Modesty - The Catholic Dress Code



"A WOMAN SHALL NOT BE CLOTHED WITH MAN'S APPAREL; neither shall a man use woman's apparel. For he that doeth these things is abominable before God." --Deut. 22:5
[Before the twentieth century, pants were always known to have been men's attire.]
["toward the middle of the 20th century, ..... it will be impossible to distinguish men from women due to their shamelessness in dress" - Saint Nilus 430AD]

"The attire of the body, and the laughter of the teeth, and the gait of the man, show what he is" --Sirach 19:27

"Behold a woman meeteth him in HARLOT'S ATTIRE, prepared to deceive souls." --Prov. 7:10

"You have heard that it was said to the ancients, 'Thou shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that ANYONE WHO SO MUCH AS LOOKS WITH LUST AT A WOMAN has already committed adultery with her in his heart." --Matthew 5:27-28
[Provocation - one of the nine ways of becoming an accessory to another's sin]

"Know you not that your members are the temple of the Holy Ghost, Who is in you, Whom you have from God, and you are not your own?... GLORIFY AND BEAR GOD IN YOUR BODY" --1 Cor.6:19-20

"In like manner women also in decent apparel: adorning themselves with modesty and sobriety, not with plaited hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly attire" --1 Timothy 2:9

"But EVERY MAN IS TEMPTED BY HIS OWN CONCUPISCENCE, being drawn away and allured." --James 1:14-15

Our Lady

Appeared to Jacinta in a hospital in Lisbon, Portugal in 1920:

"Certain fashions will be introduced which will offend Our Divine Lord very much. Those who serve God ought not to follow these fashions. The Church has no fashions. Our Lord is always the same."
"the SINS THAT LEAD MOST SOULS TO HELL are the sins of the flesh."

Popes, Cardinals, Bishops

Pope Benedict XV, Sacra Propediem, 1921

"One can not sufficiently deplore the blindness of so many women of every age and station. Made foolish by a desire to please, they do not see to what degree the indecency of their clothing SHOCKS EVERY HONEST MAN and offends God. Most of them would formerly have BLUSHED for such apparel as for a GRAVE fault against Christian modesty. Now it does not suffice to EXHIBIT THEMSELVES on public thoroughfares; they do not fear to cross the threshold of churches, to assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and even to bear the seducing food of shameful passions to the Eucharistic Table, where one receives the Heavenly Author of Purity. And We speak not of those barbarous dances recently imported into fashionable circles, one more shocking than the other; one cannot imagine anything more suitable for banishing all the remains of modesty." [Par. 19]

Pope Pius XI, December 31, 1929
Encyclical "On The Christian Education of Youth"

"These principles [i.e. of the basic difference between the sexes], with due regard to time and place, must in accordance with Christian prudence, be applied to all schools, particularly in the most delicate and decisive period of formation, that namely, of adolescence; and IN GYMNASTIC EXERCISES and deportment, special care must be had of CHRISTIAN MODESTY IN YOUNG WOMEN AND GIRLS, which is so gravely impaired by any kind of exhibition in public."

Letter of the Congregation of the Council, 1930 (under Pope Pius XI)
Exhortation to Those in Authority

3. Let PARENTS KEEP THEIR DAUGHTERS AWAY FROM PUBLIC GYMNASTIC GAMES AND CONTESTS; but if their daughters are compelled to attend such exhibitions, let them see that they are fully and modestly dressed. Let them never permit their daughters to don immodest garb.
9. Maidens and WOMEN DRESSED IMMODESTLY are to be debarred from Holy Communion and from acting as sponsors at the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation; further, if the offense be extreme, they may even be FORBIDDEN TO ENTER THE CHURCH.

Pope Pius XII, May 22, 1941
an allocution to young Catholic girls during World War II

"...Numbers of believing and pious ACCEPTING to follow certain BOLD FASHIONS, BREAK DOWN, by their example, the RESISTANCE OF MANY OTHER WOMEN to such fashions, which may become for them the cause of spiritual ruin. As long as these provocative styles remain identified with women of doubtful virtue, good women do not dare to follow them; but once these styles have been accepted by women of good reputation, decent women soon follow their example, and are carried along by the tide into possible disaster."

Canadian bishops, May 1946

"MAN himself does not escape from the inclination of exhibiting his flesh: some GO IN PUBLIC, STRIPPED TO THE WAIST, or in very tight pants or IN very SCANTY BATHING SUITS. They thus commit offenses against the virtue of modesty. They may also be an occasion of sin (in thought or desire) for our neighbor."

American Bishops, 1953
On the general subject of the Dignity of Man

"Heedless that his nature has God for its origin and destiny, and reason and revelation for its divinely commissioned guide, man will do what no other creature can---he will deny his true nature and will destroy all that is good within himself. Such a process of degradation is viciously at work in our own country, where the DEIFICATION OF THE FLESH continues to enlist new devotees. Through the liturgy of advertisement, entertainment and literature, this cult bids fair to corrode our national sense of decency... The Catholic Church has never failed to accord the human body an immense measure of honor. She affirms that it was originally created by God; in one instance actually assumed by Him; in every instance meant to be on earth His special temple, and destined eventually to rejoin the soul in His Beatific Presence. Whatever is uncompromising in her teaching about the human body stems from her realism on two points: The body, though good, is not the highest good; and THE UNDISCIPLINED BODY IS NOTORIOUSLY BAD."

Pope Pius XII, July 17, 1954

"Now many GIRLS do not see anything wrong with following certain shameless styles (fashions) like so many sheep. They WOULD surely BLUSH IF THEY COULD ONLY GUESS the impressions they make and THE FEELINGS THEY EVOKE (arouse) IN THOSE WHO SEE THEM."

Pope Pius XII, August 15, 1954
Delegated Cardinal Ciriaci to issue a letter on modesty.

"Everyone knows that during the SUMMER MONTHS particularly, things are seen here and there which are certain to PROVE OFFENSIVE TO ANYONE WHO HAS retained some respect and REGARD FOR Christian virtue and human MODESTY. On the beaches, in country resorts, almost everywhere, on the streets of cities and towns, in private and public places, and, indeed, often in buildings dedicated to God, an unworthy and indecent mode of dress has prevailed. Because of this, the young particularly, whose minds are easily bent towards vice, are exposed to the extreme danger of losing their innocence, which is, by far, the most beautiful adornment of mind and body. Feminine adornment, if it can be called adornment, FEMININE CLOTHING, 'if that can be called clothing which contains nothing to protect either the body or modesty.' (Seneca) are at times of such a nature that they seem to SERVE LEWDNESS RATHER THAN MODESTY. What we are discussing here is obviously most serious, since it vitally concerns not only Christian virtue but also the health and vigor of human society . Well did not the ancient poet say of this matter: 'Vice necessarily follows upon public nudity' (Ennius)."

STANDARDS OF MODESTY IN DRESS, Imprimatur dated Sept. 24, 1956

"A dress cannot be called decent which is cut deeper than two fingers breadth 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
-- "At least to the elbows" The Vatican permits shorter sleeves due to "impossible market conditions."

