Funeral and memorial services are extremely emotionally taxing occasions. The last thing you want to do is wear something completely inappropriate in front of the grieving family. When choosing a funeral outfit, the main goal is to remain respectful of the dead ones and their family’s wishes.
A somber occasion like a funeral doesn’t mean you need to go out and buy a whole new outfit just to fit the dress code. You can make an appropriate outfit out of whatever you have on hand, whether it’s black or not. This is a complete guide to help you navigate around the traditional attire for a funeral service.
Is it okay not to wear black at a funeral?
The first question is always about the color black since that’s the norm for western funerals. However, wearing black is not always the answer. You might not have any black clothing items, for the deceased person’s last wish might be to not have anyone wear black. It’s completely fine not to wear black as long as you fit the dress code. You can sort out a funeral outfit from your wardrobe if you know how to style a simple non black clothing item.
Traditional colors to wear at a funeral
Other than a black suit or dress, there are many colors you can work around with if you’re careful. Here is a list of colors that are acceptable to wear
- Dark grays and navy blues are acceptable colors, especially if they’re men’s suits.
- You can also opt for dark and murky browns. Most earthy and neutral tones are acceptable since they’re considered somber colors too.
- Emerald and deep greens are also good options that will help you mix in with the crowd. A funeral is no place to stand out either way.
- There are some cultures that prefer a completely white color instead of black. But only opt for white if it’s appropriate according to their culture.
The only colors you shouldn’t wear to a funeral are:
- Bright pinks, yellows, reds, or even oranges. Basically, all bright colors and summery colors should be avoided.
- All neon colors and reflective garments are considered very attention-grabbing and highly inappropriate for a traditional funeral.
If you’re still iffy about the color scheme, it’s always okay to confirm with an immediate family member. Better safe than sorry in a situation like this.
What’s the dress code for a funeral?
The general dress code is the same for men and women as it falls more on the side of strictly formal attire. A good rule of thumb is to dress as if you’re dressing for a business meeting or a job interview. If you’re still confused about which clothing items fit the somber occasion, we’ll given you a few funeral outfit ideas
Formal attire for men
A complete suit
For men, there aren’t; a lot of options for formal funeral outfits. Ideally, men should go for dark-colored suits with white collared shirts.
If you don’t have a complete suit, there; is no need to worry. A simple pair of dress pants and a dark-colored button office shirt will be perfectly acceptable too.
If the weather is cold enough, you can also go for a clean, simple sweater and a pair of dress pants. Make sure the sweater is plain and isn’t adorned with some sort of eye-catching pattern. You can also wear a sweater on top of a dress shirt to keep you warm.
In case none of that is available to you, your last resort can be a polo shirt and a pair of khakis. Your polo shirt should be at least dark gray or blue, if not black. It’s best if the polo is tucked in and paired with a belt and matching dress shoes. This is on the more casual side but still considered acceptable.
Shoes and accessories
You might wear sneakers or converse shoes on a daily basis, but they won’t be appropriate for a funeral. Instead, go for dress shoes, boots, or loafers. What you should avoid is any sort of athletic shoes or flip flops.
Men can opt to wear a few accessories to complete the formal look if they’re up for it. These accessories are less about adorning the outfit and more about giving it some class. Generally, a watch, tie, tie clip, and suspenders can make the funeral outfit more fitting to the formal attire.
Formal attire for women
Business dress suit
Even for women, the first suggestion is to wear a business suit or a modest black dress. Any sort of skirt suit and pants suit will work as well, as long as they’re not brightly colored.
If you don’t have a fancy dress suit, any dark colored dress with no revealing cutouts will do the job. Ideally, the dress should be knee-length, but if it’s not, you can wear black leggings with it to make it more modest.
Another option is to pair a skirt with a simple blouse or sweater. Whatever you decide to wear, be mindful of not revealing too much skin. Generally, spaghetti straps, mini skirts/dresses, and low-cut necklines are a big no-no. A sleeveless dress or a blouse can be acceptable depending on the family. If you think the grieving family might not like it, then grab a sweater, cardigan, or even a shawl with you.
Shoes and accessories
When it comes to accessories, anything too bling-y is better kept at home. A sample bracelet or earrings can be worn. Head accessories are acceptable as long as they’re not too attention-grabbing.
As for the shoes, dark-colored pumps or flats are your best choice. Open-toed shoes and sandals might not always be acceptable, so it’s better to either check with a family member or take the safer option.
Dress code for a summer funeral
If the funeral you’re attending is being held during the summer, then you’ll have to consider the venue before deciding on an outfit. If the funeral is being held outdoors, you’ll need to dress accordingly so that you’re prepared for the heat.
