Are bare shoulders appropriate at Mass?

I know, I know… Another thread on modest dress! But this question has bothered me all summer as we’ve gone on family vacations and attended Mass at various parishes and I’ve noticed all the bare shoulders. Sometimes it’s spaghetti straps and sometimes it’s tank tops or sun dresses that otherwise cover everything (i.e. no cleavage), but it definitely seems to be the norm (at least in the parishes we went to both in California and Massachusetts). It wasn’t just young women who had bare shoulders either. Are bare shoulders becoming acceptable in Catholic Churches? Is it the norm where you are?

I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable with bare shoulders in Mass. That’s just me though and I guess it’s not the popular view these days!

Personally this is my time honored rule, if you would wear it to the beach or a nightclub it’s not acceptable and respectful in church.

you never know what excites someone…

anything that distracts people’s minds from Jesus is wrong…

The sleeveless sweater I wore for Assumption Mass is not ever something I would wear to the beach or a nightclub. :cool:

That being said - I had a light weight wrap to cover my shoulders so I was appropriately covered. In spite of the fact that it was over 90 degrees and our Church is not air conditioned. And we were packed in like sardines.

I do not think that bare shoulders are appropriate for Mass - it’s far too casual. Even a short sleeve is better than totally naked arms.

In our parish where it is very hot in the summer with no AC, it is definitely the minority who come to Mass with bare shoulders.

Now this leads the discussion - how much sleeve is appropriate? Some feel that anything less than 3/4 length is not enough. I am fine with short sleeves, as long as I’m not seeing someone’s bare armpits when they reach forward for the hymnal. :rolleyes:

I think then it gets into personal preference. But as for bare shoulders - I think that’s a no-no and priests need to stress appropriate dress for Mass.


This would be the norm at most parishes I have attended.

My wife usually has bare shoulders at Mass on hot days.

It is hard to gauge appropriateness in a vacuum. For example, anything you wear to Mass today would not have been appropriate 1300 years ago.

I would argue that bare shoulders, in most cases, are appropriate.

bare shoulders are not appropriate at Mass…in the summer, short sleeves are okay if there is no ac…I have seen bare shoulders though here in New York…

My personal opinion is no, it is not appropriate. One person suggested the standard for dress should be that which is allowed for entry into St. Peters Basilica in Rome. That sounds good to me. Most of the time it is strictly enforced. Sometimes some people get through because of crowds. Some never learn.

As I abandoned tank tops, spaghetti straps and sleeveless anything a while back, this is, for me, a moot point. However, I don’t really find fault with sleeveless tops (a modest sleeveless “shell”) but think that spaghetti straps (often, with bra straps hanging out :eek:) and other types of tops that show too much chest and shoulders aren’t really appropriate.

Down here, dress at Mass tends to be extremely casual, and will run the gamut from the occasional "“Sunday dress”, to modest skirts and tops, to thoroughly inappropriate shorts, mini-skirts, tank tops, halters (cleavage and all!) …you name it, we see it. I wonder what people are thinking. Men in shorts and flip flops are a common sight.

no a/c??

When I ask a question of myself regarding such a matter as “bare shoulders at Mass”, I know the answer, it is an emphatic “no.” For a matter of scheduling convenience, my wife and I recently attended a Saturday evening Mass. We were distracted and disturbed by the Cantor’s (or is it Cantress?) bare shoulders during the singing of the Psalm, specially when she raised her arms for the congregation’s response.

Just one other point. Even if everyone in the church is doing something and is even permitted, does not make it acceptable, e.g., Holy Communion in the hand. Perhaps M. Luther was right, “tolle missam, tolle ecclesiam.”

I don’t think it is appropriate at Mass (for men or women- this doesn’t have so much to do with the sexual purity of those around you as it does with your ability to dress appropriately for each occasion). I wouldn’t wear a sleeveless shirt or jeans with holes all over it to a fancy restaurant- why would I wear something like that to Mass, which I should consider even more formal?

I’m usually at the TLM, and the women there cover up. But I was at two OF weddings this summer and I’d say easily 80% of the women ages 50 and under wore strapless or spaghetti strap dresses. Wedding party included.

What happened to the little white church sweaters that everyone used to wear in the summer months? Is that a thing of the past now? Growing up as a kid in the 70’s we were always required (by Mom, not the Bishop :wink: ) to cover our shoulders for Mass. Everyone else covered their shoulders, too.

I don’t get it. What is wrong with bare shoulders? They are shoulders, not breasts or belly buttons or barely covered bums and legs. I have bare shoulders (but not spaghetti straps) year round because I am of that hormonal age where I am hot most if not all the time. No man has ever paid unwanted attention with me because of my shoulders. Are men distracted by bare shoulders, do you think?

This came up in my parish recently. We haven’t – and aren’t going to try – to tell the congregation what to do. But we are working on guidelines for liturgical ministers or anyone who serves as the public face of the church.

What we’ve agreed on so far has to do with issues of modesty and respect.

No shorts, no bare shoulders (tube tops, spaghetti straps, tank tops, etc.), no bare midriffs. No advertising on clothes, no flip flops, no sneakers.

These things will apply even to those being covered by a choir robe or alb since clothing often shows through.

It’s going to be interesting to see how people respond to this, especially if they’re asked not to serve on a particular day because of how they’re dressed.

Personally I would like to see this extended to bridal parties and anyone asked to bring up the gifts but I don’t think that will happen.

One step at a time.

Can you explain this odd statement? If something is permitted by the Church, it is surely acceptable.

We don’t have the right to make up our own rules on what is acceptable in church. If Rome says it’s permitted, that’s the end of it, when it comes to public worship.

Sure, why not? It would be even more appropriate if you were naked.

You are in my prayers.

Nothing is wrong with bare shoulders or anything else you’ve mentioned. But at Mass, it’s best if all that is covered.

Well, shoulders are something that have become much less eroticism than they once were. In many places, especially when it’s hot, sleeveless tops are considered perfectly modest - and there is no intent to be immodest or provocative.

I don’t think that in general, this is just a case of people falling in with immodest fashions, people really don’t read bare shoulders as provocative. And there are lots of things like sundresses that have bare shoulders but are otherwise very modest and pretty and not sloppy. (Of course, there are immodest clothing that also has bare shoulders, or bare shoulder clothing that is very sloppy, but that is a different issue.)

I think shoulders are in much the same league as ankles. I would be surprised to see anyone post here complaining of being able to see someones ankles in church, but it was a common complaint in the 20’s, when fashions changed after the war.

So, assuming you are in North America, I wouldn’t say bare shoulders alone would make an outfit inappropriate.

That’s what I wear 3 out of 4 Sundays! A little white sweater that matches most of my dresses. The sleeves go just past my elbows and it’s not too hot. I love the little white church sweaters! :slight_smile: