Improper Attire at Mass?

Told by a brother from another parish:

A couple with two small children sat on a pew. In front of them sat a young woman dressed in low cut jean and tight short T-shirt revealing quite a lot of flesh and panty next to her older sister.

The husband wanting not to be distracted left his seat to sit somewhere else. The two children were very uneasy and made a show of it by trying to cover their eyes with their fingers.

After the mass, the wife told the girl nicely that she should not come to mass dressed like that as it can cause distraction to other people in the congregation. The sister heard this, got angry, and told her harshly that she was bullying and humiliating her sister. It was not for her to tell her sister that. The wife was so upset that she cried and no doubt a mass spoilt for her.

What is your comment? (1) on people who come to the mass dressed scantily and (2) should a fellow parishoner like the lady in the incident takes it to herself and tells the culprit off?

God bless you.

That’s always a difficult situation. I have found myself making comments trying to purposefully be heard by, say, the mother or father, but it just breeds resentment in myself. My husband and I rarely attend our Sunday Novus Ordo mass, and this is one reason for that. At the TLM, you’ll never see someone dressed that way, and it brings great peace to know that we can enter our place of worship and know that all those gathered truly understand what we’re doing there and dress and behave appropriately.

Some things to consider:

  1. Consider the TLM as an option if you have one available nearby.
  2. Discuss it with the priest and/or sisters in your parish about addressing the situation.
  3. Sit directly in the front row, where you are all less likely to be able to view the offenses.

Ultimately I’ve come to the conclusion that saying something directly to the person always ends badly. However, you could consider obtaining small booklets on appropriate attire at mass (there are a number of sources available) and either placing them on windshields at mass (some don’t like that idea, but it’s an option), or handing them to a parent of a poorly dressed child (or the adult if they themselves are the problem), or asking your pastor if he would be willing to have them distributed with each bulletin after mass for, say, a month, to ensure that as many parishioners as possible can get one.

No matter what you decide to do, pray for them and the culture they are being so influenced by.

  1. People should not come to mass inappropriately attired / dressed scantily. If I find myself sitting near such a person It requires greater effort on my part to remain focused on the mass and prayer.

  2. As to whether one should say somthing, I don’t think it is appropriate to “tell the culprit off”, however it is certainly appropriate to politely explain that such attire is distracting to others at mass.

Beyond that, there is little anyone can do except possibly talk to your priest about it.


its very difficult, that situation.

first: assume the person means well. assume they just dont understand, or have no better clothing! you never go wrong by assuming the best when you speak to them (even if you dont believe it)

second. NEVER tell someone not to come to Mass. frankly, when i see a young person coming to Mass i rejoice! it is our job to TRAIN them in the right way… not potentially give them an excuse not to come!

given the culture today… its truly appalling how many people (young and old) either do not have any idea what they look like, or do not own any decent clothing.

if it ever comes up again. try asking "may i speak to you?"
“honey, you probably dont know this… but an awful lot of your underwear shows… and a lot of folks were looking at you (or trying not to) instead of the Mass. i know its hard to find good clothes these days… Can i help?”

you may still get yelled at… but then you know you did your best.

I’d think “thank God they are at Mass” and let God handle the rest.

The woman defended her sister… chance she has been praying like made to get her sister into Mass, only to have a less-than-loving reception.

The story of the prodigal, the Father ran to meet the son a long way off - this young woman may be a long way off, it is our job to run to meet her. The new robes come later in the journey.

I’m not a big fan of fraternal correction in situations like this - not because it’s intrinsically wrong, but because it can easily sound uncharitable. The woman who brought this to the attention of the two young women should have been prepared for a hostile response - people don’t like to be judged, regardless of whether that judgment is warranted. That the woman was unable to handle it when the sister judged her is a case in point. If you can’t stand the heat, don’t go into the kitchen.

The other concern I have in situations like this is that such a confrontation will discourage someone from attending mass. So caution is always advisable, and often it’s best to direct the issue to the priest. The priest is trained to deal with these problems, and he also commands more respect from average parishioners than the cranky woman sitting behind them.

Guess which parish church has a dress code which considers the following attire as inappropriate:

transparent clothing; strapless garments; any garment which exposes the stomach or any intimate area of the body, tank-tops; halter tops; dresses, skirts and shorts which are shorter than four (4) inches from the middle of the knee; garments with obscene logos; low-cut blouses; obvious lack of undergarments.
Your guess is as good as mine. Those happen to be the clothing restrictions set by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons for visitors of inmates at federal detention facilities (PDF).

Diogenes at Off the Record on wonders aloud: “So ask yourself: did the persons who presented themselves to receive the Eucharist at your parish last Sunday meet the prison decency code?”

It seems to me that the proper response of the entire family would have been to move to another pew. Why did the husband leave his wife and young children alone?

I have spoken to young people about what they wear to church, but the catch is that the are always teens I know–either from my children’s schools, the neighborhood, or my religious ed classes.

I have never heard that trying to correct someone on their outfit goes over well. Usually a comment from the priest works best. I’ve only heard them as the weather gets warmer, but I know that at the beach or vacation spots it is more common.

This is not a “TLM” issue.

I have worn shorts to TLMs and I have seen others who were not dressed in a cheap suit (or worse a coat from an old suit and contrasting slacks) or a flowery dress that seems the de-facto uniform at TLMs here locally.

This is difficult…and real.

It is very hard for me to accept the attire of some young women (and men) at Mass as I struggle with a sexual addiction. Any form of indecency can cause me and many others a great deal of angst. But also the way people dress in general is a problem. Jeans, T-shirts with logos, sandals (arrgh), the list goes on and on; I am most often literally the only male who wears a tie, seriously.

The answer to 1) is to move you and your family away to another area of the church, this alone can be enough of a message to any individual that is inappropriately dressed. The front pew is always best to avoid all the latest fashions. One other thought, come early, leave late and miss all the extraneous modeling. Remember too, God does not care what any of us look like; He loves ALL of us and welcomes ALL of us ALL of the time!

And 2) leave the discussion of any indecency with the parish priest. No one should risk “scaring” parishioners away. The Lord is Happy that His Child came to Mass, He will help him/her to understand what is appropriate and what may not be. Pray for him/her and ask God to replace in them a desire to please Him and not their need for drawing attention to oneself. And pray you and me, that God will foster hearts full of love and compassion for our brothers and sisters instead of hearts that only want to judge and criticize.

The bottom line is “Let it be and Let GOD!” :gopray2:

hmmm. i live in jeans, but they fit me like slacks… not tight at all… and usually black jeans or green corduroys… and v neck or printed t shirts (abstract designs, flowers, the only words on my t shorts are things like garden seed packets…) otherwise its ankle length skirts. i wear ballet slipper style shoes since i have knee problems. i wore sandals ONCE (dressy ones if i recall) and was embarrassed by the squeeking noise they made.

of course i look like the girl next door, or the grad student next door… i doubt my attire is lust inducing, as you usually see only hands face and a bit of neck. are jeans in general a problem? i mean if they dont fit tight or anything? no one has ever said anything.

mind you it may be a bit incongruous that i also like chapel veils…

i am of the opinion that womens clothing in church went to hell, or at least purgatory, as soon as women stopped wearing veils or scarves.

anyway, off topic… i may have some twine left in the K of C colors. maybe. if i do would you like a Rosary? and if i dont have any KofC twine left would you liek a Rosary in any other colors?

I would be hesitant to say anything if they were brand new to the church. I wouldn’t know enough to know what to say. In that case, I would wait and see if they returned, and get to know them a bit.

My Mom took two young girls aside after Mass one Sunday and put her arms around them , telling them how beautiful they were…they smiled and thanked my Mom for the compliment just as my Mom added, but PLEASE don’t ever dress this way at Mass! My adolescent brothers were so happy and proud of my Mom for doing this because they knew she did it out of love for them and reverence for God’s House.

