Can You Wear a Navy Suit to a Funeral or Memorial?

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Funeral etiquette says that wearing dark colors to a funeral, including the color navy, is considered a sign of respect for the deceased. Whereas, and in the case of children, some families may request that the guests wear bright colors to celebrations of life—or memorial ceremonies.

As a rule of thumb, expect to wear dark and neutral colors to a memorial or funeral service unless otherwise directed.

Jump ahead to these sections:

Below, we’re going to look at the color navy and whether it’s appropriate to wear at a funeral. If you don’t own a proper suit, we’ll also give you some hints on what alternatives you’ll have. Plus, we’ll offer ways to make what you already own better suited for this occasion. 

Virtual funeral tip: The same etiquette and rules of funeral attire apply to virtual funerals, too. If you're hosting a virtual or hybrid funeral, we recommend using an inclusive service like GatheringUs, which can walk you through setting up, hosting, and attending the event from start to finish, including your dress code. Here are some more tips for Zoom funerals.

Should You Wear a Navy Suit to a Funeral?

Queen Victoria made black the most popular option for mourning after her husband died. She even continued to wear the color black until her death many years later. Nowadays, it’s becoming more common to wear other colors than black to funerals and memories. Included is the color navy.

While many people think that black is the only appropriate color choice to wear to a funeral, navy is a perfectly acceptable alternative.

As there are several reasons why, I'll start with just a few.

  • Navy works for those who aren’t directly related to the deceased. 
  • Navy also works if you don’t have anything else to wear—no one wants you to make unnecessary purchases part of the funeral. 
  • Because navy is a color that you'd wear to a job interview, you can feel confident that it meets the same decency level.
  • Navy is an acceptable alternative for anyone who doesn’t own a black suit.
  • The color navy, itself, is not disrespectful in any way.

Besides, navy is a color that doesn't make so much of a statement that people remember what you were wearing that day. After all, isn't that what's more appropriate?

What about a charcoal or gray suit?

Definitely. Charcoal and gray suits are appropriate color choices for a funeral as long as the suit doesn’t stand out or make a statement. A funeral is less about taking attention away from the deceased and more about paying respect to them. If you're not sure, one easy way to determine if the outfit you have is unsuitable if you're questioning it.

That said, don't worry if you show up more formally dressed than others. At a funeral, it's better to be overdressed than under-dressed.

Plus, this is about your relationship and respect for the deceased. If that means you showed up over-dressed, so be it. Your family and loved ones will remember that you were there and that you brought love and compassion to a difficult time, not that you out-dressed them. 

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Popular Alternatives to Navy Suits to Wear to a Funeral

Instead of buying something new for this occasion, look in your closet for items to work within your current wardrobe.

Chances are you have one or two things that will do well as a substitute for a navy suit. Just stay somewhere in the subdued tones. Here are some ideas to get you started.

A-line navy dress

A knee-length A-line dress is an excellent alternative to a navy suit. If yours needs some extra fabric, you can always add a sweater over the top or a classy jacket.

A set of pearls, a simple necklace, or a fascinator hat will complete the outfit.

Sheath dress

Made famous by Audrey Hepburn, this classic style is appropriate for a funeral or a memorial.

A loud pattern may not be a reasonable choice, but stripes and polka dots are subtle. Pair it with some patent leather (or faux leather) shoes, and you're set.

Wool coat jackets

If you’ve got one of these in your closet, you won’t have to worry about anything but your footwear—unless it’s summertime.

Pair it with some knee-length boots, and you can get away with just about any kind of pant option.

Trench coat

Do you own a solid-colored trench? If you can’ wear your wool coat in the summer, the next best thing is a trench coat—and likely, you’ll be in a place with climate control where you won’t get too warm. Boots or flats are great options to pair with the trench.

Skirt and sweater

If you own an appropriate length skirt and pretty sweater, you won't need to worry about buying anything new.

Keep the patterns minimal if you can. If you prefer heels, then wear them. Otherwise, flats will work well.

Pants and blouse

If your pants, shoes, and accessories are already dark, you can get away with blouse colors like royal blue, emerald, and burgundy.

But skip the city fit pants and opt for something more comfortable if possible.

Pants and a tie

If you don't own a formal suit, choose a pair of work casual pants, press a solid-colored shirt, and put on a tie.

Are you worried about shoes? As long as they're not flipflops, make sure they're clean and you should be okay. 

Pants and a sweater or sweater vest

If you're a sweater kind of person, you can wear that to a funeral or memorial service. Some might say that you've got to, but you can avoid one altogether in this case.

Men’s wool coat and dress shoes

If you’ve got a pea coat collecting dust in the back of your closet, here’s an opportunity to put it to use next time you have to go to a funeral visitation.

Services like these don’t require a lot of time or ceremony, so you’ll be able to keep it on the whole time without seeming disrespectful.

Senator wear

Traditional clothing is appropriate for any occasion. Subdued patterns are preferred, but you can always put on an extra layer if you’re concerned about making too big of a statement during a funeral or memorial service.

How to Keep Your Navy Suit Appropriate for a Funeral

If you've got some kicked up styles you need to alter a bit, here are a few ways you can do that.

While there's a considerable difference between appropriate and dull, the one thing you don't want to do is take the spotlight away from the deceased and put it on yourself.  

Slips and undergarments

They might be out of style in some circles but slips and other undergarments come in super handy when your dress is see-through in direct sunlight.

Even if the service is inside on a sunny day, you may want to consider how it will look if you get held up at the door in an involved conversation.

Sweaters

If your navy suit has a questionable neckline or shows off some extra skin in the back, add a sweater or jacket.

You won't have to spend money to make something you own fitting to pay respects for a loved one or friend.

Jackets

Loud patterns or shiny accents can be easily fixed. Just grab one of your crop jackets and wear that over the top of your suit.

If your pants or skirt have a little extra zhuzh in them, no one will notice.

Skip the jacket, keep the pants

Some navy suits are flashy or a better fit for girls’ and guys’ night out than a church service. If you’ve got one of those, leave the jacket at home and put on a different blouse or shirt. 

Underlayer a blouse or sweater

If your short-sleeved or sleeveless suit needs some warmth, add a layer—but underneath the suit.

This way, you'll have full coverage on a cold day and add an element of style to your outfit. 

Belts

Skip the corset belt and choose a skinny one instead. A simple change of belts will tone down your style just enough so that it's suitable for a somber occasion. 

Nylons or tights

Maybe you think only the royals still wear these, but if your skirt is a little too high, all you have to do is wear a dark pair of nylons or tights.

Then you’ve instantly turned something a little too sexy into something more fitting for the occasion.

Wearing Dark Colors to a Funeral 

You don’t have to go to the store to buy something new for a funeral. There are many ways to explore what’s already in your closet. All you may need to do is make some changes to be respectful to the deceased and the other people there.

If you're looking for more tips on funeral etiquette, read our funeral etiquette guide and what to wear to a funeral in the summer.


Sources 

  1. Brooten, D., et al. (2016). Death Rituals Reported by White, Black, and Hispanic Parents Following the ICU Death of an Infant or Child. Journal of pediatric nursing31(2), 132–140. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pedn.2015.10.017
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