What to Wear to a Funeral
What to wear to a funeral is a question that few people consider until death occurs. By then, it is too late to shop around for the right thing to wear—especially if you have to travel to attend the funeral.
The good news is, there is more flexibility in funeral attire than most people realize. The days of dressing head to toe in formal black are long over, and you might be surprised at how easily you can get by on the clothes already hanging in your closet.
Funeral Attire Classics
A good rule of thumb is to start your outfit with the same clothes you might wear to a job interview. Anything that would pass in an office with strict dress codes is appropriate for a funeral. This includes:
- Suit jackets
- Button-up shirts
- Skirts at least knee-length
- Modest blouses
- Polished dress shoes
In an office, these items of clothing would probably be offered in neutral shades like navy blue, black, and grey. It is best to stick to these colors at a funeral, as well. Avoid any color that will unnecessarily pop (reds, pinks, yellows, oranges, and other bright colors should stay in the closet unless the family requests otherwise).
Because you are attending a funeral and not a job interview, you should pick at least one of these items to form the foundation of your outfit, and vary things from there. For example:
- If you opt to wear conservative slacks and a button-up shirt in somber hues, you may be able to skip the tie and suit jacket.
- If you want to wear a tie and suit jacket, you can pair them with casual khakis and appropriate footwear.
- Find at least one piece of a three-piece suit and wear it, but do not wear all three unless the family requests very formal dress.
- Women can wear a suit skirt without the jacket—or the suit jacket without the skirt.
- White blouses and/or dress shirts are fine as long as they are paired with darker suit components.
- A business-style dress can be made less severe by adding a scarf or casual jewelry.
When all else fails, wear the best thing you have. If you are not in the habit of dressing up for work, you might not have any of these items. Find the clothes you’d wear to a wedding or church instead. Khakis and a polo shirt are usually fine as long as they are not too brightly colored or otherwise worn out. A floral print dress can be acceptable if you wear a cardigan or dress it down with dark tights and modest footwear.
Building on the Basics
Once you have the foundation of your funeral attire figured out, you can accessorize. Most “what to wear to a funeral” guides warn you against over-accessorizing, and this is mostly true. You do not want to layer on too much jewelry or show disrespect by dressing up in glitz and glamor, as if you are about to head out to a nightclub.
However, accessories have a way of carrying more personal meaning than a simple suit and tie.
- If you own a tie pin, brooch, scarf, or other item given to you by the deceased, by all means, feel free to include it in your funeral attire.
- Did the deceased love hats or vintage wear? Pull out the large-brimmed black straw and wear it (but remember to take it off during the service) or find an elegant fascinator to add to your locks.
- If any item has positive associations (either for you or the deceased), put it on and wear it proudly. Sports team logos, favorite brands, and other items often mean more during difficult times, and you’ll need all the positivity you can get today.
- Does the family want to plan a tribute by asking everyone to wear flip flops or put on something purple? Did they request Hawaiian shirts or black ties? Do your best to accommodate their wishes.
At the end of the day, what you wear to a funeral is less important than the fact that you are there at all. Start with basic business clothes and build from there—and when in doubt, err on the side of caution. It is better to be overdressed for a funeral than to be underdressed for one.