Hey Belle –
In it, there are 10 senior staffers meeting with the president and the new chief of staff in the Oval Office. Of the 12 people total in the room, four are women. Of the four women, only one appears to be wearing a suit or a blazer and that’s Valerie Jarrett, the highest profile woman in the room. The others are Counsel to the President Kathryn Ruemmler; Nancy-Ann DeParle, Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy; and Alyssa Mastromonaco, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations. These three women appear to be wearing cardigans and sweaters.
What are your thoughts about these women’s professional style? I can’t think of a more important occasion to wear a suit for – an Oval Office meeting with the president. But that’s what I would do – maybe these women are already important enough to not need to wear a suit? But what does it say that all the men in the room are wearing suits? All politics aside, I’m just completely puzzled by this picture and I wanted to hear your take on it.
The appropriate dress code for the Oval Office was often discussed during the Bush White House. Bush Sr. had a stringent dress code of suits and ties for men and dresses and skirts for women in the Oval. George W. Bush reinstated this dress code and maintained a no-jeans weekend dress code. This dress code was relaxed by President Obama, to the chagrin of some and the cheers of others.
When I was on the Hill, my Boss maintained a strict no-denim dress code. At times, it felt positively Paleozoic and unfair. However, once I stepped outside of my office and saw staffers in clothing that I wouldn’t wear to a bar in Podunksville, Oklahoma (no offense OK residents), I understood where he was coming from.
As for this photo, I don’t think anyone is inappropriately dressed, and if the President has decreed that less formal dress is fine, then I don’t think anyone is faux pas. It is a President’s prerogative to decide how his staffers should dress. It may not be my preference, but setting the Oval Office dress code is a problem that I won’t have for a few more years (kidding).
I certainly understand what you are saying, however. I would hope that I would wear a suit more often if I worked in the West Wing, but there’s no way to know that for sure. Perhaps, once you’ve worked there for awhile the White House starts to feel a bit more like your office and a little less like the West Wing.
What are your thoughts on the White House dress code? And do those of you who don’t work in politics particularly care what staffers wear in the Oval?