliban in this case). They deserve no such thing, and we would not benefit one bit from offering help to them at this point. Here’s a plan: everybody righteously pissed about this (words escape me) policy and who plans to be a presence at the legislature this session dress ANY WAY YOU FEEL APPROPRIATE and when these truly pathetic “leaders” try to make an issue of it, insist on that as THE issue until they rescind it, because it is a basic human fact that, with an infantile policy like this in place there will be no meaningful work done anyway until they are faced down on their BS so why not??!! THEN: see how many of those o-so-responsible Republicans join in supporting this boycott of bullish—. Then you will have accomplished something with your helping hand. Not until then, and that’s is just basic human nature combined with politics 101. Don’t let ’em get away with it. That’s why this thing came up at all. Stand and fight. Now’s time. You politicos truly have no better opening than the one(s) these pathetic beings are handing you on a silver platter.

    • Where do I get the permit for a popcorn cart in the State House? This entrepreneur senses a business opportunity from the spectacle that will be the next session.

  4. Thanks, Cowgirl! This trip through the Montana Legislative fashion review gave me the best laugh I’ve had since these frickin’ weirdos started tearing apart our state. At least now I know for certain this is all a bad joke and I am sure after we all have such a good laugh, we can get on with real governing, right? Right?

  5. So do the GOP have to wear certain underwear that doesn’t bunch up when they get a wedgie from Art Wittich? Just saying this is pretty ridiculous!

    I mean what the heck with this dress code, do they want to look like business people as they scalp Montanans of their rights?

    Since when is denim considered bad? Isn;t that the official Montana garb? Are they gonna outlaw bolo ties as well?

    I gotta say holy shit. when do they start burning science books?

  6. THEATER OF THE ABSURD, truly!!! What’s next for this ‘retro’ group of misfit ‘Madmen’ throwbacks and
    Senator Barrett – the token ‘female leader’ – goes along with this baloney and BS?? What would Brian Schweitzer say about this bunch of phonies, and these teabaggers think THEY represent common folk
    who don’t play up to this show and pretense put on by these ‘posers’??

    What’s NEXT, dress code for citizens coming to speak and testify at hearings, or is that subject to the TEA PARTY TALIBAN edicts???

  7. Mores simply put, LIPSTICK on the GOP ‘tea bag’ Piggy!!!!

  8. This has TEAlibaners Assmann and Wit-less all over it. Jesus didn’t wear jersey so neither should you. And its women’s fault if 14 your old high school pages are ogled – they shouldn’t dress so slutty! `snark`

  9. What about those wolf-pelt shawls they wear – will those be allowed? And short-sleeved shirts under jackets – favorite finery of David Howard? Many unanswered questions here folks. We need more information. I hope a press conference is held to clarify.

  10. This is what happens when you let an ultra-conservaitve, home schooled child ruin….er, run the house:

    Her main political experience? Manning the phones at the MTGOP…two years ago.

  11. How about, no ASSHOLES, in the Chamber? That’s a new RULE, I could get behind!

  12. In defense of my fellow Republicans, we all get major wood if a woman dresses less conservatively than, say, Minnie Pearl. How on earth do you expect a Republican legislator to stay focused at a hearing when he is lusting in his heart? Just trying to deliver the best legislative bang for your buck.

  13. I’ve got my suit-like dress. I don’t know what the rest of you are going to wear.

    • Oops forgot the pic!

      • I like where you’re going here, a great choice. But i would say that this suit dress might end up with a ruler to the hemline and the cleavage. I mean, I can see a KNEE!!!

    • I’ve never posted a reply to anything but couldn’t pass this by without a thumbs up. My first time on the blog, directed here from ny times. Clearly, democrats with the best sense of humor reside in Montana! sjc / new york

  14. I don’t know, that’s a little low cut. More like this.

  15. When I served three sessions in the MT House in the oh-ohs, I became aware that poverty in Montana extends to some members of the House. Dress code enforcement had to take into account that some members are too poor to afford ‘business formal’. I was personally acquainted with members from both sides of the aisle – ranchers and Native Americans – who literally could not afford business clothes. Leadership was sensitive enough to look the other way. I remember gifting neck ties to one such gentleman, so he could have some variety.

    I predict some weirdness along this dimension. Are they going to deny entry to members who can’t afford the dress code?

    – Brady Wiseman

  16. LOL: Banning fleece in Montana is like banning seal skin jackets in Alaska…

  17. NO lie, even the president allows his staffers to dress casual while working. Comfortable means better thinkers

  18. What – no nose ring ban? I thought for sure that was going to be the punchline. I scrolled through twice to make sure, but didn’t see it. How was this excluded?!

  19. The juicy scandalous saxxy message here is that the edict is anti-women looking like women, and that is truly important. The practical result is to prohibit active journalism, barring reporters at the will of the GOP leadership. The former inspires humor laden outrage. The latter exits as a direct attack on the First Amendment. It’s pretty clear to me which should be the focus here.

  20. This dress code nonsense is like a clarion call for streakers…

  21. Um…since we are getting “serious” could we require that men be required to wear their pants at waist level and NOT below their belly? Suspenders might help with this endeavor…nothing flashy…:-)

  22. You all miss the point that these rules are imposed by the house on non-members and non-members only. (“LEGISLATIVE STAFF, MEMBERS OF THE MEDIA, INTERNS AND AIDES”).
    They respect their own personal freedom, may continue to dress as they choose, and simply want to deny this same freedom to others. And you’re surprised ?

  23. That shirt by TEA Party Sen. Joe Balyeat is quite flamboyant.

  24. Enforcement will play out like the dress code scene from My Cousin Vinny.

  25. This “dress policy” is misdirection and the Ultra-Conservatives are good at misdirection, if nothing else. They know how D’s will overreact and rely on the D’s hew and cry while they secretly, quietly, try to accomplish other goals. It’s a trick they use all the time, and rather effectively, since we continue to fall for it.

    The issue of our focus, as Rob points out, is the potential removal of the press office from a convenient location within the Capital Building. And the challenges to open meetings laws. And continued gutting of environmental laws, more tax cuts for the un-needy and corresponding, budget cuts to education, social services, etc, etc.

    If we present every peccadillo as a crisis, the truly critical gets washed out in the noise. And to win back the Legislature, we’re going to need moderate and independent voters and many of them are thinking “what’s the big deal about this dress code nonsense”. Every little injustice like this need to be pointed out but overplaying our hand (something else the right-wingers depend on) won’t convince the independent voter to give us a chance. And won’t get public opinion on our side for the truly critical during the Legislative Session.

  26. House of Ill ReButte | December 7, 2014 11:22 AM at 11:22 AM |

    What happens if someone violates the code? I see that House leadership will “notify” the scofflaw, but then what? Banning? An escort out of the Capitol? Public flogging, a la Jerry O’Neil?

  27. Uh, not to be contrary, but this is pretty much the same rules you’d find in any court or law office in the country.

  28. Montana’s legislature has once again made our state a national laughingstock.

    “Montana Legislature’s new dress code ensures women won’t look like tramps while lawmaking”

  29. I must question what Century these people evolved in , or planet , galaxy , something !

  30. Fantastic experience of learning after visiting your site about fashion dress. I would like to share an important information that experience. Thanks

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