Written by by Kaitlin Collon and Anna Roland, CNN
The British parliament returned from its lengthy winter recess Friday. But one institution that may not be seen returning to its more fun days of playful fashion, a certain “future leaders” section or even a chandelier roundelay this week?
(Warning: There’s possible glimpses of errant members wearing tie bars in here.)
Probably, members won’t be tweeting their early-morning prayers.
Instead, they’ll be meeting, talking, debating and, of course, voting.
The former fashion-centric sessions of the House of Commons have, in recent years, been replaced by serious debates and intense, sometimes infamously fractious debates about the future of Brexit.
Add to that the Scottish independence referendum, the nuclear deterrent and fuel taxes, and it’s not much of a leap to believe that future roundelays of parliament’s dress code have all but disappeared from memory.
According to House of Commons spokeswoman Natalie Hathaway, the dress code was indeed formally established in 1519.
The department stores considered for models to cast in this season’s season one Homegrown, once worn by party leaders such as Margaret Thatcher and Margaret Wilson, made this garment in brown and pink. Credit: House of Lords Archives
It’s “a specific dress code (that) can be traced back to the 15th century,” Hathaway says.
“It stands for Parliamentarians who wear suit and tie, or the garment will stand for the person who does not.”
But how much is too much? Or, in a parliament that’s had as many dramas over clothing as there have been political issues, how relevant a dress code in an age when makeup and tights come with individual specifications, and where women are bound by an agreement not to wear pants and pants don’t come with gender-specific guidelines?
The protocol is clear: Pajamas and wrap dresses are out. On for a serious debate is “dress of the day,” a suit of pinstripe or navy blue, or traditional top-knot traditional Welsh dress.
The House of Commons website has some examples:
There is no wear of trilbies.
Men must wear white shirts.
Pants are not acceptable.
A nude peplum skirt is not appropriate.
And there’s the matter of robes.
The British government — which is responsible for the Civil Service, as well as Parliament’s dress code — was forced by the High Court of England and Wales to inform the honorably discharged servicemen in the Household Cavalry of their mandatory choice of uniform.
“What is in general accepted is that men and women are on equal footing,” says Andrew Willis, who teaches history and theology at the University of Buckingham.
“Whether they wear morning gowns, evening gowns, frocks or blouses and suits doesn’t depend on the gender of the person who has this uniform.”
The gaffe (or is it?) that’s set fashion back
With less than two months until Parliament’s next session — and endless questions about the government’s Brexit plans and other major issues — the future is not quite clear.
As U.K. fashion has been a strong draw, events such as London Fashion Week, have been on the agenda. The LFW schedule has gone through rapid changes since last season, likely boding poorly for Fashion Week and perhaps even the House of Commons’ dress code, given its links to fashion at a time when it’s particularly in fashion to not pay attention to dress code regulations.
The Sun reported Thursday that prospective judges and magistrates would be permitted to wear black pants and flat cap. The idea was floated by Conservative MP and former soldier Bob Neill.
LFW wasn’t on stage Thursday or Friday, but it is on Sunday when Prada headlines London Fashion Week.
While the House of Commons didn’t impose a dress code for visitors, British politicians welcome them and make them feel at home.