Please sign in to post.

covering knees in Europe

Does anyone know if an upper calf-length stretchy yoga style pant under my dress would be acceptable at chapels??? This would show the shape of my legs but not skin (I'm not sure what it is that is offensive about my knees, so not sure exactly what it is I need to cover). I wear lightweight dresses only that fall just above my knees. We plan to visit a LOT of chapels in Italy so I'm looking for lightweight, cool, small, wrinkle-free packing ideas to cover my knees. The sarong/scarf thing does NOT work for me (too big, long and heavy to get one that will wrap around my waist and go all the way down past my knees and cover both of them).

Posted by
993 posts

Just came back from Italy in mid May. My niece wore leggings under her dress when we visited the churches in Italy. She did not have any issues.

Have a great trip.


Posted by
23 posts

Just back from a similar trip (25 churches visited!) and wore capris or skimmer shorts with no problem. The only place checking clothing was the Vatican and it seemed bare shoulders were more of an issue there.

Have a great rip!

Posted by
302 posts

Not sure how budget conscious you are, I really like Athleta and there's a summer sale now- because the fabric is meant for working out it is "sweat wicking" and etc. I love the newer style that includes a leg pocket big enough for a cell phone. That said, it's needing shoulders and even sometimes your head covered. For this reason even if you are a scarf hater you should carry a very lightweight one big enough for shoulders/ head in your bag, just in case. My experience was those watching visitors enter were watching for respectful intent. Men in shorts, women in skimpy sundresses or tank tops- those were pulled aside to be given some kind of temporary cover-up ( sometimes) or denied entry ( less often).

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you all for the very helpful feedback! I will check out Athleta. I always wear a lightweight jacket or sweater with my sundresses since I’m not fond of showing off my upper arms anyway, and I have two that match all my dresses (1 white, 1 blue). The problem is, they wrinkle badly when I pack them, so I haven’t figured out how I’m going to deal with that. I usually iron them, but that just seems like too much for this trip. I am considering a lightweight scarf - it would not need to be big, I’m just worried it will get annoying flopping and slipping around all day. I haven’t found any super-lightweight wrinkle-free sweaters or jackets! The ones I found on travelwear sites are either patterned or too tailored for sundresses.
Thank you for mentioning covering your head! I never thought of that being an issue.

Posted by
996 posts

Your pants should be fine for what you want. As far as the shoulders, we saw one woman with two garbage bags taped around her shoulders so that she could enter. I'm betting that even a wrinkled sweater would look way better. And you can always take it off once you're outside the chapel.

Posted by
4174 posts

I'm not sure what you mean by a scarf "flopping and slipping around all day." I've found that a scarf can brighten up an outfit, hide a world of spaghetti sauce sins, and depending on the fabric, can be a help if you get sweaty.

There are lots of ways to tie a scarf. You can find tons of illustrations and videos, many of which show how to tie a scarf into a shoulder cover up or a knee cover up. Most use a rectangular scarf, not a square one. For summer, a loosely woven scarf is best, not silk or anything slippery.

I only have rectangular scarves. Most weigh weigh 4 oz or less. I do 2 basic things with them that are not very hot: tie a basic European loop or tie the two ends together in a knot. Period.

If you find something like that too hot, there are a couple of other things you can do with a scarf when you're not covering up with it: tie it to your cross-body purse or tote or day bag or simply fold it up and put it inside.

BTW, the dress codes are about showing respect in houses of worship. Everybody must cover their shoulders and knees, male and female, with the only exception maybe being very small children.

Most of the churches will require that you are appropriately dressed. If you are not, they will give or sell you wraps. The price at St. Mark's in Venice was 1€ per wrap in the summer of 2017. I saw many people seem shocked that they had to buy one both for the top and for the bottom, in spite of all the signs warning them about that.

This is a link to some pictures of the sign at St. Peter's.

Posted by
613 posts

Scarves are a great travel accessory!

As seen in the link that Lo provided, there’s no requirement for women to cover your head in a Roman Catholic Church. Not since the changes of Vatican II some 50 years ago. As a lifelong Catholic I would have a polite but firm response to any staff member who told me otherwise.

Posted by
4595 posts

Are there no shrugs for sale at this time of year As a light weight option? Also, scarf for church visits only needs using at the church, so flopping all day isn't necessary.
Depending on your size vs availability of size of scarf, there is a way to tie a scarf into a kimono jacket look which is cool, easy and a popular look.
A summer weight cardigan with short sleeves in white or black would solve the problem, in my mind, but each to theirn own style sense.

Posted by
1194 posts

I have tied my grand foulard (big scarf) into a kimono on many occasions. I use a large square scarf for that. Tie two near corners together. Repeat. Slip arms through holes.

Check the “knot library” at for ideas on how to tie a scarf.

I found some nice short sleeve and light sweaters on sale at Dress Barn.

Posted by
1625 posts

Carnes-I have really big arms and I have gotten over the not wanting them to show, they are tanned and toned and I get hot so I wear lots of tanks and carry a very light scarf with me all over Europe to cover my shoulders (need be), use as a picnic blanket, chair cover and warmth if needed. My scarfs are all Viscose fabric and fit in my smallish purse. Last summer I saw many women in shorts who would pull out the scarf, wrap around their hips and enter a church. Most of the scarfs were that chiffony type fabric, you could probably even buy one in Italy. I would think wearing yoga pants under a lightweight dress would look funny and be hot. I wear capris, jeans and maxi skirts.

Posted by
7463 posts

I’ve brought (and am packing again) a black open-weave longer black cardigan sweater that works for churches and to wear in the evening. It’s not heavy & hot because of the lighter loose-weave. I think I bought it at either Dress Barn or Macy’s.

Posted by
47 posts

I tend to wear skirts that are right at the top of my knee ( jean skirts etc ). We are going to France for the first time ( actually first time in Europe ) will these work or will I have to wear longer skirts / pants to Notre Dame etc.


Posted by
2 posts

Just got back from 12 days in Italy. Yes, some of the churches, especially the Vatican require shoulders and knees to be covered, for men, women and children. Best thing I did was pack for that situation. I didn't want our day to be ruined by my shoulders or knees showing. Men can easily get away with the zip on/zip off pants that make shorts. You could too but I found breezy skirts to be the most comfortable in the heat. It was so hot. then a light weight breezy top. No spaghetti strap tank tops. I took a little bolero jacket, white, that I could slip on and off easily and it fit in my little purse too. Allowed me to cover up when I needed to and then tuck away when I didn't need it. I don't think the Europeans like leggings much. I only saw two adult women wearing them under skirts or dresses., and they were Americans. Honestly, that would have been too hot. Breezy, light weight midi skirts will be the best for your trip. You probably only need 3. Pack about 6 tops and you have six outfits.

Posted by
59 posts

When are you going? If it’s hot at all you’ll hate the leggings.
If you can, just find some midi dresses. It will be so much more comfortable and easy.
Even if they are spaghetti strap it’s okay because you can bring a lightweight cardigan or wear a big scarf around your shoulders when appropriate.
It’s not so much the offensiveness of knees as the immodesty of the length.
But modesty is a whole other subject of opinions lol
Anyway if you have to and it’s your last resort. You can wear leggings. But honestly in the heat you’d better with cargo capris under those dresses then leggings.