Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Dress Codes

            The topic of discussion for this Freedom Friday concerns the need for dress codes in our communities, in our professions, and in Congress. Dress codes have been around for centuries, insuring that people dress appropriately for varying situations. The type of clothing worn determines the actions of the people wearing them and often shows one’s attitude as well.

            Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are asked to wear “Sunday dress” for meetings on the Sabbath Day or to attend the temples. This dress code is in place to show proper respect to the Lord and for His buildings. Sunday dress is often requested for other meetings as well as for youth dances. Sunday dress is considered to be dresses or skirts for females and slacks, shirts, and ties for males. All clothing is expected to be modest – knee-length skirts, no sheer materials, no bare shoulders and midriffs, no plunging necklines. Casual clothing is also expected to be modest, clean, and in good repair.

            Congress also has a dress code. The dress code in the U.S. House of Representatives mandates that men wear a suit jacket with a tie and forbids women from wearing open-toed shoes and sleeveless dresses. This dress code has existed for decades, but a debate about it was reopened recently during a heat wave in Washington, D.C. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is now being accused of sexism even though the dress code applies to both males and females.

            Tiana Lowe posted an interesting article at National Review about the accusations and some of the history of the congressional dress code. She easily illustrates how the dress standards deteriorate when not enforced. After sharing some of those ways of deterioration, she writes the following to show that Ryan is not being sexist in his demands.

As the story details, both men and women are subject to the summer-incompatible dress code, which is enforced on the House floor and in the Speaker’s lobby and has been around in some form for centuries. While the vague code is subject to the speaker’s interpretation, Ryan’s specifications do not deviate from those of the speakers immediately before him.”

            Avrohom Gordimer believes that Ryan is absolutely correct to enforce the dress code, and he gives some convincing reasons why.            Even though he comes from a different background, his reasons sound quite similar to the reasons given by the Church for its dress code.

Coming from an Orthodox Jewish background, I have a deep appreciation for dress and have developed a strong sensitivity to the messages one sends by his attire and appearance. The Talmud elaborates about the sense of dignity that can be conveyed by one’s choice of clothing, as well as about the nonverbal messages sent by one’s garb and appearance.

Modesty, reverence, and an air of honor are reflected by dignified and unrevealing attire. In fact, it is at moments when the wearing of more formal and unrevealing attire truly appears to be a burden that its message of respect for the situation at hand resonates most. President Ronald Reagan would never enter the Oval Office without a jacket; such was his respect for the presidency. When one considers that this self-imposed practice was probably an imposition on President Reagan, who would in all likelihood have preferred to be fully comfortable at his desk, one is struck with an even greater appreciation and sense of reverence for the presidential position. The opposite can be true as well.

            Dress codes are used to ensure that people dress appropriately for a given situation. Jeans and tee shirts as well as sandals and sun dresses are perfectly okay in some situations. However, members of Congress should show proper respect to the responsibilities given them as elected representatives of the people. They are expected to dress and act as professionals instead of looking like they are going on a summer outing. Ryan is doing the right thing to enforce the dress code.

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