In most cases, restraint is the key to dressing and accessorizing for a funeral or celebration of life. Wearing jewelry that is subtle and modest shows respect not only to the deceased but to their family. When you dress for a funeral, you should be thinking about the family and loved ones of the person who passed away, not how to make yourself stand out. Leave the long, dangly earrings and clinking metal bracelets at home.
But, not every funeral is the same. Consider the following questions when deciding what accessories to wear with a black dress or other funeral attire.
What are you wearing?
The tradition for most funerals in the United States is for mourners to wear dark blue, black clothing or other dark colors. This is not true for every cultural background or religion, however. For some, white is the color of mourning in many different cultural traditions, while red and other bright colors are often considered inappropriate. Other traditions do not permit mourners to wear any jewelry to a funeral (except, perhaps, a wedding ring). You may want to ask the funeral home or a friend of the family of the deceased if you have any questions about funeral jewelry or etiquette.
Appropriate funeral jewelry to wear with a black dress or suit includes elegant and subtle pieces. Pearls can be a good option. In the Japanese tradition, women may wear one strand of white pearls. Small sterling silver, gold, or jeweled pieces are also usually a fine choice, as long as they are not distracting. In some cases, a simple stainless steel piece may be suitable for mourning jewelry. Religious jewelry, such as a simple cross, would also be appropriate. But, it’s best to avoid any jewelry that might swing, clank together, or cause a disturbance to others.
How formal is the funeral?
This is a tricky question because nearly all funerals are formal occasions. When in doubt, assume more formality rather than less. A dark suit (dress pants, dress shoes, a shirt, and tie) for a man is nearly always appropriate funeral wear. For women, a modest dark dress or skirt and blouse may be a safe choice. When you attend a funeral, dressing with modesty and formality shows respect for the deceased and his or her family.
That said, some funerals may be much less formal than others. The family might suggest that mourners wear special attire that was a favorite of the deceased. For example, wearing golf clothes to remember an avid golfer. In this case, you may choose what jewelry to wear based on those suggestions. You should still dress modestly and avoid excessive or overly showy jewelry. Leave off anything that might make noise, lights up or might be distracting in other ways. Avoid wearing flip flops, baseball caps, and short-sleeved shirts.
How well did you know the deceased?
Your relationship with the deceased could help you decide what jewelry to wear. If the deceased was a close friend and you know that she loved a particular pair of your earrings, this may be the perfect time to wear them. Antique funeral jewelry that was a gift from the departed can also be a wonderful way to show how much you’re thinking of them. But, be respectful of others. If you know that a necklace you were given was once promised to someone else, this isn’t the time to bring it out and risk a confrontation.
You may also want to consider what you know the departed might have liked. If you know that the person loved cats, a pair of subtle paw print earrings could be the ideal memorial jewelry to wear with a black dress. A silver or gold cat tie pin or cufflinks might also be appropriate. Don’t overdo it – you still want to be respectful to the situation and not draw undue attention to yourself. But showing the family that you are thinking about what mattered to the deceased can be quite meaningful.