It seems as though the world has become a much more casual place in the past few decades, and as a result, it can be difficult to know what to wear to a funeral or other solemn occasion. When it doubt, it’s better for your funeral attire to be more formal rather than less. Your clothing should show respect to the deceased and his or her family, and many people feel like dressing up is a way to honor the person who has passed away. Certain religious and cultural traditions require funeral clothing that is different from the traditional black, so if you aren’t sure, ask the family or a close friend.
Read on for more advice on typical funeral clothing and accessories.
It’s often suggested that you should dress for a funeral the way that you would dress for a job interview – in conservative, well-tailored clothing that looks professional and isn’t distracting. While what is appropriate to wear to a job interview may vary depending on your profession, the idea is a good one. For men, that means a suit and tie or nice slacks and a sports coat. Women should wear a dress, skirt and blouse, or nice pantsuit. Choose plain dress shoes, and women should wear medium to low heels.
As important as knowing what to wear to a funeral is knowing what not to wear:
- No low cut blouses, crop tops, or belly shirts. Avoid tops with cutouts of any kind.
- No sleeveless tops. Cap sleeves are OK, but longer sleeves are better. If needed, wear a sweater, wrap, or jacket to cover your arms.
- No miniskirts. All dresses and skirts should fall at the knee or lower.
- No jeans, if possible. If you have no other options, make sure that the jeans are a darker color, clean, and have no rips or fraying areas.
- No sexy shoes on women. Go with solid colors, and a lower heel, and avoid sparkles or metallic detailing.
Dress Formally and Neatly
Funerals are solemn and usually formal occasions, so your funeral attire should reflect that. Not all of us own suits or nice conservative dresses, however, and we don’t all have the money to go out and buy a new funeral outfit. That’s OK.
Take a look in your closet at what you do have. Wear the best shirt or blouse that you own that’s white, a subdued solid color, or a simple pattern. Choose a skirt or slacks in a dark color, if you have them. Don’t wear blue jeans, if you can avoid it, but if you have no other options, choose a pair that’s as dark as possible. Make sure that everything is clean, ironed, and without rips or stains. If you don’t have a sports coat, wear your nicest jacket or coat, if the weather is appropriate.
Funeral clothing is about showing respect for the family and for the deceased. As long as you keep that in mind, you should be able to find what to wear to a funeral in your own closet.
Black Is Preferred, But Not Required
Many of us immediately think “black” when we think of what to wear to a funeral, but it’s not always required. Unless the family requests black only, any darker and more subdued colors are appropriate, including dark blue, burgundy, grays, and darker browns. You can also wear a white or light colored shirt or blouse under a sweater, jacket, or sports coat. It’s best to avoid bright or distracting colors, including reds, oranges, and any color in neon or fluorescent tones. Black and other dark colors show respect, which should always be your goal for funeral clothes.
Avoid the temptation to overdo the black in your funeral outfit or to wear a miniskirt just because it’s black. There’s nothing wrong with a conservative black dress, but keep it tasteful. This isn’t the time for an overly sexy little black dress or layers of black fabric that draw attention to you and away from the service.
Don’t Try to Be the Center of Attention
The funeral isn’t about you – it’s about the deceased and paying respect to the family. In terms of what to wear to a funeral, this means that you shouldn’t wear any clothing that is distracting or draws attention to you. Don’t wear bright colors or patterns (unless the family specifically requests it), or an outfit that would be a better fit at a nightclub. Cover up with fitted jackets, sweaters, or wraps. You may also want to think about comfort; that dark wool sweater may be conservative and appropriate, but if it leaves you itchy and squirming during the funeral, you won’t be focused on the service.
Appropriate Funeral Jewelry
Tone down the jewelry that you wear with your funeral outfit. Men should stick to a watch and wedding ring only. Women should select subtle and conservative pieces. Pearls are a good option, as are simple stud earrings and a small necklace. Leave the dangling earrings and bangle bracelets for another time. Large diamonds or other distracting pieces should also be avoided.
A good option for what to wear to a funeral is a piece of jewelry that reminds you of the deceased or that has a special meaning to you. You might wear a necklace that your departed love one gave you as a gift, for example. As long as these items aren’t distracting to you or others, they can be a nice way to honor the departed.