The number one tip is to grab a pair of simple black sunglasses and a black umbrella. However, if your umbrella has patterns on it, it won’t be a big issue.
The dress code remains the same. The only difference is what sort of fabric you choose to wear. Try to choose fabrics that are breathable and will keep you cool, such as cotton and linens. Any sort of synthetic clothing, polyester or nylon, will restrict the airflow and make you uncomfortable.
Women can choose a lightweight dress or a skirt with a short-sleeved blouse. Tight clothing won’t do you any good, so it’s better to stay away from them.
You can wear elegant sandals as well, but make sure they’re not too summery or fun. Open-toed shoes can be worn, but only if it’s the last resort.
As for men, your first thought might be to reach for your shorts or jeans, but you’ll have to stay away from them. Jeans are considered very inappropriate for funerals. Instead, lightweight slacks or khakis will do the trick. Though Hawaiian shirts are not acceptable, wearing light colors is still okay. In summer, the dress code is slightly more relaxed so you can wear dark sneakers if you want.
Dress code for a winter funeral
If the funeral is in winter, you’ll have to do less thinking since most winter clothes are dark-colored or muted colors at the very least. In fact, wearing a coat might just save you a whole lot of thinking. And that goes for both men and women! Gloves, scarves, and hats will be acceptable too.
Your shoes will depend entirely on the venue and the climate of the area you live in. If it’s an outdoors service and you live in a rainy area, rain boots are the perfect option since they’re the most functional.
How to dress according to the service
Traditional funeral services often require you to wear formal attire, but in the case of non-traditional funerals, there’s more room for options for the attire. Modern families are starting to choose less-formal events, which means a whole new dress code has to be applied. Here’s a short summary of different events that can be held and what to wear to them.
- A wake or a viewing
A wake is a gathering where there’s an open-casket viewing of the deceased’s body. Usually, it’s meant for close friends and family to gather and share their grief and simply remember the one who has passed away. Since it’s such an intimate occasion, wearing formal or dressy-casual will be the right option. If you already know the family well, then you’ll have a better idea of how to dress.
- Memorial service and burials
A memorial service is held without the body, and it’s less formal than a funeral. The same guidelines as a funeral can be followed here, but since it’s a little more casual, there’s more room for variation. Either way, the color scheme, and modesty level should remain the same.
The same guidelines work for a graveside service or a burial. Since burials are almost away outdoors, take care of the weather situation before deciding to leave.
- Celebration of life
Some families tend to celebrate the life a person has lived instead of grieving their absence, which makes an event like this a more upbeat one. This is the opposite of what a funeral is, so wearing dark clothing might actually be inappropriate in this case/ this event might include a light-hearted memorial, some singing, dancing, and even drinking. That’s why it’s encouraged to wear bright colors and fun patterns. If you’re not sure about the nature of the event, be sure to confirm the theme with a close family member. Err on the side of caution here.
What NOT to wear to a funeral
It might not be completely obvious what to wear and what not to wear, but generally, here are a few things you shouldn’t do.
- Wear high heels or shoes that make a lot of noise. It’s better to stick with block heels or simple flats.
- Wear comically; large hats.
- Avoid noisy bangles or dangling jewelry at home
- Wear bright and over-the-top makeup
- Don’t wear casual clothing such as tank tops or activewear.
- Steer clear of ripped jeans and denim in general.
- Keep your hair simple and in a comfortable hairdo.
- Don’t wear something body-fitting that might make you feel uncomfortable later on.
- Shy away from using strong fragrant perfumes, body lotions, and other scented creams.
What should children wear at a funeral?
Many funerals do not invite children since it’s not considered a suitable event for them. But at times, they have to go along in case of a last-minute babysitter mishap or some other reason. So when they are going, they should be dressed in the same dress code as adults.
Infants and toddlers
Since infants and toddlers can get fussy at times, it’s best to dress them in something that’s comfortable. Children’s clothing usually has silly characters and bright colors on it, so steer away from such prints. Anything neutral or solid colored should do the trick.
Children and teens
Younger children can wear shirts and jeans, but children older than ten should stick to relatively more formal attire. As for older teens from the ages of 15-18, they should try to copy their parents and wear something relatively formal too.
Your funeral outfit doesn’t have to be completely dreary. It can show your style, but the main focus is to reflect and respect the wishes of the grieving family. The only thing to remember here is that a funeral is not your day to shine. It’s to blend in with others and remember the one that has passed away. Be thoughtful and dress accordingly!