Going to a funeral home is not a fun experience, but sooner or later you will need to attend one. If someone you know has recently passed away you may be wondering “what do I wear to a funeral?”
With respect to clothing, rules of decorum, prudence and the absence of fanfare should be prioritized.
In Western countries, the most appropriate funeral wear is classic clothing, some shade of black (the color as a sign of mourning), and closed-toe shoes.
Dressing for Funerals during Covid
Following coronavirus regulations, it is important we stay safe and protected. Going to a funeral home and dressing appropriately now goes beyond garments.
Certainly, bring a government-approved facial covering (N95 preferred) and respect both health protocols and funeral protocols. A medical mask or a dark colored mask are most appropriate, but do not worry to much about this element as families are forgiving and want attendees to remain safe.
Prefer Dark Colors to Bright Colors
When selecting what you wear, do not start at the clothing type, instead start at the color.
Select neutral garments or those with “cold colors”, that is, navy blue, brown, beige, gray, burgundy, and the endless number of shades of these. A decent rule of thumb here is that the older the deceased, the darker and more traditional the dress as a person who has died young probably does not have the same ideals as a 95-year-old.
This does not mean that the burials of children or young people will be informal, on the contrary, the gravity of the situation calls for wearing specially dressed for the occasion but the use of colors combined with black may always be allowed.
Avoid Bright, Flashy Colors
The golden rule is to go unnoticed.
Avoid garments in bright tones, glitters and sequins. Yellow, red, pink, orange are all colors to avoid.
White, in good measure, can be worn but you’ll want to avoid looking like it’s your wedding day or a baby’s first communion. A white shirt combined with black pants is certainly appropriate.
Also, keep ostentatious jewelry at home.
Steer Clear of Animal Prints and Bright Patterns at Funerals
As long as a pattern is not at all strident, or showy you can wear it without problem. A white liberty flower on a navy-blue background or a pale pink polka on a black background are perfectly allowed.
On the other hand, wearing animal print or bright plaid wouldn’t reflect poorly on the wearer.
Select Garments Which Won’t Stick Out
With color in mind, it is important that the clothing does not offend anyone’s sensibilities. The goal is to avoid “sticking out” as the focus should be on the deceased and their grieving family rather than an attendee’s attire. For example, extremely low-cut dresses for women and cutoff t-shirts and flip-flops for men are items to avoid.
Dressing for a funeral means pairing elegance with discretion and sobriety. In the case of men, a dark suit with a jacket and tie may be appropriate. Women should consider a dress, pants, or skirt (not very short) with a jacket, always with dark tones or combined with light and demure cuts.
Use Discretion if Wearing a Hat to a Funeral
Baseball or sports caps should stay home. Also on the forbidden list for most funerals are beanies.
For women, elegant neutral colored hats may be appropriate and warranted if there is an outdoor component of the ceremony. If the hat brings memories of a Kentucky Derby or an NFL football game, it probably isn’t appropriate for a funeral.
Avoid High Heels and Open-Toes Shoes
For women, the type of shoes to wear at a funeral can be a nerve-wrecking decision.
Discretion should be applied here, ensuring heels or platforms are not too high (no more than a 2-inch heel). Also, keep in mind that wakes and funerals tend to last few hours so choose to optimize around comfort rather than fashion.
Men should keep the decision simple with dark, leather shoes and avoid casual sneakers or sandals.
Balance Comfort and Elegance for Summer Funerals
Funerals and funeral homes today are not as strict as before. In the past, even if it was summer, you had to cover up your arms. This practice has been relaxed and families tend to have a more accepting demeanor toward dressing for the weather.
In summer or hot weather, to balance comfort with respect, women may consider wearing a shawl or a scarf to cover their shoulders.
Funeral Clothing for Children
Children and adolescents should be in line with their parents, but they are allowed to wear jeans or chinos, that is, somewhat more casual clothing. The important thing is that they are clean, neat, and comfortable. The last thing anyone wants at a funeral is a winey child fighting with a bow-tie.
For girls and adolescents, the same indications work. Also consider skirts or dresses below the knees combined with a cardigan. As for footwear, it is recommended that they wear shoes rather than slippers. Children can wear nautical types or moccasins and girls can put on dancers or boots in winter.
Discretion is King
If you follow no other funeral clothing rule, make sure it is discretion. Discretion in clothes, discretion in jewelry, in hats, in makeup, and in shoes.
Less is more. This is a loved one’s funeral, not Milan Fashion Week. The key is not to show off but dress in a respectful way, letting good taste prevail.