• Mater

(Part I) Dressing Like Our Lady: the What, Why, and How

Updated: Aug 4, 2019

A couple of years back, I was asking for St. Rita's intercession (she has never failed me!) at a statue of her in a church of her patronage. I asked her a simple question: how can I prepare to be a holy wife? When I was done praying, I looked up, and a single pamphlet was sitting there in front of her statue. I took it. I read it. It was called "The Marylike Standards for Modesty in Dress," and, not only was it the answer to my question to St. Rita, but it changed everything for me.

In this series, I want to go over 1) what the Marian standards are, 2) why I love them, and 2) how I implement them.

What Are the Marian Standards?

First, let's be clear on terminology: these are referred to as the Marian or Marylike standards. But, they are also Holy Mother Church's stance on women's dress. This is not, as I used to think, something "extra" you can do to be holier or more like the Blessed Mother. This is expected from every Catholic woman. This should be the norm. Sadly, so few women even know it exists.

Standard of Dress

  • Neckline at least as high as two fingers under the pit of the throat

  • Quarter-length sleeves

  • Hems significantly below the knee

  • No transparent material

Taken from the Sacred Congregation of the Council Jan. 12, 1930, mandated by Pope Pius XI.


  • ...for athletic uniforms? "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 to it that they are fully and modestly dressed. Let them never permit their daughters to don immodest garb." (from the same council)

  • ...at the beach? "A special danger to morals is represented by public bathing at beaches...Mixed bathing between men and women, which is nearly always a proximate occasion of sin and a scandal, must be avoided." (Cardinal Pla y Daniel, Archbishop of Toledo, Spain, 1959)

  • ...because of the current climate? "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, July 17, 1954) "There always exists and absolute norm to be preserved." (Pope Pius XII) "Fashions will arise which will greatly offend God." (Our Lady of Fatima)

A Bit Further

  • Padre Pio's rule was a hem that went 8 inches below the knee.

  • The original guideline contained sleeves going past the elbow, but did ultimately allow quarter-length sleeves since those going passed the elbow might be scarce. However, I personally think it's a good idea to wear sleeves below the elbow sine they are pretty easy to find.

  • Many people consider even loose-fitting pants inappropriate, but this is up for debate when outside of church.

  • Pope Pius XI's Papal Decree Concerning Modesty further added the following: neckline two inches from the back and two inches from the neck on the sides, no flesh covered material, no pants in church, no tight-fitting slacks or jeans ever, dresses that conceal the figure instead of emphasizing it, and dresses that are covered even with the outer jacket removed.

So, these are the rules for women. Up next, I will tell you some of the benefits I have received from adopting this fashion. I will end the series by discussing just exactly how I do it.

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