When it comes to attending a funeral, regardless of your relationship with the family, you need to pay close attention to your attire. What you wear to the funeral affects the tone of the entire event, and it’s seen as a sign of respect to follow proper funeral etiquette.
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While funeral etiquette varies depending on the specific culture, religion, and wishes of the family, it’s important to be conservative with your dressing style. More families are straying from the traditional, and you don’t always have to wear black to a funeral. However, regardless of your color choice, you still need to be considerate and compassionate with your style of dress.
In many places, you can get away with a less traditional outfit. Still, there are some things you should never, ever wear to a funeral or memorial service. In this guide, we’ll highlight some of the worst funeral wardrobe choices so you can steer clear.
12 Examples of Inappropriate Funeral Attire
Knowing what to wear to a funeral isn’t always easy, especially if you haven’t attended many funerals in your lifetime. While you should always be mindful of cultural customs and norms, you should never, ever wear any of these inappropriate funeral outfits below.
While short hemlines are fashionable, they don’t have a place at a funeral service or memorial. It’s certainly possible to wear a skirt that is above the knee, but you shouldn’t wear anything that reveals too much when you bend down. If you’re worried about the length, it’s probably too short.
What to wear instead: Instead of a mini-skirt, opt for a skirt or dress that’s longer than two inches above the knee. You can also add another layer of modesty by pairing your skirt with tights.
2. Low-cut blouses or dresses
Similar to mini-skirts, you shouldn’t wear any low-cut blouses or dresses. Because the funeral likely takes place in a place of worship, it’s important to dress for this service. Along with low-cut shirts, make sure not to wear anything with thin spaghetti straps.
What to wear instead: Adapt a low-cut top with a camisole underneath for more modesty and coverage. Additionally, pair a cardigan, wrap, or blazer with a top with thin straps to make it appropriate for a funeral service.
3. Spandex or tight clothing
Tight clothing makes quite the fashion statement, but it’s not usually fit for a funeral or memorial. While you might be able to pair the tight clothing with something more professional, it isn’t the best choice.
What to wear instead: Wear a less revealing fabric that is more appropriate for a formal function. A good rule of thumb is that if you wouldn’t wear it to a job interview, you shouldn’t wear it to a funeral.
4. Stiletto heels
Stiletto heels are both not appropriate for a funeral and impractical. When you dress for a funeral, you need to be prepared to change venues.
While the service might take place at a place of worship or funeral home, you might go to the cemetery for a graveside service. If so, wearing thin heels is not a good choice for walking outside or long distances.
What to wear instead: It’s perfectly acceptable to wear lower or thicker heels, or you can wear flats. It’s important to choose shoes that are comfortable and professional.
5. Sports caps
Sports caps or any baseball-style cap isn’t appropriate for a funeral. While it might be alright if you’re attending the funeral of a sports lover, you should normally steer clear of any casual clothing. This is a better fit for a reception or informal service.
What to wear instead: If you do choose to wear a hat, particularly for an outdoor service, choose something simple and classic. Try a dress hat like a fedora, military uniform hat, or fashionable wide-brim hats in a dark color.
6. Animal print
While fun and exciting, animal prints aren’t appropriate for a funeral. This is one of the worst things you can wear because they’re distracting and informal. Unless you’re specifically told to wear animal print, keep these items at home.
What to wear instead: While you don’t need to wear black, you should wear neutral, solid colors or very simple prints. Any exciting, vibrant prints should not be present in your wardrobe.
7. Graphic t-shirts
Graphic t-shirts are a distraction at funeral services, and they’re not a good idea. Unless specifically requested on behalf of the family, don’t wear any shirts with writing, images, or distracting visuals. In most cases, t-shirts are a bad option, and you should choose something more formal.
What to wear instead: A formal dress shirt, blouse, or polo is better than a graphic t-shirt. Again, you don’t need to wear black, but you should choose a neutral top that doesn’t distract from the service.
8. Athletic wear
Athletic wear is rising in popularity, and it’s easy to see why. It’s comfortable and trendy, and it can be great for a day of errands. That being said, it’s not a respectful choice for a funeral or memorial service.
Athletic wear like leggings, workout shorts, tank tops, sweat pants, and sweatshirts are not formal. This is disrespectful to the family, and it gives the impression that you don’t take the service seriously.
What to wear instead: Wear traditional, conservative clothes rather than athletic clothing. If the service is outdoors and you’re worried about the weather, it’s okay to bring a windbreaker or jacket. However, leave the clothes for the gym at home.
9. Strong perfume
Strong perfume or cologne can complement the right outfit, but it’s out of place at a funeral. Some people have strong reactions to smells, and they might even be allergic to a scent you choose. Because you’ll likely be in close contact with others, it’s not a good idea to wear any strong scents.
What to wear instead: A light perfume or cologne is perfectly appropriate for a funeral. Opt for a small amount rather than multiple spritzes. When in doubt, skip wearing a scent at all.
10. Flashy accessories
Flashy accessories like big necklaces, bright jewels, and large hoop earrings are distracting. Not only do these take away from the service, but they can be seen as boastful for a funeral service. In addition, wearing sunglasses to a funeral is not appropriate unless it is outdoors.
What to wear instead: Instead, wear traditional jewelry. You could also choose not to wear any jewelry at all.
11. Glitter or sequins
Again, it’s not appropriate to wear anything bright or flashy. This includes glitter and sequins which are highly distracting, especially during a memorial service. These also give the impression that you aren’t taking the event seriously.
What to wear instead: Wear neutral colors and prints, and nothing sheer or eye-catching.
12. Sneakers or slip-on shoes
Lastly, don’t wear sneakers or slip-on shoes. These are not formal, and they make it seem like you just grabbed anything you could find on your way out of the house. While you want to be comfortable, this is the wrong choice.
What to wear instead: Wear comfortable, classic shoes. These should be dress shoes, oxfords, flats, or low heels.
Frequently Asked Question: Inappropriate Funeral Attire
Most people don’t attend funerals often, so it’s normal to have questions about what to wear and what not to wear. Here are the most frequently asked questions about inappropriate funeral attire.
What colors are appropriate to wear to a funeral?
While different cultures have their own mourning colors, you should typically wear black or neutral colors. Avoid wearing bright colors or prints which can be disrespectful and distracting. Black, white, grey, and navy are the best choices.
What casual clothing is appropriate to wear at a funeral?
Some casual clothes are appropriate, depending on the specific tone of the event. In most cases, it’s appropriate to wear jeans or denim as long as you dress them up with a blazer or nice top. In addition, wearing a summer dress can be appropriate with a blazer, cardigan, or sweater.
How can you dress up casual clothing to be appropriate for a funeral?
Most casual clothing can be dressed up for a funeral service. Wearing a wrap, cardigan, or sweater for a low-cut or short-sleeved top is a great option for women who want more coverage. Additionally, tights can be worn under shorter skirts for a modest appearance.
For men, a plain shirt or polo can be dressed up with a blazer or sportcoat. A nice belt, dress shoes, and subtle accessories go a long way.
Dress Respectfully for a Funeral Or Memorial Service
Dressing for a funeral is something that should be done thoughtfully. This is an opportunity to show support and be there for the family, so you don’t want to wear anything distracting or disrespectful. The 12 things listed above you should never, ever wear to a funeral.
As long as you steer clear, you should be all set to attend a funeral or memorial service. If your outfit is professional and modest, that’s all you need to worry about. Remember, this isn’t about making a fashion statement. It’s about showing support when it matters the most.