We’re all familiar with traditional funeral etiquette, which dictates that attendees wear black clothing that covers the body appropriately.
For men, this is typically a dark suit and tie. For women, a dress or a skirt and top can be worn, so there is a little more freedom. Traditional funeral clothing differs from culture to culture, but formal black clothing is the type that most people are familiar with.
Choosing what to wear to a funeral can be very difficult because nobody wants to be dressed in a way that could be construed as inappropriate or disrespectful. Funerals are about mourning the death of a loved one and celebrating their life, so clothes are never the number one priority. But they are still an important part of the day, so knowing exactly how to dress for a funeral is one way to ease your mind and make things a little bit easier.
One thing to remember is to always tailor what you wear to the funeral you are attending. Most will expect you to wear conservative black clothing, as is tradition, but some funerals will make special requests of the attendees. For instance, some might want attendees to wear a certain color or pattern, so you should always try to adhere to that. Otherwise, dressing for a funeral doesn’t have to be difficult, so long as you have some ideas about the type of attire that you’re expected to wear.
Formal and Casual Funeral Attire
If the funeral that you are attending is a typical formal funeral, you should be dressed perfectly if you follow the traditional dress code. For men, that is a black suit and tie with a white shirt and black shoes. Your socks should also be dark, with your trousers long enough to cover the bottom of your legs and ankles. Hair and facial hair should be neatly presented so that everyone else at the funeral can see that you have put thought and effort into your appearance.
Women typically wear black dresses that reach the knee or below and have long sleeves. Some may prefer to wear a skirt and smart top, or trousers and a smart top. Some women may even choose to wear a dark suit, in which case they are held to the same dressing standards as the men. Any makeup worn should be quite natural, with no bright colors or bold looks. Hair can be styled however you like, but it should look neat, whatever style you choose. Some ladies may wear hats, but not all do.
Funerals are often formal events; however, there is such a thing as an informal funeral. For an informal funeral, you can dress more casually than you would for a formal funeral, though you should never go as casual as flip-flops, shorts, crop tops, tank tops, or jogging bottoms. Typical casual funeral attire would be something like black trousers and a dark shirt or sweater for a man and a black skirt and blouse for a woman.
Casual funeral clothing should still aim to follow that rule about respect. Wear long sleeves, cover your shoulders and most of your legs (black tights are an easy option for women wearing skirts, though they aren’t necessary under a longer skirt), wear proper shoes, and avoid showing a lot of cleavage. Even if you aren’t dressed for a formal event with lots of rules, always try to show respect for the deceased and their closest relatives by avoiding any clothing that could draw attention or make it look like you didn’t care enough to tidy yourself up enough for such a somber event.
Whether you’re attending a formal or casual funeral, you should still follow the same rules about hair, makeup, and facial hair because having a neat and clean presentation will show that you’ve put the effort in for the day. Even with a casual outfit, makeup should still be fairly plain, so no red lipstick or brightly colored eyeshadow. If something like that has been asked of attendees as a special request, then go for it! But otherwise, your makeup should fit into the tone of the event, just as tidy hair and facial hair should.
Good Color Choices
The traditional color associated with funerals is black, but that isn’t the one and only color that you can wear. Other dark colors, such as navy blue, dark green, charcoal, and dark brown, are acceptable, though you might want to check that the funeral you are attending doesn’t have a strict black clothing only rule. If it does not, you should be able to get away with wearing clothing in those other colors mentioned, so long as the clothes are respectful and appropriate.
You should never, ever wear light or bright colors to a funeral, unless it is a request of those who organized the funeral. Sometimes, people might request that guests add some color to their outfits, such as the deceased person’s favorite color, but do not do this unless you have been explicitly told to do so by those who organized the funeral. Turning up in a pale color or something bright and flashy is in incredibly bad taste and will have all eyes looking on you with disgust.
The acceptable colors for a funeral again depend on the religion or culture of the family who are holding the event, so you’ll know what is expected of you beforehand. Try to go for shades as close to black as possible so that you don’t stick out too much for wearing a different color, but so long as the color you decide to wear is dark, you’ll fit in fine.
As far as patterns go, small patterns are perfectly acceptable for funeral. A dress with a subtle floral print, for example, is fine, but a bright or sparkly pattern is not the best choice. So long as the print on your outfit is plain enough, it’ll fit in well at a funeral. Your clothes don’t need to be completely plain and can consist of different materials as well (some black lace on a dress, for example), but a funeral is not the place to wear anything extravagant or eye-catching.
