Dress For a Funeral

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Funerals are respectful occasions, and part of being respectful is dressing appropriately. This article covers Christian funerals. What is considered suitable dress for mourning varies by culture.

Steps

  1. Though black is traditional for a funeral, there are other options that are just as acceptable today, depending on how well you knew the person.
    • Men: If you want to dress traditional, wear a black suit. This includes a plain white shirt and a long, non-vibrant necktie. However, there are always exceptions to the rules. A black suit with a black turtleneck, black dress shirt with long black tie, black dress shirt (no tie; first button unbuttoned), or a black t-shirt (clean, kind of silky) could all be acceptable depending on the family.
    • Women: If you want to be traditional, go with a black suit, either skirt or pants. Otherwise, the following options are recommended. If it is summer, choose a black cocktail dress that is plain and not too short or low-cut. For winter, wear a black skirt and black sweater or a long-sleeved black dress (again, not too short). Make sure to wear close-toed shoes! If you want to mix it up a little, get a hat, such as a wide brimmed black hat. Don't wear a trucker hat or other casual hat! If you are unsure in this department, look at some pictures of Queen Elizabeth II, or any other female member of the English Royal Family at a funeral. They have the basic idea. A feather or flower on the hat is good, as long as it's not enormous or gaudy.
  2. Children should be appropriately dressed as well. Little boys should be outfitted in a black suit, possibly similar to Daddy's. Little girls should wear a "box-like" dress, meaning it flows straight down from the shoulders, without any beading or sequins. For shoes, ballet flats may be a good choice for girls and boys may wear black dress shoes or loafers (like Dad's) or even plain black sneakers.
  3. Some do not believe that funeral attire should be strictly black in color. While the person's death should be grieved, it seems also appropriate to celebrate the person's life with some color-- not anything too bright like lime green or neon yellow, but perhaps a deep red or a pale blue.
  4. Plan to wear something tasteful and conservative, especially if there is a religious service at a church, funeral home or grave side. Black, navy, gray or other dark colors usually appear more conservative. A "sexy" dress, even if black, is not appropriate, as some churches prefer the shoulders remain covered.
  5. Leave your flip flops, Timberlands and athletic wear at home and opt for more sensible and appropriate shoes.
  6. As a rule of thumb, dress as you would for church (a more conservative version if your church is casual) or for a job interview. Dresses are appropriate for women. Avoid sun dresses (unless you have a wrap or are a very young child), celebratory patterns (i.e. martini glasses or wild prints), or anything too flashy (i.e. sequins, unless minimal). Gentlemen should wear a sports coat or suit. Everyone should wear polishable shoes (polished, of course).
  7. Consider the temperature and dress accordingly. Men can opt to remove their jackets for anything outside but should at least wear them inside for any services.
  8. If you are a pall-bearer, you should expect to wear a suit or a dark sports coat and tie at the very least.
  9. Funerals out of town may necessitate that you bring multiple outfits or be able to adjust your suit with different shirts, ties, etc. on different days.
  10. In some cases, all black is requested. This means a black suit, black shirt, black tie, and black socks and shoes. Check with the party beforehand.

Tips

  • When dressing for the funeral, think of the deceased person's personality and interests. If they enjoyed baseball, a man could wear a baseball print necktie and a woman could wear jewelry with baseballs on it. If they often wore floral dresses or camo or worshiped their red patent pumps, the dress code could reflect these as well.
  • Immediate family should always lean to the more conservative with attire.
  • Remember to pack multiple outfits if you are attending a wake or viewing the night before. Those can be more business casual if you are a guest.
  • The family may choose to have a more celebratory gathering. If so, and you are not familiar, you shouldn't be afraid to ask what the appropriate attire may be.
  • Ladies, please remember to wear a slip if you are spending any time outside at a grave side.
  • If the funeral takes place on a hot or potentially rainy day, bring an umbrella to protect you from the elements. It is polite to offer it to, and/or offer to hold it for, an elderly attendee.
  • For a very conservative service, some women may opt to wear a more formal hat. This isn't the Kentucky Derby so keep it simple and avoid straw or more casual sun hats.
  • It is a good idea to bring a handkerchief in case you or someone near you tears up.
  • Avoid loud, gaudy jewelry. A tasteful string of pearls? Fine. Your grandmother's five pound emerald necklace? Best to re-think. Charm-bracelets might be good conversation pieces, but their continuous clanking is inevitable- and obnoxious.
  • If you are attending the wake AND funeral and graveside service, to the wake you can wear MOSTLY black with a splash of color if you've only got 1 black outfit. Children can usually wear the same thing, but teens and adults should dress differently for both events. For example, a woman could wear a black skirt with blue swirls to the wake if she only had one completely black outfit, and wear the all black the next day. I have seen immediate family doing this too.

Warnings

  • Men: wear black dress shoes and black socks -- not sneakers!
  • Remember to be respectful.
  • Avoid t-shirts with potentially offensive slogans. Generally, t-shirts should be avoided anyway, but slogans bearing bad language, nude imagery or advertising a particular brand name are definitely not advisable (unless the deceased specifically requested such attire in his/her will; check with the family in advance). In other words, if you feel it is appropriate to wear a t-shirt, it would be best to select a plain one (quality, fit, and condition should also be factors).
  • Ladies, please use caution when attending any service outside. Spike heels (stilettos) can sink into the ground and cause you to fall.
  • On very hot days you can bring a small bottle of water in your handbag, but please be discreet when drinking so as not to distract others.
  • Carry an umbrella in case of rain or excessive sunshine.
  • Waterproof mascara and minimal eyeshadow/eyeliner will help you avoid a mess or irritated eyes.
  • Please offer your seat or umbrella to elderly guests or mothers with very young children.