I keep reading that to visit Churches in Southern Europe (Spain, Italy), women must have covered shoulders and any skirts should be "knee-length" or longer. Sounds simple, but most of my skirts hit just at the top of my kneecap and don't cover the knee--perfectly professional by American standards, but will this get me turned away from Churches I want to visit? Do they mean the whole knee should be covered or is hitting just above the knee acceptable for visiting Churches?
The top of the kneecap will be fine. I have worn dresses that hit the top of the knee and was never denied entry nor looked at sideways.
You should be OK but have seen very picky door checkers and the rule is "covered knees." Potentially a bigger problem in Italy. I have seen males reject in Milan for not covering their knees.
Vatican/St. Peter's - cover the knees - wear capris! Don't take a chance at St. Peter's. Dress code is enforced. Other churches in Italy do not have clothing police. The skirts will be fine. San Marco in Venice is like the Vatican and requires knees and shoulders to be covered. You are flying all the way to Europe - don't get turned away after waiting in a long line because of modesty issues. Admission to a site is far more important than personal style preference. No one else will care what you are wearing - so play it safe with dress codes.
Well I guess it makes a difference who you are:
Also take note of the woman in top right - again knees showing.
If you want to be certain you are applied the stricter rule randomly you can bring along a scarf or pashmina and tie it around your waist or hips to extend the length of your skirt.
Access to Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, Vatican Gardens and Saint Peter's Basilica is permitted only to visitors dressed appropriately (no sleeveless blouses, no miniskirts, no shorts, no hats allowed).
Hitting the top of the knee is by no means a mini skirt.
Please don't do a Jennifer. I also find cleavage baring and form clinging outfits to be disrespectful in churches as well. Jennifer is a VIP and probably paid a lot of money for special access to the Vatican. Note - the linked article was critical, not praising her attire at the Vatican. I think many people are annoyed about the wealthy be given a pass on these matters. Follow the rules! I realize that much of the artwork shows body revealing material. Modesty and humility still matters.
The post referencing Jennifer was not intended to mean it is OK to dress disrespectfully just to demonstrate the rule is not always applied - and btw - Jennifer is just a person - no better nor worse than you or me - she is there entering with all of the other people - pretty sure she doesn't have "special access". As noted there was another woman in the photo with dress above the knee.
In the dress code listed on the Vatican website there is no mention of cover the knee either - just no mini-skirt.
It's not about what you can get away with, its about being respectful.
Whether or not a church has "clothing police" is not the issue. Top of the knee coverage is fine. Tank tops, shorts, miniskirts, sleeveless tops are not.
Surprisingly, churches are places of worship, not tourist attractions, so dress respectfully regardless of which church you are visiting.
Thanks, everyone, for all the opinions!
Pencil skirts is probably a good description for what I have. These are skirts I wear to the office and church in the US, so definitely not miniskirts or skimpy/disrespectful clothing by American standards! I'm not trying to "get away with something," just trying to make sure that the clothes I pick from the wardrobe I own aren't going to be perceived differently in the countries I visit and keep me from seeing places I really want to see.
Good news is we aren't going to Rome so no Vatican guards doing the judging :)
As long as you are not going to St. Peter's or San Marco (Venice) - you will be just fine. Probably better dressed than others, including myself.
We were in Italy two years ago on a Rick Steve's tour in July. I wore a "flip-flop" skirt with a tank top every day. They come just over the knee and are made of t-shirt material. Perfect for HOT days in Italy. I had a scarf tied to my purse that could easily be wrapped over my shoulders when entering a church. When out exploring without our tour group, I forgot the scarf and was denied entrance into one of the churches. Better to be safe than sorry.
Have a great trip!