Summer and Winter Funeral Attire
Black is a very insulating color, so you don’t want to get overheated at a summer funeral. You should wear black regardless of the season, but you can adjust your clothing to better suit the weather. For a winter funeral, you’ll wear thicker, heavier colors and a jacket to keep you warm, so you can easily switch these out for lighter, thinner materials when the weather is hot.
A black dress to the knee in a comfortable material is perfectly acceptable for a summer funeral and doesn’t need to be worn with tights. It can be quite a loose and floaty material so long as the garment is still formal. A knee-length skirt can be worn with a short-sleeve blouse as well. For men, a suit is still typically worn, which makes the outfit trickier to adapt to summer conditions, but you can wear a short-sleeve shirt underneath and remove your jacket before and after the service.
For a winter funeral, layering up is a good idea. Churches get very cold, especially when temperatures are low and it might be snowing, so having a cardigan or extra jacket on will keep you warm and go well with your outfit, so long as everything is dark. There are no different dress codes that dictate what you should wear to a funeral depending on the season but altering a typical funeral outfit to warm yourself up or cool yourself down is a normal thing to do.
Formal clothing works for both summer and winter because you can look completely presentable while still prioritizing your comfort. If you do need to be more covered up for the funeral service, you could always wear a thin extra layer and then remove it afterwards for the wake. Whatever you decide, adhere to the rules of dressing for formal events and you’ll be fine to attend a funeral.
Looking Respectful On A Budget
One of the biggest gripes that lots of people have with formal clothing is that, often, it tends to be quite expensive. If you can’t afford to buy expensive formal clothing, you can still make yourself look presentable for a funeral on a stricter budget. Though cheaper materials may not look as good as the more expensive materials, the most important thing to focus on when it comes to funeral attire is looking respectful. After all, a very revealing expensive outfit would be massively inappropriate, whereas a budget conservative look would fit in just right at a funeral service.
You shouldn’t focus on the quality of your outfit as much as if it looks right for a funeral. Plenty of high street stores sell affordable formal clothing and black is one of the most common colors that you’ll find. Suits and good formal shoes tend to break the bank a bit more, especially since men have fewer outfit options for funerals than women do, but charity shops and other stores that sell second-hand clothing will have suits and shoes on offer.
You could also choose to rent an outfit for the day if you’re on a budget and can’t afford to buy something completely new. It is easy to rent a formal suit, especially a classic black one, and plenty of women’s outfits can be rented too. You can search online for the best places near you to rent funeral attire from and then order an outfit for the day. Having a plan in place in advance is the best way to avoid being caught out and left with nothing to wear for the service, especially if you are on a budget and therefore not as flexible with your choices.
Accessorizing An Outfit
Funerals are the complete opposite to weddings, so you won’t want to accessorize a lot and make your outfit look really flashy because you should try to dress as subtle as you can for a funeral. It is mainly a case of reading the room: simple silver or gold jewelry works, huge chunky jewels do not. Most people will wear a watch to a funeral, so other jewelry is fine too, but you should never overdo it.
Easy accessories for a funeral can be as simple as a stylish black handbag or a black belt around your waist. Again, some funerals may have special requests for attendees to wear something sparkly, but that is the prerogative of the organizers and not something that anyone should take advantage of. Funerals are held to mourn the loss of a loved one, so you should aim to look classy and fit into the crowd of mourning people, not stand out in any flashy way.
Dressing Up Something Old
You don’t need to buy an entire new outfit for a funeral, especially if you’re on a tight budget. Most people own something black, but it may not be appropriate for a funeral. For instance, if you have a long black dress that shows a bit too much cleavage, you could buy a black cardigan and button it up over the top. If you have some black formal trousers but no full suit, buy a cheap black smart jacket and pair it with the trousers. If you have a skirt that would be perfect for a funeral but no appropriate top, buy a cheap dark blouse to smarten the outfit up.
You don’t need to wear anything brand new to a funeral if you already own an outfit that would work, so long as it’s free of any dirt, stains, and creases. Looking presentable for a funeral goes beyond the items of clothing that you’re wearing. How those items look individually contributes just as much because looking unkempt at a funeral is incredibly disrespectful. The most important thing is looking like you’ve made the effort for the event.
With those tips in mind, you’ll be able to figure out exactly how you want to dress for a funeral. You should have three top priorities: to look smart, to look respectful, and to look tidy. If you can achieve all three with the outfit that you are intending to wear, you’ll be dressed just right for a funeral service. Funerals are not events that have people exciting over what to wear as they do for weddings but looking put-together at a funeral is one of the best ways to show that you care for the deceased, their family, and the sacredness of the funeral service.