Thanks everybody for the response and suggestion.

I discussed this with a few friends in my archdiocese and their response basically fall into two categories:

(1) Those who adamantly feel that it is our duty to play a part in telling parishioners to dress properly for mass. It is like coming to a special occasion where one meets the king; would one not come in their Sunday best? What happen with coming to the mass in our Sunday best? Those in this category also sadly rued the lack of reverence that Catholics have for the mass; they cite Protestants who dressed their best in similar situation and why can’t Catholic do the same?

This category feels that there are people but especially teens who purposely dress to provoke or to rebel or just wanting to be different. They feel that this is negative to the church and all the more that we try to help them.

(2) Those, who like some of you, feel it is best to leave to the priest to handle this issue. This category feels that wisdom must be exercised in dealing with the situation – on whether to tell the culprit or not. Besides we can be easily seemingly like the Pharisees – judging the motive of others.

What do you think?

God bless.

Good suggestion. The church where this happened is quite small – the husband did not actually have any choice but to leave the family. When you come with the family it is quite difficult to have an empty pew for everybody.

But maybe they should come earlier to secure their choice of seat but then again what does it tells us that we have to play musical chairs because someone in the congregation does not dress appropriately for the mass? I suppose that was why the wife picked up that courage to tell the culprit. Personally, I do not think that was wise for her to do so because if she was upset, in this case she was, she would not be able to fraternally correct the young woman with love.

God bless.

One time I convinced my “very troubled” teenage nephew to come to Mass and it took a lot of convincing… & it was his first time at a Mass; he wore his hat inside the church and someone came scolded him and demanded he take off his hat…I could never get him to come back again. That person ruined in a matter of seconds all of my efforts to help this young man. I could never convince him again to come back to Mass.

But also referring to the highlighted section of your post, that behavior by that family is just a little tad dramatic. But then again I live in FL…there are half naked people walking all over the place here.

Yes, this is just the problem. Unless you know the people in question, how can anyone presume to take the right approach to the situation? When we are told not to judge, that is a major part of the reason; we often don’t have the tools to do it appropriately. In a situation like this, what is there to be lost by letting it go? If the person comes back, and keeps coming, it’s actually quite likely that his or her dress will begin to change even if no one makes any comment, maybe even without the individual realizing it. And if not, then someone who actually has a good rapport with the person can talk to him about it.

Fraternal corrections are always supposed to be “in love”. But the person being corrected has to actually see it that way to. If they don’t know the person, how are they supposed to perceive that it is “in love”? Just because the person says so? That is not always a very accurate indicator.

If we want to insist people immediately understand the cultural norms of the group, and the principles involved in modesty and choice of clothes in general, than perhaps we should also insist that they understand and practice all the other principles and norms of Christians before they enter the church door. How many of us could step through at that point I wonder?

I never said that it was. I simply stated that going to the TLM is one way to avoid the offenses committed by those dressing indecently. I regularly attend the TLM and wear neither a suit, slacks nor a flowery dress, tyvm.

Perhaps you do not realize this, but please re-read your remarks, as they are quite insulting to me as a TLM-mass goer.

Besides that, I’m sure everyone here commenting on this thread would rather see everyone at their church in “cheap suits” and “duggar-like dresses” than the skanky clothes most of us are forced to endure viewing on others now.

Offering-up the “TLM” as some sort of silver-bullet can be offensive to those of us with a love of ALL Catholic sacrificial liturgies.

I don’t know over it would prefer “cheap suits” and “duggar-like dresses” over “skanky clothes” if the former came with a judgmental attitude…

The scolding and the demand that he remove his hat was worse than wearing it. Sadly the scolder will never realize that.

You possibly could have prepared him to leave his hat in the car. The scolder could certainly have minded their own business or at least approached your nephew with tact and love.

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