What to Wear: Appropriate Funeral Fashion

During last Sunday’s #EFRoundUp, we featured a story about a man who attended his best friend’s funeral in a short, neon green dress. While he had very touching and sentimental reasons for wearing the outfit, it also inspired healthy discussions regarding what is considered proper funeral fashion. We thought it would be helpful to feature a post regarding the topic. Below, Cindy Readnower, shares some helpful sartorial advice about appropriate funeral fashion. 

Mourners dressed in traditional all-black funeral fashion

What I remember most about my grandfather’s funeral when I was nine was that my mother told me not to wear something too somber, but to wear something normal. “Your grandmother doesn’t want to see her grandchildren dressed in black,” said Mom. Our grandmother wanted to be cheered up by us being ourselves.
She wanted to see life, not death.

I have often wondered at the impact of those left behind, being reminded of their loss at every turn by mourners dressed in black. Although funeral fashion traditionally dictates black clothing, consider when dressing for a funeral that the day is to remember someone else. Generally, the rule is to err on the side of “conservative” rather than “glamorous.”

Funerals are events where you should not attempt to focus anyone’s attention on you. Just as the rule at a wedding is to dress so as not take attention away from a bride or groom, you don’t want to take focus away from the true reason you are at a memorial or funeral: to pay your respects to the deceased person. You should blend in with everyone else. It’s a day for classic style and tasteful accessories, not an occasion to display fashion trends.

Funeral Fashion for Women

Tasteful funeral fashion for women, choices by askmamaz

Funeral fashion choices for women expand beyond all black, but designs should be classic and modest. (Image from Pinterest)

Women should wear blouses or dresses with sleeves, and they should show no cleavage. It is wise to wear skirts at least knee length. Subdued colors and patterns are called for, but do not necessarily need to be black. Shoes should not be extremely high-heeled or difficult to walk in, especially at the cemetery. If it is chilly, a coat and gloves may be appropriate funeral fashion. Hats are optional, but again, should not be garish. Flip flops are never appropriate, shorts would likely be inappropriate too, except in unique situations. Jeans are also generally considered too casual. If you wear perfume, choose a mild scent and apply a minimal amount.

Funeral Fashion for Men


Classic funeral fashion for men is a black suit with tie. (Image by MurrayMitchell)

Men should dress conservatively as well, in collared or polo shirts and black, blue, grey, or brown dress slacks. Suits may be called for, depending on the formality of the occasion. Ties are almost always acceptable funeral fashion, as is cologne, as long as it’s not overpowering. Men should refrain from jewelry, hats, and other accessories, and should also choose subdued colors. Again, jeans are generally considered too casual for a service, although in some situations jeans may be acceptable.

Funeral Fashion Around the World: Balinese Funeral procession, by nerdygaga

Funeral Fashion Around the World: Balinese Funeral procession. (Photo by nerdygaga)

Memorial services at unusual locations may call for less formal funeral attire. For example, if a family chooses to hold a service on the beach because it was their loved one’s favorite spot, then less formal dress is appropriate. The setting may call for more relaxed, but still conservative, funeral fashion.

When planning your outfit, think about the family.  If you are certain that the family will not be wearing black, then you don’t have to either. They may also ask you to wear a certain color or follow a dress code. Showing respect for your loved one means following the family’s wishes. Some families will focus on celebrating a loved one’s life rather than mourning their loss, so follow their lead. Different cultures may have other standards of dress for funerals, so do your research beforehand if the culture of the deceased person is different from your own.

In the long run, it’s not about what you wear; it is about being at a service that allows you a chance to say good-bye to a loved one, and support people you care about in a time of grief. When grieving a recent death, your sincere condolence, hug of support, or offer to help the ones you love go much further than your funeral fashion choices.

What do you think is appropriate funeral fashion? How have you dressed for funerals you’ve attended? Tell us in the comments below, or tweet us with your story. Everlasting Footprint reminds everyone to share the stories of loved ones who have impacted their lives.

About Cindy Readnower

Cindy Readnower, MBA, specializes in sales, marketing, and entrepreneurship. An award-winning certified Life Coach, business consultant, and publisher at Skinny Leopard Media, she helps writers produce and promote their books. She is a newspaper columnist, author of "Inherited Secrets," and a blogger.

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