How to Choose an Outfit for Burial
The dressing of the deceased has long been an important and meaningful cultural practice. Whether the body is devoid of all material possessions and wrapped in a shroud, or if you go all out and bury your loved one in their favorite ball gown or wedding dress, deciding what to wear is entirely up to you and your family. Although it is rarely a good idea to bury a loved one in an item of high value (like a family heirloom or other piece of jewelry), there is nothing wrong with purchasing a new outfit, burying the deceased in her favorite pair of heels, or even going all out in sports or military regalia.
The Most Common Burial Outfits
Most people choose an item of clothing that represents the deceased and/or something they loved during their lifetime. This could be a favorite suit, a hiking outfit, a military uniform, a wedding dress, a particularly flattering skirt, or even a comfortable pair of pajamas (especially in the case of a child). If you are unsure how to start choosing an outfit, consider the following:
- Did the deceased have a distinct personal style, whether casual or formal?
- What was the deceased’s favorite color?
- What was the deceased’s favorite sports team?
- Are there any organizations or activities that the deceased loved?
- What did the deceased wear for important life milestones?
- Is there a picture of the deceased you would like to recreate?
- What are the colors of the funeral and/or casket and floral arrangement?
- What is the tone of the funeral itself?
- Will there be an open casket?
These questions do not cover every option, but they will give you a starting point for narrowing down your choices.
Does Dress Size Matter?
Most of the time, the outfit the deceased is buried in will be cut up the back to be arranged around the body in a way that is respectful and aesthetically pleasing. This means that there are few restrictions regarding size, as the funeral home workers can arrange the clothing regardless of when (or what size) it was purchased. This is ideal when burying a loved one in an old military uniform or dress from their youth.
Should I Choose New Clothes or Well-Worn Favorites?
There is no rule about how old or how worn a burial outfit can be. Some people prefer to purchase something new as a gesture of love and affection—and to make sure their loved one goes to the great beyond looking their best. Others prefer to stick to clothes that carry some kind of memory or sentiment. Either of these options are fine.
What about Accessories Like Shoes, Hats, and Jewelry?
The little details that make up a person’s appearance—their favorite earrings or wristwatch, a comfortable pair of ballet flats, a baseball cap worn sideways—are just as important now as they were in life. If you will be having an open casket, you will want to make sure that all these details are in place, and that you don’t forget things like shoes, belts, ties, or suspenders. (Undergarments and socks can usually be supplied by the funeral home if you forget.) Things like a favorite shade of lipstick or nail polish can also make a big difference.
Most of the time, you can also bring in items of jewelry or other valuables that are worn for the viewing but are not buried with the deceased. (The funeral home will return them to you before burial.) This is a great way to send your loved one off in style without sacrificing family heirlooms.