Attending a funeral is something that sadly we are all going to do at some stage in our lives, and whether it’s a close family member, a beloved friend or a favorite co-worker, it’s normal to want to show your respects and to attend any funeral or memorial service being held. No matter how individual your everyday personal style might be, now is not the time to be a rebel and to decide you want to experiment is a completely new and out-there style that will grab the mourners attention for all the wrong reasons.
Unless the deceased left a very clear directive about a fun and wacky or colorful dress code, then the general rule of thumb is to go conservative. While it’s not strictly necessary that you wear all black and go totally somber, darker colors do show more of a mark of respect and black is still very much the appropriate thing, especially if you are attending a traditional and formal event. It’s certainly best to avoid glitter and gold, flashy prints of anything too bold. If you are struggling knowing what to wear to a funeral, we have some guidelines for you below.
Let’s examine further some of the do’s and don’ts when it comes to funeral attire.
It’s important to consider first where the service is being held and whether it is going to be more traditional or casual. If it’s being held in a place of worship that will dictate a very different dress code than a life celebration service on the beach for example. So check the details first and then use some common sense in deciding upon an outfit.
Think about the personality of the deceased and what you know about their family. Are they formal and conservative by nature? In which case, the appropriate way to dress to show the right amount of respect should respect that conservatism. If you are at all unclear about any preferences or dress code that might be in place, it’s always a good idea to check with the family first to avoid any embarrassment.
It’s quite possible that the deceased had a very particular and exuberant sense of humor and may well have specified that everyone on the day should be wearing purple. If so, go with the flow. Today is not the day to decide that you want to stand out and make your own statement. You should dress in line with the rest of the mourners.
Also consider the culture of the funeral you are attending. Somber black clothing is associated with a traditional Western funeral but some Asian cultures prefer white and in African cultures red is also worn so again, it won’t harm to ask the question first so that you can ensure that you are fully respectful and dressed appropriately on the day.
We’ve already mentioned that now is not the time to channel your inner rebel or punk, making a bold statement so that you stand out from the crowd. Today is not about you. In the same way, it’s important not to underdress either. It’s always preferable to err on the side of caution and go more formal rather than casual – unless you really are attending a life celebration service on the beach, flip flops really aren’t the done thing.
We’d say the key is not to forget why you are there. It’s an opportunity to show respect for the deceased and by extension to support their family and loved ones too so as long as you remember that and wear something that is fitting of such an occasion, you should be fine.
Definitely, don’t spend hours agonizing over what to wear and not what to wear. Chances are that no one will really notice what you are wearing (unless it’s for all the wrong reasons) so just stick with dark colors and do ensure that you are adequately covered up. Today is also not the day to bare too much flesh either.
General Etiquette Overview for Men and Women
For both men and women, the rules and basic etiquette are pretty much the same, and you can’t go too wrong if you dress in what we’d call a respectful business type attire. As we mentioned previously, it’s better to overdress rather than underdress. Consider the weather and location, yes, but on the whole go for dark colors, cover up and wear something that is conservative.
What Women Should Wear to a Funeral
Today is not about you and drawing attention to yourself. By all means still, retain your personality and style but tone things down to a more somber level befitting of the occasion. A dark tailored suit with a matching skirt or pants is an excellent choice or an appropriately lengthened skirt teamed with a classic plain blouse or a simple sweater. This is also an occasion on which you could wear a little black dress, just don’t go for an overtly sexy or cocktail dress with unnecessary and distracting embellishments.
Flat shoes or lower-heeled pumps are probably a better choice than stilettos unless you are the kind of woman who is never seen in anything but heels and can confidently handle them. A hat may be worn if it’s culturally appropriate although it’s a tradition that has fallen away somewhat in recent years. Avoid anything that is too flashy, glamorous, daring or low cut. Miniskirts, jeans, and leggings are all best avoided.
What Men Should Wear to a Funeral
Our best advice would be to dress as though you were going to a corporate event or business meeting in something that is sharp and stylish and respectfully conservative. A dark or muted colored suit with a simple shirt and tie should suffice. Black isn’t mandatory but stick to darker colors such as navy blue and charcoal grey or more muted and earthy tones.
If you don’t want the formality of a suit, a pair of tailored slacks with a smart sports coat can also look casually respectful. Avoid anything that’s too casual though like jeans, short sleeves, sneakers or baseball caps and keep it simple, smart and stylish.