What to Wear to a Funeral in the Winter: A Guide

Updated

Funerals are sometimes a little tricky to dress for in the best of circumstances. Winter can add to the concern, especially if you aren’t typically dressing formally or semi-formally for your work or school. 

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Here are some tips on how to prepare for a winter funeral. Even one or two additional items in your wardrobe may make it easy to create a funeral outfit. 

Don’t feel like you have to go and purchase an entire brand-new outfit for this occasion if you don’t feel you could use it again.

Winter Funeral Outfits for Adults

To begin, what should adults wear to a funeral in winter? It doesn’t have to be a complicated, over-the-top outfit. In fact, simple is usually best. Try your best to use things you already have in your closet to create something tasteful and meaningful. 

Women winter funeral outfits

For women, there are a few different options for winter funeral attire. Depending on whether the funeral is indoors or outdoors, be mindful of your clothing length. You don’t want to be uncomfortable throughout the service. Any of the following are appropriate funeral outfit options:

  • Pants suit. A pants suit isn’t just great for the office. This covers both your arms and your legs, and it looks very sophisticated and tasteful. 
  • Mid-length or long skirt. Similarly, you could opt for a mid-length or full-length skirt. This can be paired with tights or even leggings for extra warmth. Choose something in a neutral color like grey, black, or navy. 
  • Long dress. If you have a long dress, this is also an easy choice. Try to choose a dress in a solid, darker color. If it doesn’t have sleeves, pair it with a warm sweater or coat. 
  • Sweater. For a casual choice, a sweater is a great idea. Paired with long pants or a skirt, you can dress up or dress down a sweater. Pairing it with a collared shirt, blazer, or boots can make this more formal. 
  • Scarves. A scarf is also a warm option, especially if you’re transitioning between an indoor and outdoor service. A solid-color scarf can look put-together, and it can help dress up an outfit. These can also be used as a cover for short-sleeve outfits. 
  • Boots or closed-toe shoes. To suit the winter weather, pair your outfit with boots or closed-toe flats. This is the most practical footwear choice. 

Women can add layers with cardigans, blazers, coats, leggings, and tights. Consider bringing more layers if you’re unsure about the funeral setting or weather. You can also wear a warm hat, but these might not be appropriate indoors. 

Men winter funeral outfits

Most traditional men's funeral outfits are already suitable for wintertime, but you might need to consider additional layers. Outerwear goes a long way to adding a dressed up, formal appearance without compromising on comfort. Here are options for men to wear to a winter funeral:

  • Suit with or without tie. Wearing a dark suit with a button-up shirt is the go-to choice for men’s funeral attire. This can be worn with or without a tie, depending on how formal the occasion is. For most climates, a warm suit jacket and long-sleeve shirt is enough warmth. 
  • Long-sleeve shirt with slacks. Alternatively, if you’re wearing a dress coat, don’t wear a suit blazer. Instead, wear dark slacks with a button-up, long-sleeve shirt. 
  • Sweater. For more comfort and warmth, add a nice, neutral sweater over your button-up, collared shirt. 
  • Dark jeans. Unless this is a very formal funeral, most men can get away with wearing dark-wash jeans. Pairing jeans with a dark, tucked-in shirt makes all the difference. 
  • Dress shoes. Dress shoes are the best option for men at winter funerals. Depending on whether the funeral is indoors or outdoors, you might wish to wear winter boots instead. 

Most funerals offer a lot of flexibility with what you can wear, though you want to be mindful of the impression you’re making. When you choose clothing for a funeral, you’re taking the time to respect the family after a loss. 

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Winter Funeral Outfit Ideas for Teenagers

Teenagers aren’t typically held to the same standards as adults when it comes to winter funeral attire. However, it’s still important for teens to dress well for the occasion. Because teenagers might not have as much clothing in their closets, it’s OK to work with what you have. 

