What To Wear To A Funeral: A Complete Guide For Women And Men

Pick the right attire for this solemn occasion to show respect to the mourning family.

Reviewed by Traci Jeske, Personal Stylist Traci Jeske Traci JeskePersonal Stylist facebook_iconlinkedin_iconinsta_icon
Written by , MSc Pratima Ati MSc linkedin_icon
Edited by , MA (English Literature) Madhumati Chowdhury MA (English Literature) linkedin_icon Experience: 7 years
Fact-checked by , BA (English Hons) Pahul Nanra BA (English Hons) linkedin_icon Experience: 2 years

It never is a good feeling to lose a loved one. Why should we then discuss what to wear to a funeral?

Life is unfair, and the unfortunate happens – thus, we need to be aware. Attending the funeral of the ones we lost is a respectful way of sending them off. It needs to be done honorably.

That’s why it is essential to maintain dignity by dressing up appropriately in mourning attire. It’s good to be informed – and in this article, we will discuss everything you need to know.

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  • Accessories: Long chained pendants, pearl studs, or religious jewelry such as a basic cross chain will give a more simple and decent look. For men, adding bands, watches, and cufflinks will give a more formal look.
  • Lipstick Shades: Opt for nude or light lipstick shades for a basic look. Avoid bright or glittery shades.
  • Footwear: Flat shoes, one-toe slippers, and simple sandals look best for women in a funeral setting. For men, brown or black formal shoes would give an appropriate look.
  • Hairstyle: Go for a modest look with a low ponytail, a half-up half down, or a close-knit bun hairstyle. For men, avoid any particular hairstyle instead go for a clean look or tie it back in a ponytail if you have long hair.

What To Wear To A Memorial Service: Dos and Don’ts

What To Wear To A Memorial Service Dos and Don’ts
Image: Shutterstock

It is called a memorial when the service is held without the body of the deceased. It typically happens weeks (or even a few months) after the person has passed away. Since it is a gathering in the memory of someone, it is considered less formal than a regular funeral.

The dressing etiquette does not differ too much – though it is more relaxed and informal. Wear clothes that are easy on the eyes – like pastels, undertones, or off-whites. In case you aren’t sure, it is always best to go for modest and formal attire. You can ask around in your family to understand their pulse and traditions.

  1. Stick to black, pastels, undertones, or other subdued colors.
  2. Trousers and tops, dark washed jeans, and light colored shirts
  3. One piece dresses – flowing, formal, or long
  4. Closed-toe-shoes, sandals, or ankle boots
  5. Scarves or shawls
  1. Distressed jeans
  2. Dresses and skirts with huge slits (even though memorials are considered informal)
  3. Swanky shoes, boots, or sandals
  4. Heavy makeup or loud jewelry
  5. Animal or gaudy print clothes
  6. Revealing clothes, plunging necklines, or see-through outfits
  7. Strapless or spaghetti straps

What Women Should Wear To A Funeral: Guidelines

What Women Should Wear To A Funeral Guidelines
Image: Shutterstock

The general etiquette for women has long been a black dress or a dress suit. However, things are changing, and funeral attire for women is a lot more relaxed now as long as you are respectful.

When in doubt – always ask or lean towards the conservative or traditional side and stick to somber formal funeral attire. Here are other guidelines that will help:

  • Try and cover up your body as much as possible. Avoid skin-revealing clothes. If you are choosing skirts or dresses, they should be below the knees. Outfits like a skirt or pantsuit, formal or semi-formal dresses, a skirt with a silk or chiffon sweater or blouse, trousers or pants and tops with sleeves, a sleeveless dress or top with a shawl, silk scarves or pashmina would work.
  • Wear shoes that are comfortable and decent.
  • You don’t have to rattle your head about the dress you have to wear to the funeral. Just keep it simple and basic. Let your sensibilities guide you.
  • If you shared a special bond with the deceased, share it with everyone at the funeral. Ask the family if you can wear something that has been gifted to you, even if it is sometimes off the dress code. Gestures like these are exceptions. After all, you are celebrating the deceased – so whatever it takes.
  • Your intentions matter the most. Even if you did wear something unintentionally, speak to the family. People are understanding and accommodating. Nobody is going to be critical or judgmental of your character.

Funeral Attire For Winter

The rules of what you wear inside will pretty much remain the same for a winter funeral (if it’s indoors). You have some more details to pay attention to while layering up. Choose neutral or black color trench coats or long jackets, opaque leggings, and winter boots for a winter funeral outfit.

The same rule applies to scarves, gloves, hats, or any other accessories you plan to wear. Stay away from color-blocking or contrasting colors. You can carry a hat or an umbrella for rainy days.

Women can stick to a classic wool coat – preferably in black, pastels, or mellow colors. Olive, navy, dark blues, browns, checkered, or plaid are also acceptable outerwear. Since it’s winter, accessories like gloves, scarves, hats or other protective layers are inevitable. Keep them in warm tones and low key. A simple pearl chain or earrings are appropriate jewelry.

Funeral Attire For Summer

Summers can get uncomfortably hot in some parts of the world. Stick to flowing, airy, and smooth fabrics. Choose formal attire, unless otherwise specified by the family or as per the request of the deceased. The dress should be falling on the knees or a little below.

