What to wear and what not to wear to the Bundestag | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 13.01.2017
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What to wear and what not to wear to the Bundestag

The Bundestag doesn’t look very kindly upon sartorial faux-pas, including t-shirts with "political" slogans spreading the message of love and peace.

Earlier this week, a 13-year-old schoolgirl, wore her "Refugees Welcome" sweatshirt on a class trip to the German parliament. She was stopped at the security gates and asked to zip up her jacket so the slogan wouldn't be seen when she entered the building - the reason being that visitors to the parliament are prohibited from publicly displaying their political opinions.

"I am disturbed by the signal the Bundestag security is giving my growing daughter," the girl's mother told "Der Spiegel" magazine, which reported the incident on Thursday. The 13-year-old works with refugees in her free time, the mother said, adding it was strange this "message of humanity" was censored in a "place like the Bundestag, which stands for the freedom of opinion and for the right to asylum, enshrined in the Basic Law."

Where does one draw the line?

In a statement to Deutsche Welle, the Bundestag's press department confirmed that "There is no specific dress code in the Bundestag." However, after every parliamentary election, members approve a code of conduct for the house, which serves to uphold the "dignity of the parliament." All exchange of political opinions takes place through debates within parliamentary bodies and expressing opinions through banners, pamphlets or items of clothing is prohibited, the statement said.

The Bundestag's code of conduct has indeed proved effective in cases where neo-Nazi symbols were publicly displayed. Nearly a decade ago, the parliament reaffirmed its decision to ban all right-wing symbols, when an employee was found wearing clothes manufactured under the label "Thor Steinar," considered popular among supporters of the far right.

In many other cases however, the Bundestag's preferences when it comes to the right dress code became a subject of discussion. In 2009, for example, security officials apprehended a pupil for wearing a t-shirt that said, "Make love, not war." The schoolboy was made to wear the t-shirt inside out so the slogan would not be seen when he entered the building, German media reported.

'Clothes make the Bundestag'

Members of the Bundestag themselves have also used clothes as an excuse to target their political opponents. Over two years ago, CSU politician Dorothee Bär was chastised by her Greens counterpart Sylvia Kotting-Uhl for wearing the traditional Bavarian "dirndl" to the parliament. According to Kotting-Uhl, the dress was considered "regressive by the entire world except by Bavarians."

Right-wing party, the Alternative for Germany's (AfD) leaders from Saxony also recently picked on their political opponents' clothes, suggesting that people couldn't take lawmakers who didn't dress well seriously.

A 'dirndl' is simply too Bavarian for the parliament in Berlin

A 'dirndl' is simply too Bavarian for the parliament in Berlin

In a press statement after a visit to the parliament in Berlin in October, the party referred to Greens' chief Claudia Roth as a middle-aged woman wearing a "strange hairstyle," with a "coat-like something" wrapped around her. The right-wingers were also shocked by members of the leftist "Die Linke" and the Greens, who walked around in "jeans and leather jackets," the "Frankfurter Allgemeine" newspaper reported.

The "lax manner of dress" in which most of the MPs of the Green and the leftist "Die Linke" parties delivered their duties in the "name of the German people," was disappointing, the AfD said in its statement.

What works, what doesn't

A visitor to the Bundestag, or even a lawmaker for that matter, can do little to make everyone happy with his or her choice of outfit. But here is a short list of items of clothing that may work while on a visit to the parliament, according to German public broadcaster SWR, which questioned the Bundestag on the issue.

Claudia Roth's hairstyle and her dress sense hasn't gone down well with the AfD

Claudia Roth's hairstyle and her dress sense hasn't gone down well with the AfD

A burka or the full-body veil worn by Muslim women is allowed within the Bundestag's premises, despite concerns about security and Muslim women's integrationinto German society. However, women wearing the robe will have to show their faces to security officials to confirm their identity.

Muslim women wearing the hijab - or headscarf - will also not have to face any problems getting through security. A nun's habit is also permissible in the Bundestag as well as the Kippa, or skullcap, worn by Jewish men.

However, visitors wearing a pointed traditional Tyrolean hat will have to leave the accessory with security, as well as men and women wearing cowboy hats. These are not considered dignified enough to wear while listening or watching parliamentary proceedings.

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