For teens, choose simple clothing in neutral, dark colors like black, grey, white, or dark blue. Avoid patterns or anything that’s too distracting. For girls, a solid dress, pants, or skirt are a great choice. A simple, plain blouse or sweater can add warmth, especially when paired with a skirt. 

For teen boys, slacks, dark jeans, and a button down shirt is typically acceptable. This can be paired with a sweater, solid-colored sports jacket, or coat for warmth. Both girls and boys should wear appropriate shoes, like dress shoes or comfortable flats. 

Winter Funeral Outfit Ideas for Kids

One of the biggest questions about funeral dress codes is what kids should wear. Most importantly, recognize that kids have the most flexibility when it comes to choosing their clothing. It’s understandable that most kids’ clothing isn’t dark or funeral-friendly, so work with what you have. 

Kids typically aren’t expected to wear black to funerals. Wearing solid-colored formalwear is a great rule of thumb. However, avoid shorts, sandals, sneakers, or T-shirts. There should be no sparkly materials or eye-catching fabrics. 

Children can get away with wearing less formal clothing to funerals. Because everyone understands that children outgrow clothes quickly, you can choose anything that feels appropriate and comfortable for your child. Simple, conservative, solid-color clothing is all you need to know. 

Other Tips for Getting Dressed for a Winter Funeral

Next, we’ll discuss other tips for getting dressed specifically for a winter funeral. These tips explore what you should or shouldn’t wear, as well as how to stay comfortable in the cold weather. 

While these depend on your specific climate, they’re a good rule-of-thumb. Remember that these tips might vary depending on the age group of the guest, as well as the funeral’s guidelines. Always follow the family’s requests, especially if they want guests to wear something special. 

1. Aim for non-athletic outerwear

Because you may be wearing your coat for a substantial part of the day, going in and out of buildings, or standing at a burial site, aim to pick a coat that isn’t made of bright, athletic-wear fabric. 

A peacoat or simple dark winter coat would work well, and if you don’t have one, you might consider asking around to borrow one, since outerwear can often fit multiple builds.

2. Dark colors often rule the day

While there are certainly exceptions, start your winter funeral outfit by evaluating what darker colors you have. Black is a common color for funerals, but navy, dark brown, gray, and forest green all work fine. 

Figuring out what you have already in subdued hues can start you on the right path.

3. Make sure your footwear is practical, but not casual

While it might be tempting to choose a dark pair of sneakers, athletic shoes really dress-down an outfit, so try to find dress shoes or, for ladies, dark-colored fashion boots. While you do want to look nice and somewhat-dressed-up for most funerals, don’t sacrifice your ability to walk. A stiletto heel may look nice, but it will make it hard to walk through grass, especially on a wet day. 

If you have to choose between a lighter-colored practical shoe and a darker colored one that could twist your ankle, opt for the practicality.

4. Consider dark leggings under slacks

One of the issues with cold winter days is that even a full-body coverage outfit, like a long-sleeve blouse with slacks, is too thin for the weather’s wintery wind. If you opt for a slacks outfit, you might consider pulling on a pair of dark leggings underneath your slacks. 

Leggings keep the warmth in and make it a little harder for the wind to cut through the fabric and chill you down.

5. For men, long underwear or an undershirt can add warmth

Likewise, men’s dress shirts and slacks, or even high-quality suits and suit separates, aren’t always warm enough for standing by a burial site. To ensure you won’t shiver, consider a pair of long underwear or an undershirt to further protect you from the cold. 

As long as they aren’t visible through your clothes or at your ankles, they won’t change the formality of your look.

6. Consider a nice, darker sweater to stay warm outside

Both men and women, if the wedding is not extremely formal, benefit from a dark, wool sweater that isn’t too bulky but is quite warm. Patternless sweaters come across as more formal than athletic wear but don’t require you to own a full suit or an extremely formal outfit. 

Women can pair a sweater with a skirt or slacks. Men can stay warm and wear a simple dark sweater with slacks to be adequately formal without buying a new, highly formal outfit.

