Rep. McSally takes jab at Speaker's lobby dress code

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WASHINGTON (3TV/CBS 5) -

Rep. Martha McSally joined the raging debate about "appropriate attire" on Wednesday, July 12.

McSally, R-Arizona, was highlighting the first responders in the state during a speech from the House floor.

Afterward, she brought up the fact her clothing would not be considered appropriate under the dress code for the House floor or the Speaker's lobby.

"Before I yield, I want to point out I'm standing here in my professional attire, which happens to be a sleeveless dress and open-toed shoes," McSally said.

The Speaker's lobby is the room near the House chamber reporters often use to interview lawmakers.

The debate began last week after CBS News ran a story about the dress code.

According to the story, men are required to wear suit jackets and ties while women can't wear sleeveless blouses or dresses, sneakers or open-toed shoes.

"These rules are far from clear cut and there are no visible signs defining them," CBS News wrote in the report. "They are also not enforced on the Senate side of the Capitol."

[SPECIAL SECTION: Arizona politics]

One reporter told CBS News she was turned away from the Speaker's lobby because she was wearing a sleeveless dress.

"Forced to improvise, she ripped out pages from her notebook and stuffed them into her dress's shoulder openings to create sleeves," according to CBS News. "An officer who's tasked with enforcing rules said her creative concoction still was not acceptable."

This isn't the first time McSally took a stand for women and strict dress codes.

As the highest-ranking female fighter pilot in the Air Force in 2001, she sued the Department of Defense to challenge a policy that forced servicewomen stationed in Saudi Arabia to wearing abayas when off base. An abaya is a cloak or robe that covers the whole body except the head, feet and hands. 

In the lawsuit, McSally said, "The regulations required her to send the message that she believes women are subservient to men."

According to a CBS News report, the Pentagon claimed the policy was meant to protect troops from harassment and attacks while also being "sensitive to the customs of Saudi Arabia."

McSally argued the policy was unconstitutional because it did not require servicemen to dress like Saudi men.

"This is where we separate our men from our women and we demean and humiliate just them," McSally said in an interview with Lesley Stahl.

Lawmakers agreed and the policy was changed a year later.

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