of Modesty in Dress
September 3, 1999
quoting sources from
the Cardinal Vicar of Pius XII
September 24, 1956
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
“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.
The Cardinal Vicar of Pius XII
Marylike is modest without compromise, “like
Mary,” Christ’s Mother.
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).
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.
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.
Marylike dresses avoid the improper use of
Marylike dresses conceal rather than reveal the
figure of the wearer; they do not emphasize, unduly, parts of the
Marylike dresses provide full coverage, even after jacket, cape or stole
There are three purposes for clothing:
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.
to shield the body from the elements (heat and
to adorn the body.
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