The Catholic Church on Dressing for Mass: A Timeline

Does the Church Have a Dress Code? (Short answer, NO.)

Vatican Dress Code

Papal Audience Dress Code

Pope St. Damasus I (Pope from 366-382 AD), spoke on the miracle of St. Agnes, after being stripped of her garments, her hair grew and covered her body to preserve her modesty: “The delicate and noble handmaid of God was publicly disrobed, but simultaneously her hair, by the power of God, descended and became a veil for her holy modesty, and the innocent maiden was spared a torture more bitter than death. Pope St. Damasus says her long flowing hair clothed her even as her own garments.” Dom A. Smith, C.R.I, “Life of St. Agnes” CHAPTER VII: The Virgins Crown. 1906.

Pope Nicholas I Responses to the Questions of the Bulgars A.D. 866. (“We consider what you asked about pants (femoralia) to be irrelevant; for we do not wish the exterior style of your clothing to be changed, but rather the behavior of the inner man within you, nor do we desire to know what you are wearing except Christ — for however many of you have been baptized in Christ, have put on Christ [Gal. 3:27] — but rather how you are progressing in faith and good works.“)

A collective letter from the Belgian Bishops on the “Immodesty of Women’s Fashions” “The great Pope Saint Leo bequeathed us this beautiful thought: ‘One is not good when one is good only for oneself … It is not to be wise to love wisdom only for oneself.’ It cannot therefore be enough for you, Our very dear Brothers, not to subject yourselves to pagan customs; you must use your vigor to react against them, to stop their march, to put back their audacity. You have the honor of belonging to Christ” “You must become apostles and oppose the pagan fashion to the Christian fashion; to voluptuousness, reserve; to the license of passion, docility to the Gospel and to the Church. “Do not take the world as a model,” (Un lettre collective de l’épiscopat belge », dans Paroisse de l’Immaculée Conception de Paris, 4th Year, n°24, February 1914, p. 4-7)

Pope Pius X, in his Catechism wrote, “6 Q. What do the Sixth and Ninth Commandments command? A. The Sixth Commandment commands us to be chaste and modest in act, in look, in behavior, and in speech. The Ninth Commandment commands us in addition to this to be chaste and pure interiorly, that is, in mind and in heart.” 1908

Catholic Magazine Publishes Benedict XV on Indecent Fashions, from his “‘Remarks on the woman’s mission in society’ to a delegation of the Union of Catholic Women, October 21, 1919”. (“We feel it our duty to insist in a particular manner on this point, because, on the one hand, we know that certain styles of dress which nowadays have become usual among women are harmful to the well-being of society, as being provocative of evil; and on the other hand.“)

Pope Benedict XV Encyclical, “Sacra Propediem” 1921. (“In what concerns specially the Tertiary Sisters, We ask of them by their dress and manner of wearing it, to be models of holy modesty for other ladies and young girls; that they be thoroughly convinced that the best way for them to be of use to the Church and to Society is to labor for the improvement of morals.“)

Pope Pius XI’s Cardinal-Vicar General, Cdl. Pompili writes, “A woman should enter the house of God only decently dressed in a rising garment and her head covered, because the immodesty of clothing, everywhere and always reprehensible, offends particularly the holiness of the temples, forbids the access to the Eucharist Table and often attracts terrible punishments from God.

Pope Pius XI‘s Cardinal-Vicar General Cardinal Pompili issued Guidelines to help Catholic women with regard to Fashion – and what they could consider to be Modest and proper for Mass (and so on). “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 beyond the knees. Furthermore, dresses of transparent materials are improper.” There has been a concession with regard to sleeve length, because of market conditions. 24 September 1928 (note this was mentioned about in many articles by Catholic Bishops, one is here.)

Pope Pius XI, “Divini Ilius Magistri” Encyclical, 1929. (He speaks of the importance of modesty, specifically in sports.)

Pope Pius XI Instruction to Diocesan Ordinaries on Indecent Women’s Fashion – January 12, 1930. (…”Indecent modes (fashions) gravely offend the dignity and feminine grace, but unfortunately cause temporal damage for the woman and, what is worse, her eternal loss and others.“)

Pope Pius XI “Ad Salutem Humanem” Encyclical, 1930. (“Christian women can never be at too
great pains to abolish immodest fashions of dress.

Pope Pius XI: “modesty and shame are two protectors of chastity,” “the use of
a cult of nudity is a blasphemy
” – “L’Osservatore Romano” March 6 1935

Pope Pius XI, “Vigilanti Cura” Encyclical, 1936. (On The Motion Picture. Promotes the “Legion of Decency.)

What Was the Legion of Decency?

Pope Pius XII: Brooke Magnanti points out at Britain’s Telegraph that Pope Pius XII condemned the first winner (of the Miss World Contest) — Kiki Hakansson from Sweden, who was the first and last Miss World to be crowned in her bikini.

Pope Pius XII: St. Perpetua & Her Great Modesty. (“When she was thrown into the air by a savage bull in the amphitheater at Carthage, her first thought and action when she fell to the ground was to rearrange her dress to cover her thigh, because she was more concerned for modesty than pain.”)

Pope Pius XII – Address, 1941. (“Some young girls may say that a certain way of dressing is more convenient and also more hygienic; but if it becomes for the salvation of the soul a grave and imminent danger, it is certainly not hygienic for your spirit and it is your duty to renounce it.“)

Pope Pius XII – Address 1940. (“Fashion and modesty should well go and walk together as sisters since both words have the same root, the Latin ‘modus’ which means just measure, below and beyond which can be just or reasonable.“)

Pope Pius XII – Address 1943. (“Your zeal against immodest dress should not only be a condemnation, but a building practically showing the feminine world how a girl can harmonize well in her dress and behavior, the higher laws of virtue with standards of hygiene and elegance.“)

Pope Pius XII – Address 1952. (“In sports and gymnastics, in rhythmic exercises and dance, some nudism is neither necessary nor appropriate.“)

Letter on immodesty of fashion – by mandate of Pope Pius XII, 1954. (“Almost everywhere , even in the streets of towns and villages, in private and public places , and often almost in temples consecrated to God , spreads unworthy and unseemly fashion apparel … in particular, women’s clothing are sometimes as they seem to favor rather immorality that modesty.“)

Pope Pius XII, “Speech To Participants in the First International Congress of High Fashion Promoted by the Latin Union of High Fashion”  Friday, November 8, 1957. (“It is therefore right that modesty, almost custodian of such precious goods, should claim a prevailing authority over any other tendency or whim, and preside over the determination of the styles of dressing.“)

Did Karol Wojtyła ever say partial nudity is okay? (Short answer, NO.)

Adultery ‘in the heart’ – Pope John Paul II.

Modesty – THE PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR THE FAMILY – 1995. (“The practice of decency and modesty in speech, action and dress is very important for creating an atmosphere suitable to the growth of chastity, but this must be well motivated by respect for one’s own body and the dignity of others.“)