Traditionally, funerals are somber affairs involving the family and friends of someone who has recently passed away. If you are getting ready to attend a funeral, then it is best to know what you should and shouldn’t wear to the funeral so you can dress in a way that is appropriate and respectful for the occasion. Generally, appropriate attire for a funeral is conservative, formal, somber, and simple. Keep in mind when choosing an outfit for a funeral that what you wear should not bring attention to you or your clothes. The focus should be on what you are there for, not what you are wearing. Outfit choices should be muted and neutral to fit the occasion of mourning and sadness.
As funerals are an occasion of mourning and remembrance, specific funeral etiquette ensures respect. Many funeral traditions around the world have specific etiquette that offers ways to support the grieving while properly remembering the loved one who has passed on. Modern western cultures also have their funeral traditions that come with behavior etiquette and dress codes. Unless otherwise specified, funeral etiquette comes with dos and don’ts that ensure respect for the family that is in mourning. Even if we are not sure about the funeral details, it is always good to know and follow funeral etiquette guidelines to the best of our ability. If you are attending a funeral of a culture different than your own, check in with the family before attending to ensure you are aware of any funeral etiquette or appropriate clothing.
What to wear is a big part of funeral etiquette. Remember that you are not trying to draw attention to yourself. That way, all the attention at the funeral can be directed toward the occasion at hand. To make everything easier, we’ve compiled our guide of dos and don’ts for what to wear to funeral services.
Do look good, but also reserved. Your outfit shouldn’t be too fancy, but it should look clean, smart, and relatively formal. Funeral attire is meant to match the mood of the occasion, so veer toward clothing that is plain, modest, somber, and neutral. Wearing dark and muted colors is appropriate, as they are associated with sadness and mourning. Respect can be shown through your choice of outfit.
Don’t look flashy. A funeral service is not the occasion to dress to impress. In fact, wearing red or other bright colors can even be considered disrespectful to the family of the deceased. Don’t wear anything provocative or attention-grabbing, but instead stick to modest and neutral. As a general rule, don’t wear jeans or other clothing items that are considered more casual. Instead, opt for dress pants. While you are not trying to look fancy, you are trying to look respectable.
Rules always have exceptions. For example, families from other cultures or religions may have a different set of rules and outfit etiquette for attending funerals. Other families may simply be choosing a different way of mourning and celebrating the life of the family member. It is always helpful to send an email to check in beforehand so that you don’t show up wearing the wrong clothes. Some notable cultural exceptions are the Asian cultures and religions that wear white to funerals and see wearing black to a funeral as bad luck. You wouldn’t want to accidentally show up in a black shirt when you should have been wearing a women’s white blouse. It’s always advisable to check in first.
Women typically are expected to wear a modest dress or dress pants to a funeral. Women should stick to a simple dress in a muted tone that is not sheer, formal, or attention-grabbing. Also, when choosing your shoes, it is best to wear something with a closed toe. While small or block heels are appropriate, avoid high heels. Modest flats are also an appropriate choice. Sneakers, however, are best avoided and might be seen as disrespectful.
Keep it conservative. Women should avoid wearing anything too revealing. Especially if the funeral service is to be held in a religious space, you will want to be sure your shoulders are covered. If your dress is shorter than a midi dress, then wear tights underneath it. A dress that is appropriate for a cocktail party is probably not appropriate for a funeral, so choose something that isn’t festive or interesting but retains a somber conservatism.
Wearing bright colors to a funeral is generally considered to be a sign of disrespect to the family. Instead, choose a muted color palette of navy, charcoal, or black. Opt for a black dress when possible. Remember, anything that stands out is best to be avoided. Bright colors such as red are seen as festive and are, thus, disrespectful to the mood of mourning that you are joining when attending a funeral.
A funeral is not a fashion show. You don’t need to wear anything gaudy, trendy, or to make a fashion statement, which is not acceptable. Instead, choose comfort. Avoid things like bold high heels, flashy dresses, or anything else that looks excessive. Wearing flats, a modest dress, and a simple coat or blazer may work best. Keeping your outfit simple will also keep you comfortable. Funerals are highly emotional experiences, and you will want to be comfortable throughout the whole occasion. Keep in mind the time you may spend standing, outside, or in religious spaces, and choose your outfit according to how you want to feel throughout all those scenarios.
Wearing too much jewelry can be just that — too much. Instead, try to avoid wearing jewelry altogether, or choose one or two simple, classic pieces. This is not the time for statement jewelry. A simple brooch, gold chain, or stud earrings will do the trick to have you looking nice without going over the top.
Men should also strive to look nice yet conservative. As you are gathering to celebrate and mourn the life of a friend or family member, remember that you want to look respectful.
Men should typically plan to wear a suit, tie, and slacks to a funeral. Aiming for a somber business smart look is a good approach. Wear a men’s button down shirt under a suit jacket and with a tie. Wear either matching or similar slacks, and avoid wearing jeans.
Dark colors are best. Choose a suit that is navy, black, or charcoal color to keep your color palette somber and neutral. Avoid wearing anything too bright or attention-grabbing. For instance, your men’s tie should also be a neutral design and color scheme so as not to stand out too much. A white button-down shirt is generally appropriate when worn with darker colors.
Choose shoes that are comfortable, formal, and neutral. Don’t wear sneakers, but instead choose a dressier option that matches your suit. Also, keep the weather and time of the year in mind if the funeral will take place outdoors or graveside. If it is wet or muddy, you will want to think about your shoes accordingly. Like everything else in your outfit, be sure your shoes and socks don’t stand out and instead match well with the color scheme of your suit and tie.
In addition to what to wear to a funeral, it is also important to behave in a way that is acceptable to the occasion. First, don’t be late. Be on time for the funeral service; to make a late appearance would be disrespectful. Second, this is a time of mourning and remembering the life of someone who has passed on. Avoid conversations about business or anything too personal that draws away from the focus of the occasion. This includes staying off your phone and doing other things like writing emails or sending messages. Put your phone on airplane mode, tuck it away in your women’s wool coat, and stay present! Respectfully offer your condolences and any anecdotes to the family who have lost a loved one. You can even let them know that you respect their feelings and are there to support them. There are no hard rules for heartfelt messages, and the grieving family member will undoubtedly appreciate your sympathy and support.
When planning to attend a funeral, keep in mind that your attire should be conservative, simple, clean, and somber out of respect for the family of the deceased.