Sacred Heart of Jesus

Marylike Standards of Modesty in Dress

 Pope Pius XIII
September 3, 1999

quoting sources from
the Cardinal Vicar of Pius XII
September 24, 1956
The Assumption

Before repeating what was approved by Our Predecessors in regard to modesty in dress We shall copy a statement by St. John Chrysostom (4th Century).  It is entitled Women’s Dress. 

“You carry your snare everywhere and spread your nets in all places.   You allege that you never invited others to sin.  You did not, indeed by your words, but you have done so by your dress and your deportment and much more effectively than you could by your voice.  When you have made another sin in his heart, how can you be innocent?  Tell me, whom does this world condemn?  Whom do judges in court punish?  Those who drink poison, or those who prepare it and administer the fatal potion?  You have prepared the abominable cup, you have given the death-dealing drink, and you are more criminal than those who poison the body; you murder not the body but the soul.  And it is not to enemies you do this, nor are you urged on by any imaginary necessity, nor provoked to injury, but out of foolish vanity and pride.” 
We copy from The Marylike Standards of Modesty in Dress with an imprimatur dated September 24, 1956: 
    “A dress cannot be called decent which is cut deeper than two fingers breath under the pit of the throat; which does not cover the arms at least to the elbows; and scarcely reaches a bit beyond the knees.  Furthermore, dresses of transparent materials are improper.” 
    The Cardinal Vicar of Pius XII 
  1. Marylike is modest without compromise, “like Mary,” Christ’s Mother. 
  2. Marylike dresses have sleeves extending at least to the elbows; and skirts reaching well below the knees. (Note: because of impossible market conditions quarter-length sleeves are temporarily tolerated with Ecclesiastical Approval, until Christian womanhood again turns to Mary as the model of modest in dress). 
  3. Marylike dresses require full coverage for the bodice, chest, shoulders, and back; except for a cut-out about the neck not exceeding two fingers below the neckline in front and in back, and a corresponding two fingers on the shoulders. 
  4. Marylike dresses do not admit as modest coverage transparent fabrics – laces, nets, organdy, nylons, etc. – unless sufficient backing is added.  However, their moderate use as trimmings is acceptable. 
  5. Marylike dresses avoid the improper use of flesh-colored fabrics. 
  6. Marylike dresses conceal rather than reveal the figure of the wearer; they do not emphasize, unduly, parts of the body. 
  7. Marylike dresses provide full coverage, even after jacket, cape or stole are removed. 
“Marylike” fashions are designed to conceal as much of the body as possible, rather than reveal.  This would automatically eliminate such fashions as tight slacks, jeans, sweaters, shorts: shorts which do not reach well below the knees; sheer blouses and sleeveless dresses; etc.  The Marylike standards are guide to instill a “sense of modesty.”  A girl who follows these, and looks up to Mary as her ideal and model, will have no problem of modesty in dress.  She will not be an occasion of sin or source of embarrassment or shame to others.”  The pamphlet urges prayer to be pure in mind and body. 

There are three purposes for clothing: 

  1. for modesty, 
  2. to shield the body from the elements (heat and cold), and 
  3. to adorn the body. 
As society deteriorates, so do all the above purposes for clothing deteriorate.  Modesty is lost to the extreme.  Gang-like clothing may leave persons exposed to the elements.  Finally, dressing up is lost.  Formerly everyone had a Sunday suit, shirt and tie.  We must make an observation in regard to men without a shirt.  If it does not offend modesty (and this is disputed) then it offends in being unadorned by clothing.  Certainly, it is not fully acceptable, and custom should be so that it is not acceptable. 

What about the type of material?  Custom has it that denim blue is for working men’s clothing.  Farmers, railroad workers, ditch diggers and the like use it with rightful practicality.  It is not wedding garment material for men or women.  When circumstances permit it, such types of material should not appear at divine services, for we must be on our best-dressed behavior when worshiping God.  A person on the way to rough work and returning from it can be excused.  Catholics should be leading the way in morality and elegance.  We must elevate our rotten society and not live in it without influencing it for the better. 

   Pius, pp. XIII 
   Sept. 3, 1999 

Return to True Catholic     truecarpentry library1