7. Gloves in brown or black are common and helpful

Most of us don’t want to venture out in winter cold without gloves for any length of time, so make sure you pack or wear a pair of gloves for the funeral. Some choices won’t work well, like work gloves or excessively puffy and bright-colored gloves, but most adult gloves come in fairly muted tones to begin with. 

Get yourself a pair of brown or black gloves, either in leather or faux leather, and your hands will be prepared for the chill.

8. Carry a dark umbrella for winter precipitation

Many umbrellas are already in simple tones. A black, brown, or even clear umbrella would work fine for protection from winter precipitation. Carrying one helps you not shiver with water seeping through your outfit.

If you aren’t certain about the possibility of snow or sleet, consider a very small pocket or purse umbrella. You won’t be able to shelter multiple people, but it will come in handy if the funeral gets a surprise shower and you want to keep the snow off of an elderly relative.

9. Compromise with thick socks if your formal shoes are thin

A consistent trick for dressing warmly but formally at a winter funeral is to use under-layers to warm you up with more formal, thinner overlayers. If your formal boots or dress shoes are thin and likely to be cold in, say, wintery slush, consider a thick wool sock underneath them. 

This runs the risk of making the shoes a little tighter, but if it keeps your feet warm, it's most likely worth the trouble.

10. Wear stockings or tights under dresses and skirts

One of the general rules for women’s clothing (and men’s, though they’re less prone to this problem) is to dress conservatively and covered-up, without too much skin showing. To this end, if you opt for a dress or skirt, consider a thick stocking or tights to keep you both warm and covered. 

Generally, dressing warmly and dressing conservatively tend to work in each other’s favor during winter funerals.

11. Cardigans are useful for winterizing short-sleeved dresses

Many women find that their most appropriate dress is a dark-colored sheath dress without sleeves, or a short sleeve blouse and skirt combo. While nice options, they leave the arms exposed. 

A good all-purpose item to own is a dark-colored cardigan, either black, gray, navy, or forest green. These colors go well with many neutral-colored dresses and blouse-skirt combinations. By adding a cardigan, even a dress intended for summer weather can become an option for a winter funeral.

12. Favor dark over light, and favor simple over bright prints

Once you’ve considered all the options you’ve gathered from your clothing, prioritize what you wear based on these two principles. Dark colors and simple/no patterns.

It isn’t essential that everything you wear be dark, but darker colors are probably a better choice over light or bright ones. The same is true of simple clothing, such as a plain color or a plain color with just one or two stripes, over bright or loud prints, such as floral, paisley, or other patterns. 

As usual with funeral outfits, prints are more eye-catching than plain clothing. Even if you end up in, say, a plain beige dress or use a white button-down shirt, pairing these with a few darker separates will work fine.

13. Make your outfit easy to modify for indoors-outdoors

For practicality’s sake, make sure that your outfit remains appropriately conservative and simple in both its outdoor and indoor states.

Wearing a dark sweater, as earlier suggested, only works well if it isn’t so warm that you have to pull it off when you go inside. If this is the case, make sure you have an appropriate button-down shirt underneath, not just an undershirt.

14. Put everything through the 'attention-grabbing' test

All of the above advice keeps in mind that people want to focus on the memory of the deceased during a funeral

While you should certainly be warm enough for the weather, you're aiming to draw as little attention to yourself as possible. Let this guide the personalizations of your outfit, both in winter and at any time of year.

Bundling Up for a Winter Funeral

You don't want your outfit to be uncomfortable, require adjusting, or be too thin to keep you warm. Your attention (and the attention of others) will be drawn away from the occasion and toward your outfit. 

Let these guidelines help you select the best option. Be aware that a good-faith-effort at making your outfit appropriate will generally be enough. Few funerals are so excessively formal that the bereaved would be offended by your attempt to make your clothing simple, reasonably formal, and unobtrusive.

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