Archbishop Albert G. Meyer, May 1, 1956

"For, modesty, by its very definition, is looked upon as the shield and safeguard of purity. The breakdown in modesty is due fundamentally to a disregard of the virtue of purity as a necessary virtue for all.."
"EVERY HUMAN being, except the Immaculate Mother of God, has through original sin INHERITED A TAINTED NATURE, which MANIFESTS ITSELF MORE INTENSIVELY perhaps IN INCLINATIONS TO IMPURITY than in any other way. The resulting battle with concupiscence is not limited to a given age or state of life; it must be waged by all and at all times. It is the teaching of our Faith that through Original Sin man's nature has been wounded. The wound in our nature is experienced through the struggle which we have to control our imagination and our passions. Imagination by it self, we know, is simply a picture making power."
"The world does not use prudence in the matter of purity... It provides a constant flow of incentives to lust, completely heedless of the intimate and necessary connection between modesty and purity, and indeed often denying the sin of impurity itself."
"With regard to clothing, MODESTY REQUIRES especially two things: first, care that one does not make purity difficult for oneself, or for others, by one's own MODE OF DRESS; and, second, a prudent but firm and courageous RESISTANCE TO THE STYLES AND CUSTOMS, no matter how popular or widespread, or adopted by others, which are a danger to purity. Pope Pius XII, in an address to a group of Catholic Action girls on October 6, 1940. stated: 'MANY WOMEN ... give in to the tyranny of fashion, be it even immodest, in such a way as to appear not even to suspect that it is unbecoming. They have lost the very concept of danger; they HAVE LOST THE INSTINCT OF MODESTY.' "
"As far back as 1928, Pope Pius XI sensed where this trend to uncover more and more of the body would lead if not corrected, and, on August 23, 1928, ordered a "Crusade Against Immodest Fashions"
"By virtue of the supreme apostolate which he wields over the Universal Church by Divine Will, our Most Holy Father Pope Pius XI has never ceased to... condemn emphatically the immodest fashion of dress ADOPTED BY CATHOLIC WOMEN AND GIRLS, which fashion not only OFFENDS THE DIGNITY OF WOMEN, but CONDUCES TO THE TEMPORAL ruin of the women and girls, AND, what is still worse, to THEIR ETERNAL RUIN, miserably dragging down others in their fall."

Pius XII to Catholic Young Women's Groups of Italy

"The good of our soul is more important than that of our body; and we have to prefer the spiritual welfare of our neighbor to our bodily comforts. If a certain kind of dress constitutes a grave and proximate occasion of sin, and endangers the salvation of your soul and others, it is your duty to give it up. O Christian mothers, if you knew what a future of anxieties and perils, of ill-guarded shame you prepare for your sons and daughters, imprudently getting them accustomed to live scantily dressed and making them lose the sense of modesty, you would be ashamed of yourselves and you would dread the harm you are making of yourselves, the harm which you are causing these children, whom Heaven has entrusted to you to be brought up as Christians."

Archbishop of Toledo Spain, Enrique Cardinal Pla y Daniel, 1959
A Pastoral letter

"A special danger to morals is represented by public bathing at beaches, in pools and riverbanks...MIXED BATHING between men and women which NEARLY ALWAYS IS A PROXIMATE OCCASION OF SIN AND A SCANDAL MUST BE AVOIDED."

Cardinal Siri, June 12, 1960

"clothes to be modest need not only to cover the body but also not to cling too closely to the body. Now it is true that much feminine clothing today clings closer than do some trousers, but trousers can be made to cling closer, in fact generally they do, so the tight fit of such clothing gives us no less grounds for concern than does exposure of the body. So the IMMODESTY OF MEN'S TROUSERS ON WOMEN is an aspect of the problem which is not to be left out of an over-all judgment upon them"
"However, it is a different aspect of women's wearing of men's trousers which seems to us the gravest. The wearing of men's dress by women affects firstly the woman herself, by CHANGING THE FEMININE PSYCHOLOGY proper to women; secondly it affects the woman as wife of her husband, by TENDing TO VITIATE RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN THE SEXES; thirdly it affects the woman as mother of her children by HARMING HER DIGNITY IN HER CHILDREN'S EYES."


Augustine in his Rule (Ep. ccxi)

"In all your movements, let nothing be done to offend the eye of another, but only that which is becoming to the holiness of your state."
Noted in the Summa Q.168, Art.1, Reply to Objection 3

Saint John Chrysostom, 4th Century

"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. ... When you have made another sin in his heart, how can you be innocent? Tell me, whom does this world condemn? WHOM DO JUDGES 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 are 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 by injury , but out of foolish vanity and pride."

The Rule of St. Augustine

Ch 4, 1. There should be nothing about your clothing to attract attention. Besides, you should not seek to please by your apparel, but by a good life.

Saint Nilus, 5th Century

"After the year 1900, TOWARD THE MIDDLE OF THE 20TH CENTURY, the people of that time will become unrecognizable.....People's appearances will change, and IT WILL BE IMPOSSIBLE TO DISTINGUISH MEN FROM WOMEN DUE TO THEIR SHAMELESSNESS IN DRESS AND STYLE OF HAIR."

Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Q.168, Answer

But those women who have no husband nor wish to have one, or who are in a state of life inconsistent with marriage, cannot without sin desire to give lustful pleasure to those men who see them, because this is to incite them to sin. And if indeed they adorn themselves with this intention of provoking others to lust, THEY SIN MORTALLY; whereas if they do so from frivolity, or FROM VANITY for the sake of ostentation, it is NOT ALWAYS MORTAL, BUT SOMETIMES VENIAL. And the same applies to men in this respect. Hence Augustine says (Ep. ccxlv ad Possid.): "I do not wish you to be hasty in forbidding the wearing of gold or costly attire except in the case of those who being neither married nor wishful to marry, should think how they may please God: whereas the others think on the things of the world, either husbands how they may please their wives, or wives how they may please their husbands, except that it is unbecoming for women though married to uncover their hair, since the Apostle commands them to cover the head." Yet in this case some might be excused from sin, when they do this not through vanity but on account of some contrary custom: although such a custom is not to be commended.

Saint Frances of Rome, 1440

God willed to show her, in the fires of Hell, certain ladies whom she had known in Roman society. For what sins had THESE SOULS BEEN DAMNED? They had been damned:
- for guilty desires, even though these had not been put into act.
- for indecent styles of dress, which were the fashion of the day, and which had been a cause of seduction and of sin.
- for dances, considered inoffensive by the world.

Padre Pio from the book "Prophet of the People"

"Padre Pio wouldn't tolerate low-necked dresses or short, tight skirts, and he forbade his spiritual daughters to wear transparent stockings. (nylons) Each year his severity increased. He stubbornly dismissed them from his confessional, even before they set foot inside, if he judged them to be improperly dressed...His brothers observed these drastic purges with uneasiness and...fasten(ed) a sign on the church door: 'By Padre Pio's explicit wish, women must enter his confessional wearing skirts at least eight inches below the knees. It is forbidden to borrow longer dresses in church and to wear them for the confessional."


Marylike Crusader, 1957 quoted 'The French Woman' newspaper

"Our children must realize the ideal of nakedness... Thus the mentality of the child is rapidly transformed. To escape opposition, progress must be methodically graduated; first, feet and legs naked; then, upturned sleeves; afterwards the upper and lower limbs; the upper part of the chest; the back; ...IN SUMMER THE CHILDREN WILL GO AROUND ALMOST NAKED."

Vatican Document, December 29, 1975
Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics

"In this way facts are discovered [i.e. by sociological surveys], but facts do not constitute a criterion for judging the moral value of human acts. The frequency of the phenomenon in question is certainly to be linked with man's innate weakness following original sin; but is also to be linked with the loss of a sense of God, with the corruption of morals engendered by the commercialization of vice, with the unrestrained licentiousness of so many public entertainments and publications, as well as with the neglect of modesty, which is the guardian of chastity."


Father Eusebius Nieremburg, who resided at the College of Madrid, where he died in the odor of sanctity in 1658, relates the story of a noble and exceedingly pious lady, who asked God to make known to her what displeased His Divine Majesty most in persons of her sex. The Lord vouchsafed in a miraculous manner to hear her. He opened under her eyes THE ETERNAL ABYSS. There she saw a woman a prey to cruel torments and in her recognized one of her friends, a short time before deceased. This sight caused her as much astonishment as grief: the person whom she saw damned did not seem to her to have lived badly. Then that unhappy soul said to her: "It is true that I practiced religion, but I was A SLAVE OF VANITY. Ruled by the passion to please, I was not afraid to adopt indecent fashions to attract attention, and I enkindled the fire of impurity in more than one heart. Ah! If Christian women knew how much immodesty in dress displeases God!" At the same moment, this unhappy soul was pierced by two fiery lances and plunged into a caldron of liquid lead.
There is a saying that in proportion to the amount of flesh mortal sin seems to increase. This being the case, one would assume that at least our Catholic women and girls would have the good sense to ALWAYS wear clothes that tend to conceal, rather than reveal or call attention to the body.


"Men are lost through women and they are saved through women. By their vanity, they will make a man fall; by their modesty, they will save him. The world of morality oscillates between Eve and Mary. As long as modesty is not practiced, the world will not rise from its decadence."