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‘No Sleeveless’ Dress Code in Congress Draws ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ Comparisons

A female reporter was not allowed in the Speaker’s lobby because of her dress

A female reporter was kicked out of the Speaker’s lobby in the U.S. House of Representatives due to her outfit choice, which is leading to some real life comparisons to “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

According to CBS News, the reporter tried to enter the lobby outside the House chamber, but was told her outfit — which was a sleeveless dress — wasn’t considered appropriate.

In order to get around the dress code, she ripped out pages from her notebook and stuffed them into her straps. She was still told she couldn’t enter.

CBS doesn’t confirm concrete rules about what you can and cannot wear inside the room, but says that there are some loose guidelines. Men are expected to wear suit jackets and ties while women aren’t allowed to wear sleeveless tops or open-toed shoes. The only written rule says that people should wear “appropriate attire.”

However, the report sounded familiar to some. NBC investigative reporter Ronan Farrow took the CBS article and put it side-by-side with a passage from “The Handmaid’s Tale.”


In the passage, the main character, Offred, comes across tourists who aren’t restricted by the fundamentalist laws governing the novel’s oppressive government, and notes how they’re wearing makeup and are showing skin.

“I stop walking. Ofglen stops beside me and I know that she too cannot take her eyes off these women. We are fascinated, but also repelled. They seem undressed. It has taken so little time to change our minds about things like this.

Then I think: I used to dress like that. That was freedom.”

The dress code that kept this reporter from doing her job isn’t new, but other reporters have come forward to say similar things have happened to them.

Congressional reporter Haley Byrd told CBS that she was also stopped for what was considered inappropriate attire but iterated that it’s possible people are cracking down because of the weather.

“I suspect the rules are being emphasized now that it’s summertime and excruciatingly hot outside and everyone is dressing for the weather,” she said.

Since its 1985 debt, the novel has frequently been compared to real to real life events. The comparisons increased in frequency and intensity after the premiere of Hulu’s tv series adaptation.