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.
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.
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. For Women, 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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