"Undress to your comfort level". Though this is a common phrase in the massage industry, and long time massage clients generally understand what to expect and what's expected of them going into a session, for those newer to massage it can be a confusing directive. And, because leaving on certain articles of clothing, jewelry, or accessories can possibly limit treatment options or hinder the flow of the session, it is definitely something you don't want to be confused about!
While there are several massage techniques that can be done over clothing, in what most would consider a traditional massage, the client undresses completely and is covered by a sheet and blanket for the session. Any Massage Therapist should be well familiar with Draping; a technique of folding and tucking the sheets to allow access to arms and legs for massage while protecting the client's modesty. Draping is something I take very seriously as that feeling of comfort and security from being properly covered throughout the session is crucial to achieve any effective amount of relaxation.
In some cases, though, no amount of professional draping or familiarity with massage will be able to overcome the fear or anxiety that some may have being completely undressed...and that's OK! As I said, comfort and security are vital in massage so if leaving on undergarments or other articles of clothing is what feels safest to you then that will always be your best option. Regardless of what your personal comfort level happens to be, chances are there are some massage techniques or modalities that work for you and will help address your needs.