I think one of the questions that gets asked the most is regarding what to wear or not wear during your massage and what type of draping is most appropriate for your massage. So here are my thoughts on this.

The Two Basic Questions About Draping For Your Massage

     1) How much to wear
     2) What kind of draping to use or not use (sheets, towels, etc. covering your body)

I will let you in on a secret, most therapists prefer their clients to be completely disrobed for a full body massage and then use the appropriate draping to keep their client’s modesty level respected. I guess that is not a very big secret, at least among therapists, but it can be news to our clients who are unsure what the norms are. So if you are wearing your underwear because you think you are supposed to, maybe you should ask your therapist their opinion. Especially if you want your glutes or hip rotators (piriformis, etc.) worked on.

My Opinion
The bottom line for me is that you need to be as comfortable as possible for your massage, so you should only disrobe to the point you still feel reasonably modest and you should make sure that you talk to your therapist about any draping concerns that you or they might have. If you are worried about what might be covered or uncovered next you are going to have a hard time relaxing.

Discussion Points
One of the things that you might discuss with your therapist is something I emphasize when teaching draping techniques and philosophies to massage school students. I tell them to determine their client’s modesty level and, after explaining the draping plan to their client, either;

A)     Drape securely and really respect the lines of the draping, explaining to their client that they will not work under the sheet at all. This gives the client clear defined boundaries so they do not have to worry about the unexpected.

B)      Drape loosely and then get the clients permission each time that you are going to work under the sheet to address an area that is covered but still within the clients comfort zone to work on (adductors, glutes, etc.). Again the client is in control of the draping at all times.

That all being said, my favorite massage style (Deep Lomi) is best applied when my clients are completely disrobed and minimally draped. This is because of the warm temperature of my treatment room and the long flowing style of the massage and the strokes that start up on the back of the neck and go all the way down to your toes (and then back up again). You just cannot do that work justice with traditional western draping or with a pair of boxer shorts in the way.

Modesty Please!
However, if you are a very modest person, and you still want to try an alternative massage style like Lomi Lomi, there are a lot of things that can be done to help you have a great massage experience without blushing too much.

  • You can wear a bikini or tight briefs that you do not mind getting some massage lotion on.
  • You can make the massage room darker (if it helps, my eyes are actually shut for most of the massage 🙂
  • You can ask to hold the draping whenever your therapist is moving limbs or other parts of the body. That way you are more directly in control.
  • You can ask for heavier, more substantial draping even if it is minimal. For example, I have a really nice arm routine that I do while my clients are lying on their backs, for females I will cover their chest with a small lomi towel and weigh that down with a pillow filled with rice so it will stay in place and just feel more substantial.

Modesty, What Is That?
If you are the low to no modesty type of person you can basically wear as little clothing and have as little draping as you like as long as it does not embarrass your massage therapist and your intentions are to get as relaxed as possible (as opposed to exposing as much as possible), at least in Washington state as there is not a specific state guideline addressing what a client must wear or be draped with that I am aware of.

 However, understand that, like in any relationship, etiquette and tact are always appreciated. Just calling up a therapist and asking if you can lie naked on their table for an hour before even saying, “Hi, my name is….” might make them a little apprehensive as to who you are or what you are after, which is going to make it hard for them to relax and give you their best massage…which, by the way, is the ultimate goal for both of you!

Lastly, remember that different therapists are going to have different modesty levels themselves which need to be respected as well. Take your time and find the therapist that you think will give you the massage that you want and be comfortable with your level of modesty or freedom and you will have the start of a mutually wonderful massage experience.

Joe Lavin LMP, CPT

As always, these are just my opinions, I am not a doctor and I don’t even play one on TV, etc. Please consult with your appropriate medical advisor and, in this case, state and local regulations to form your own opinions that you can then share with others as well 🙂