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Heard on the Hill: Barefoot in the Swamp

As Washington becomes more fashion-forward, plenty of once hard-and-fast fashion rules are going by the wayside (no more mandatory boxy suits for the ladies — whew!).

[IMGCAP(1)]But HOH has noticed some female Members are pushing the sartorial envelope of late, showing up at formal events in toe-baring sandals.

At a Friday news conference involving House GOP women, at least two Members sported thonged footwear that left all their piggies (from goes-to-market to wee-wee-wee-all-the-way-home) on display.

So are barely there sandals a fashion don’t or have the rules changed? HOH consulted Belle, the anonymous Hill staffer who dispenses fashion advice on her blog, Capitol Hill Style. Belle gave the skin-baring ladies a thumbs-down — with a caveat.

“While I think it would be inappropriate to wear sandals (with a heel or without) on the House Floor, wearing them to an outdoor press conference is slightly more acceptable,— she tells us via e-mail. “But it’s still a faux pas.—

Turns out, one of the sandal-sporting Members has a good excuse. Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio), who wore bejeweled thong-style flat sandals to the Friday event, hurt her foot running and is letting it heal by wearing comfy shoes. “She will be back to the Ferragamos in no time,— says her chief of staff, Barry Bennett.

But Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) stands by her footwear choice. “I think it’s a fairly common practice for professionals throughout D.C. and other cities to dress more relaxed in the summer,— Bachmann spokeswoman Debbee Keller tells HOH. “When you’re running to the House floor and back in 90-plus degree weather, wearing a full suit, stockings and heels is impractical.—

We guess when it comes to the traditional Washington dress code, not everyone wants to toe the line.

Just Elizabeth. In a sign that she has stepped out of her husband’s shadow following his White House run and subsequent sex scandal, Elizabeth Edwards was treated like any other wonky think-tanker when she appeared as a witness at a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on Tuesday.

[IMGCAP(2)]Not a peep about her husband, former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), or his tawdry tabloid-busted affair and love child. Not even a word about her previous high-profile role as a campaign wife.

Edwards recently wrapped up a book tour and made rounds on the TV talk shows, where she spilled plenty about her marital woes. But on Tuesday, as far as the members of the panel were concerned, she was just Elizabeth Edwards, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Even her own battle with breast cancer was only briefly discussed. Instead, Edwards the think-tanker simply delivered her message — health care costs are driving people into bankruptcy — and competently answered the panel’s questions.

The only dishy detail: Edwards was wearing a ring on her left ring finger. She appeared on “Oprah— in May sans her wedding band and raised plenty of eyebrows when she explained she wasn’t wearing it because she had “jammed— her finger.

A Trip Down Memory Lane. Embattled South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) didn’t always want to hike the Appalachian Trail or even jet off to Buenos Aires.

Way back in 1995, when Sanford was just a lowly freshman Member of Congress, he actually liked going home to the Palmetto State. Seems hard to believe, but he even set up his life on Capitol Hill so he’d be more inclined to go there.

When Roll Call reporter Amy Keller wrote an article in February 1995 about Members who sleep in their Congressional offices, she included Sanford, who lived in his office while serving three terms in Congress. (Contrary to some reports, Sanford never lived in the secretive C Street row house, although he did seek spiritual counseling there.)

While many frugal MoCs bunk in their offices to save a few bucks, Keller noted that Sanford’s reasons were purely philosophical.

“The 34-year-old millionaire from Charleston catches his Zs on a single futon and showers in the House gym. And if that sounds a bit unpleasant or uncomfortable, well, that’s exactly the idea,— Keller wrote. “Explains Ric Grenell, a spokesman for Sanford, The more he can stay uncomfortable and not part of the Washington scene, the more he’s going to want to get back home to Charleston.’—

Ah, how times have changed.

To be fair, Sanford isn’t the only former Member to change his tune: Remember that former Rep. Chip Pickering (R-Miss.) — who, like Sanford, is now clouded by scandal because of his mistress — cited family as his reason for retiring from Congress.


Still a 10. Actress Bo Derek, on Capitol Hill on Tuesday to lobby on conservation issues, drew comparisons to Teddy Roosevelt — although we’re pretty sure she still looks better in a swimsuit than the former prez ever did.

Derek testified before a House Natural Resources subcommittee in support of legislation funding wildlife conservation around the globe, prompting Rep. Henry Brown (R-S.C.) to call her “a young lady and talented actress, who in the tradition of Theodore Roosevelt has devoted her life to wildlife.—

Derek represented environmental group WildAid, telling Members that “wildlife knows no borders, and nor should wildlife conservation efforts.—

Jackie Kucinich contributed to this report.

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