Marylike Neckline Modesty

A Brief Consideration of One Requirement for Marylike Modesty

Here is one requirement of modesty for women and girls:

Marylike dress requires full coverage for the bodice, chest, shoulders and back; except for a cut-out about the neck not exceeding two fingers’ breadth below the neckline in front and in back and a corresponding two fingers’ breadth on the shoulders.


Quoted from the Decree of Pope Pius XI, 12 January 1930, through his Sacred Congregation of the Council.

Catholic Candle note: Here we focus on one aspect of proper clothing for the upper body – which is only one of many conditions required for fulfilling the Catholic standard of Marylike modesty for women and girls.  Catholic Candle will write about the Catholic standard for skirts/dresses and other aspects of modesty in future articles.

Please note the following nine consequences that flow directly from the above Catholic requirement of Marylike modesty:

1.    This standard is not declared to be the ideal, but rather is the minimum to avoid sin.  It is certainly a spirit contrary to the love of God and to the love of virtue for a Catholic to try to “get as close to sin as possible without crossing the line into sin”.  Thus, a Marylike spirit of modesty would not aim merely at the minimum modesty requirement as if it were the ideal.

2.    This neckline standard applies all the way around a woman’s or girl’s neck, not only in front.

3.    This standard requires clothes that stay in place so that they do not exceed this neckline condition.  Clothes are immodest if a woman or girl must “constantly fix” them because they keep slipping in one direction or another and thereby reveal more than is modest.

4.    This standard requires clothes that maintain this minimum neckline modesty and do not reveal more even when she is bending or leaning forward.

5.    This standard also applies to photographs, paintings, and statues, whether the woman or girl who is depicted is known or unknown.  It would obviously be illogical for a woman to carefully dress modestly herself but also to promote or display scandalous art on her wall (or scandalous pictures of her relatives hung with magnets on her refrigerator, etc.).  For the very same reason that she is forbidden to dress this way, a Catholic is forbidden to promote or display such immodest images.


6.    This standard is not dependent upon the weather, because hot weather does not justify the sin of immodesty.

7.    This standard does not change based on the activities in which the woman or girl is engaged.  Catholic modesty does not have an exception for swimming or athletic pursuits.


8.    Parents, especially fathers, have a duty to guide the women and girls under their care and enforce this Catholic standard of modesty.


9.    Parents, especially mothers, have a duty to guide their daughters not only to comply with this Marylike neckline standard (and other aspects of modesty), but to love modesty.

One final consideration: We live in pagan times.  Let us beware of rationalizing immodesty by saying that this standard of Marylike modesty is old fashioned and that we live in modern times where the requirements of modesty are weaker.  Here is Pope Pius XII’s warning against this excuse:

The most insidious of sophisms, which are usually repeated to justify immodesty, seems to be the same everywhere.  One of these resurrects the ancient saying “let there be no argument about things we are accustomed to”, in order to brand as old fashioned the rebellion of honest people against fashions which are too bold…


Pope Pius XII, Address to the Latin Union of High Fashion, November 8, 1957.


Let women and girls love to always dress with Marylike modesty! 

Let men and boys appreciate, admire, and defend women and girls who dress modestly!