Whether you are sorting through your closet to find the right clothing for a funeral, or you need to buy something online, choosing your outfit can be a challenge. Deciding how to dress for a funeral is one way you can show respect for the event. Your clothing choices can communicate sympathy and mourning to the grieving family.
Dress codes at funerals and memorials are becoming more personalized, but unless you’ve received specific instructions on what to wear, or unless a particular clothing style is a part of your cultural or religious funeral tradition, it’s not a time to break out bright, loud colors or a sexy cocktail dress. Instead, consider the message you are sending with your clothing choices. How can you show your love and admiration for the person who has died?
Funeral Attire Etiquette: Do’s and Don’ts
Talk to a funeral director or religious leader, or search online to find common do’s and don’ts for funeral attire. A general rule of thumb is to dress as you would for a job interview or for services at the intended church, temple or mosque. Most funeral dress codes fall between business casual to more formal attire, depending on the culture and traditions of the family.
Make sure that you consider the dress requirements for the venue. Some cultural or religious spaces will have requirements or requests for head coverings or other accessories.
Remember that your choice of clothing for a funeral or memorial will not only contribute to the ambiance of the event, but may also be recorded for history in any photos of the day. You want to look back and feel good about your funeral clothes.
What Not to Wear to a Funeral
If you are attending a traditional funeral service, then consider these recommendations:
- Color: What color to wear to a funeral? Black is the traditional color for funeral services. It’s generally acceptable to wear non-black clothing, such as dark blue or gray. Stick with subdued colors and fabric textures so that you don’t pull attention away from the person who is being honored. Avoid red, bright pink, orange, yellow, or other bright colors. White is an acceptable color for shirts worn under darker jackets or sweaters.
- Coverage: Dresses and shirts should cover up to the neck and down to the knees. Avoid revealing attire.
- Shoes: Formal shoes are best to match the formality of the clothing. Avoid athletic shoes and flip-flops.
- Casual: If the event is casual, then avoid wild prints or big logos – unless otherwise requested by the family.
What to Wear to a Funeral for Men
Funeral attire for men can range from casual to formal, but usually include:
- Dark, buttoned suit or a blazer
- Dress shirt or a casual shirt with a collar
- Tuck in the shirt and wear a belt
- Loafers or dress shoes
- Avoid baseball caps, shorts, jeans, and sneakers
- Stick with subdued colors, such as dark colors or earth tones
While a full suit has been the traditional attire for funeral services, many people are shifting to “Sunday best” or “business attire” for modern funeral services. For example, it’s generally acceptable to wear slacks and a polo shirt.
What to Wear to a Funeral for Women
Pair a funeral outfit for women with different accessories and combinations. Consider these options for funeral attire for women:
- A dark dress
- A skirt and blouse or sweater
- A pantsuit set, including slacks and a jacket
- Avoid bright sundresses
- Jewelry or color accents can be added to the outfit if desired
At a formal funeral, the traditional dress is a black dress suit or dress. Women should cover their shoulders and choose dresses or skirts that reach the knees.
What to Wear to a Funeral in the Summer
Even though it is warm outside, your funeral clothes should not be revealing. Here are a few tips to help with summer services:
- Layering: The funeral service might be cool if you are inside a building with an air conditioner. Many people find it beneficial to have a jacket or sweater to wear during the services. This extra layer can be removed when going to the cemetery for a graveside service. The base layer should be a lightweight fabric that is comfortable in warm temperatures.
- Sandals: If you want to keep your feet cool, choose simple, elegantsandals to match the dress or pantsuit. Men generally stick with dress shoes and slacks. Avoid flip flops and other casual shoes.
- Colors: Wearing black in the sun can be hot. You might consider a lighter color, such as gray or brown.
- Accessories: Sunglasses and a hat are essential to help you manage the heat. Choose simple, black sunnies without the summer fun designs. An umbrella can be beneficial for shade in the sun, but if you open it, make sure to stand in the back of the crowd to avoid blocking the view.
What to Wear to a Funeral in the Winter
In the winter, follow the same dress code listed above. But you want to be sure that you will be warm enough when standing outside:
- Coat: Add a coat, such as a classic wool button-up in subdued colors.
- Accessories: A variety of accessories can be helpful against cold temperatures such as scarves, gloves, and hats. A black umbrella can be used as protection if it is snowing or raining.
- Shoes: Avoid open-toed shoes and sandals. If it’s wet outside, rain boots are appropriate.
What to Wear to Other End-of-Life Services
While upper class, high-profile funeral services often expect proper funeral attire, there might be no expectation of dress for non-traditional funerals. The above recommendations are for traditional funeral services. But, with changing times, many families are choosing less-formal events, which gives attendees the option to relax their clothing choices.
Here’s a quick overview of common clothing recommendations for non-traditional services:
- What to wear to a memorial service? Ask questions to determine the formality of the memorial service. Sometimes, a memorial is as proper as a traditional funeral, so your clothing choice should be similar to the guidelines listed above. Other memorial services are casual, such as a backyard gathering or an on-site scattering of the ashes. Look for guidelines from the family for clothing recommendations.
- What to wear to a viewing? A viewing often happens before the funeral service. So, it’s best to follow the same clothing guidelines for both the viewing and the funeral. Traditional funeral services usually require more formal funeral attire for the viewing as well.
- What to wear to a celebration of life? This event should be celebratory in nature, so somber or dark clothing may not be the right fit for the event. Sometimes attendees are invited to wear bright colors, costumes, or clothing to match the theme of an event. For example, if you are attending a celebration of life with a BBQ and tailgate theme, then it might be appropriate to wear your favorite jeans and sports jersey.
When in doubt, it’s usually best to stick with conservative or traditional funeral clothing. If you are unfamiliar with the service location or the family, then err on the side of overdressing rather than underdressing.
Shopping Options for Funeral Attire
Here are a few resources if you need to buy funeral clothing for an upcoming service:
- Funeral Dresses
- Black Handbags
- Women’s Dress Shoes
- Women’s Pantsuits
- Men’s Dress Shoes
- Men’s Suits
- Men’s Blazers
- Black Umbrellas
- Wool Coats
There’s no reason why you can’t choose clothing for a funeral that has both substance and style. The most important thing to remember is that the dress code for a funeral reflects the wishes of the family in remembering their loved one. Depending on their faith and their formality, their preferred clothing for a funeral or memorial may be more or less familiar to you. Don’t be afraid to ask what you should wear to a funeral. It’s a sign of respect to want to dress appropriately, so good on you for being thoughtful!