Part of paying your respects at a funeral is dressing in a way that conveys sympathy and sincerity. Traditional funeral attire includes understated, formal clothing in dark colors, such as a black or charcoal suit. But not everyone has designated funeral attire in their wardrobe–this is especially true for teens who may not have attended a funeral before.
Teens and children typically have more flexibility in what they wear than adults, but it’s still important to strive for respectful clothes that suit the occasion. Luckily, there are several appropriate outfits a teenager can wear to a funeral or memorial service, many of which they may already have in their closet.
If you have a teen in your family, planning ahead can help them understand the appropriate expectations for their attire and reduce any anxieties about what to wear. Here are a few options teenagers can consider when attending a funeral.
Having a nice pair of pants is typically the basis for a classic funeral outfit. Even if your teen doesn’t own a full suit, wearing dress pants conveys the serious, formal mood of the event. Dark slacks in gray, black, or navy are ideal, but teens can pick out the most formal pair of pants in their closet. This could include corduroy trousers, khaki pants, or men’s chinos. Regardless of the style, make sure that the dress pants you choose are clean, free of stains, and freshly ironed to remove wrinkles.
A mid-length or long dress skirt can similarly be a good place to start for a funeral outfit. A-line skirts, pencil skirts, or long pleated skirts in a simple fabric can all be appropriate. Your teen can wear long skirts on their own, or pair them with pantyhose. When picking out a skirt, choose a piece that they can sit and stand in comfortably.
A classic button-down is a staple for funeral attire, whether your teen is wearing it on its own or layering it with a sweater, coat, vest, or jacket. When paired with dark pants, the button-down can be any solid, neutral color, including white, light blue, and of course dark greys and blacks. Subtle patterns can be appropriate, such as a grey shirt with black stripes, or a neutral plaid.
Styling the button-down is just as important as picking it out–the shirt should be tucked in, with unrolled sleeves and buttoned cuffs. Adding a necktie or bowtie can add another layer of formality to the outfit.
Many teens already have a simple sweater in their closet, making this a common option for funeral attire. As long as the sweater has a subdued color and pattern, it can work for most funerals. Examples of appropriate options include a dark green cable knit, a black and tan argyle, or a subtle navy blue plaid. The neckline isn’t as important as the fit and color, but v-neck or a crewneck are both common options. Sweaters are also great for layering, so you could pull a navy sweater or sweater vest over a light-colored button-down for a more polished appearance.
When picking out a sweater, choose the most formal option available. Fleece sweatshirts, hoodies, a sweater with a phrase or logo, or baggy cardigans are typically too casual for most funeral environments.
If your teen doesn’t have a full suit, adding a sport coat or blazer to their outfit is the next-closest option. Layering a black blazer over a white button-down and a pair of navy pants gives off a polished, mature appearance. Although both women’s jackets and men’s blazers can come in many bold and sporty colors, it’s best to follow the standard dark color scheme for funerals.
Because sport coats are designed to have a loose fit, you don’t have to worry about finding the absolute perfect fit for your teen. This can make the outfit a bit more comfortable for sitting through funeral services when compared to a full suit.
Dresses are a traditional feminine garment for attending a funeral, so modest dresses are a good option for teenagers. Tea-length or long dresses are encouraged, and shorter dresses should be paired with dark leggings or stockings. Teen girls may already have an appropriate dress in a dark color that they can wear. Subtle patterns are acceptable but focus on picking a classy, basic dress that doesn’t draw attention. Adding a cardigan, formal jacket, or black shawl can make the outfit warmer and more modest.
Picking out an outfit for a funeral can be a somber experience, but understanding basic guidelines can make the experience straightforward and stress-free. Each family may have their own preferences and expectations for funeral wear, so make special note of any dress code details in the service announcement. Ultimately, showing up to the funeral and paying your respects is much more important than what you wear.