Whether you've never attended a funeral before or haven't been to one in quite some time, you may be wondering how to dress for a funeral. Choosing the right funeral clothes will show respect for the person who has passed, as well as their loved ones. By having a better understanding of traditional funeral wear, you can more confidently decide what to wear to a wake or funeral of a family member, friend, or loved one.
COVID-19 tip: If you're attending or planning a virtual funeral using a service like GatheringUs, wear your normal funeral attire (including the top and bottom half of your body) and follow the advice below. Make sure you wear something you can sit comfortably in for a couple of hours and doesn't look distracting or distorted (e.g. bright colors or busy patterns) on the computer screen.
Traditional Funeral Attire in the United States
In the United States, it is generally considered appropriate to wear the color black to a funeral. You may be wondering, "why do people wear black to funerals?" In fact, this custom dates all the way back to the days of the Roman
For some other religions, such as Buddhism and Hinduism, wearing white to a funeral is actually more common. This is because white is considered to represent purity. The color that is most appropriate to wear to a funeral, then, can vary depending on the religion. In most cases, however, it is a pretty safe bet to wear blacks, grays, and other neutral colors to a funeral.
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Traditional Funeral Attire for Men
Specific recommendations on what to wear to a funeral viewing or service can also vary a little depending on gender. For men, you can never go wrong with a full suit and tie. At the very least, you should wear a dress shirt and tie with dress pants.
Of course, what to wear to a funeral in winter may differ from what to wear to a funeral in the summer. A full suit with a jacket may not be practical for a summer funeral, especially if any part of the service will be held outside. If this is the case, then you may consider just wearing a dress shirt and tie, or removing your suit jacket for the portion of the service that will be held outdoors.
Speaking of weather, try to prepare for all possible scenarios. This may include keeping a black or dark-colored umbrella in your vehicle in case it rains, as well as bringing along a modest pair of sunglasses.
Generally, men should avoid wearing casual clothing to a traditional funeral, as it may be considered disrespectful. This would include clothing items such as jeans, sneakers, and baseball caps.
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Traditional Funeral Attire for Women
Generally, women are expected to dress conservatively for a funeral. A simple black dress of an appropriate length, paired with tights and modest shoes is a pretty safe choice for most funerals. A skirt of knee-length or longer paired with a modest blouse can also be a good choice. Just be careful to avoid anything too eye-catching that could draw attention to your attire. This could include a low-cut blouse/dress or oversized accessories.
Again, it's important to keep in mind the time of year when deciding what to wear to a funeral female. In some cultures, it may be appropriate to wear a hat to a funeral. During a summer funeral, open-toed shoes may be acceptable, but if you're looking to play it safe, a pair of basic close-toed pumps or flats may be a better option.
Do You Have to Wear Black to a Funeral?
Now that you have a better understanding of what to wear (and not to wear) to a "traditional" funeral, there are some special circumstances to consider.
Do you have to wear black to a funeral? Not always. These days, it is becoming more common for people to express in their wills/final wishes that they would like people to wear bright colors or other specific colors to their funeral service. For example, the deceased person may have asked that their favorite color is worn during the funeral. Others may ask attendees to dress casually. These special requests can be a great way to make a funeral or memorial service more personalized.
If this is the case, then you can throw all the information about proper colors to wear to a funeral out the proverbial window! You'll want to honor your loved one's final wishes. If the family is requesting that you wear anything other than traditional funeral attire, this should be made clear to you in the funeral announcement or invitation. Otherwise, you can generally plan on wearing traditional attire in black or otherwise subdued colors.
Planning for End-of-Life Decisions With Cake
Most people don't put much thought into what to wear to a funeral until they need to attend one. And while planning for the end of your own life may not be the most enjoyable thing in the world, it's actually never too early to start thinking about your final wishes and making sure they're well documented. This way, if you want people to wear your favorite color to your funeral, you can make sure this is outlined in your funeral announcement and that all your other wishes can be carried out when the time comes.
Post-planning tip: If you are the executor for a deceased loved one, it's tough to handle both the emotional and technical aspects of their unfinished business without a way to organize your process. We have a post-loss checklist that will help you ensure that your loved one's family, estate, and other affairs are taken care of.
- Mayne, Debby. "What Not to Wear to a Funeral." The Spruce. 16 November 2018. www.thespruce.com/what-should-i-wear-to-a-funeral-1216549
- "Why Do People Wear Black at a Funeral?" Wonderopolis. wonderopolis.org/wonder/why-do-people-wear-black-at-a-funeral