Funeral Fashion: How Much is Too Much?
The question of what to wear to a funeral is one that gets asked time and time again. How formal should your funeral clothes be? Does your entire outfit need to be black? What do you do if you cannot afford new funeral clothes? Is it okay to put an emphasis on fashion in the first place?
Dressing for a funeral is a deeply personal affair, and what feels comfortable for one person might be unthinkable in another—which is where the question of fashion at funerals comes into play. We have all seen the celebrity funerals and memorial services for high-ranking public officials, where guests are decked out in designer labels, outlandish hats, and couture gowns that seem better suited for a black-and-white ball. While it might seem disrespectful for these individuals to worry so much about their appearance during a somber time, mourning fashion is not anything new.
In the nineteenth century, mourning clothes would be worn for up to a year after the death of a loved one, which meant entire wardrobes had to be overhauled when a parent or spouse passed away. While we do not take things to such extremes now, we do still hold on to the idea that the image one presents during mourning matters.
So, in answer to the above question—is it okay to put an emphasis on fashion—yes, it is acceptable, provided you don’t take things so far you distract from the overall message of the funeral.
Here are a few considerations to bear in mind as you prepare your funeral attire:
- Will it be a “fashionable” funeral? Celebrity funerals, funerals for fashion-conscious individuals or designers, a high-profile event that will be photographed…these types of scenarios call for more attention to your appearance than the funeral of a beloved (but low-key) grandparent.
- What is your purpose in dressing up? Is it an inside joke you shared with the deceased? A way to show your respect? These are acceptable reasons to consider fashion first. But if you are hoping to make a splash or put someone else in his/her place, consider toning things down.
- Where is the funeral being held? Memorial services in large, historic churches tend to call for more formality than a service at a local funeral home parlor or rec center. Pay attention to setting and make sure you will blend in.
- How distracting is your outfit? An expensively tailored, well-cut black slip dress can show attention to detail without being flashy. A black fur coat, a full veil over your face, and a top hat fascinator tend to do the opposite. Take a cue from Coco Chanel and always take off at least one piece of jewelry before you leave the house.
- Will you be comfortable? Funerals can go on for hours and require you to stand at a graveside service. If you are not comfortable or if you have to constantly adjust your outfit, it is probably better to dress more simply.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to look your best at a funeral, as long as respect and reverence remain the order of the day. According to most experts, your fashion should always fit the occasion—and funerals are no different.