If you are opting for a sleeveless dress, use a silk or satin shawl as a cover-up. Maxis are considered appropriate in some families – but it depends – so make sure you know the rules. Linen trousers (as long as they don’t come with drawstrings and are not baggy) or semi-formal pants (dark) with a chiffon, satin, or georgette top are good options.

Don’t walk in wearing shorts or flip flops. Strapped sandals or dress shoes are acceptable – closed feet are better. No skin revealing clothes. As it’s summer, best to stay away from spaghetti straps, and clothes that are figure-hugging or transparent.

Carry sunglasses and an umbrella if the service is outdoors. Beware, the sunglasses should be simple and not too cheery (and the umbrella, black). Check with the family or someone you know if lighter colors are allowed.

Mary, a blogger, wore a linen black dress to a funeral. She feels the color black shows respect to the deceased soul and the occasion. In her blog, she wrote, “I am traditional when it comes to funeral dress code. I like to wear black. Yes, I invariably do go back to black. I really wince a little when the funeral notice states ‘wear something colourful’ (i).”

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When it comes to children, they can wear smart and age-appropriate clothes in black or dark colors. If you are taking a toddler, you can dress them in plain dark-colored clothing. However, it is not compulsory.

Religious Customs At A Funeral

Different countries and cultures view the colors of mourning differently. For Europeans, black is the color of mourning while for the Chinese, it is white. People in some parts of China also wear separate colors depending on the relationship they share with the deceased. It is also interesting to learn that countries like Egypt and Mexico wear yellow for a funeral. While Koreans dress in blue, the Thais wear purple.

India, on the other hand, believes in wearing white for mourning or attending funerals. People are seen wearing traditional Indian attires like saree, salwar, kurtas, etc., in white. So, yes, there is a lot of difference.

It might seem trivial to some of us, but it is essential we all know about these differences. Ignorance is no bliss. Since it is a very sensitive issue for the families involved, you don’t want to do anything that might offend or hurt them. I’m going to say this one last time – remember that it is better to lean towards the formal side. Or ask, at least!

protip_icon Trivia
For a Ghanaian funeral in South Africa, it is traditional for members of the community to wear black and white, while the immediate family wears red and black.

What Men Should Wear To A Funeral

The traditional dress code for the longest has been a suit. Dark colors like black, gray, navy, or blue are good. These go well with a collared shirt and a tie.

Check out the section below for key insights on what not to wear at a funeral, ensuring your attire reflects respect and empathy during this solemn occasion.

What Not To Wear To A Funeral

When attending a funeral, avoid wearing bright colors, flashy patterns, or overly casual clothing. Steer clear of revealing or excessively formal outfits, and opt for muted tones like charcoal or deep shades, eschewing traditional black, navy, or dark gray. Skip excessive accessories and choose subdued jewelry. Closed-toe shoes are preferable, and gentlemen should avoid jeans, opting for a suit or a collared shirt with dress pants. These guidelines help ensure your attire remains respectful and understated, allowing the focus to rest on honoring the departed and offering support to grieving loved ones.

Infographic: What To Wear To A Funeral: A Complete Guide For Women And Men

We understand discussing outfits at a time of bereavement is not easy for many. But one also needs to appropriately dress for a funeral and avoid clothing mistakes that might make you look out of place or worse, disrespectful. To avoid any mishaps, check out the infographic below and find out what to wear to a funeral.

what to wear to a funeral a complete guide for women and men (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

Indeed it is no fun discussing funeral attires, but we cannot ignore it either. We must be aware of the dos and don’ts to prevent ourselves from wearing something that might not be appropriate for the day. We know it is tough for you to think of what to wear to a funeral amidst gloomy surroundings. But this article should be your guide, so you do not have to bother about it. Instead, spend time thinking about the deceased and pay them respect.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do we wear black to a funeral?

Wearing black to mourning goes way back to the days of the Roman Empire. It continues from the Renaissance, the 19th century, and until the present day. This changes with different faiths, countries, and cultures, but for the most part, black is considered a symbol of mourning.

Can you wear white to a funeral?

While countries in North America and Europe wear black to funerals, white remains a color of mourning and peace in Eastern cultures like Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. So, it is relative and depends on the kind of funeral/service you are attending.

What to wear to a funeral, if not black?

Anything dark or single toned. Something in dark gray, brown, taupe, or navy blue works fine.

Can I wear pants or trousers to a funeral?

Yes, formal pants or trousers are good, as long as they are simple and straight. Let them not be retro, flashy, or distressed.

Is a black dress with a self-design of polka dots okay?

As long as the polka dots are self-designed and small, it should be okay. The dots should not be overpowering or over-the-top.

Are white, off-white, or pastels considered appropriate for a funeral?

It is relative to the culture, tradition, and the country you are in or where the deceased is from. It works differently for different cultures. White or off-white is a color some countries wear. But pastels might be specific and worn only to oblige the request of the deceased. So, please ask around.

Can you wear a floral dress to a funeral?

Absolutely not. Unless you are a close kin who was informed at the last minute and had to rush to the venue with whatever you had on, florals are unacceptable. Any flashy patterns, blingy accessories, and bright colors are highly inappropriate for funerals. Stick to solid, dark colors if you do not have black. Keep makeup, styling, and accessorizing minimum or just ditch them for good measure.

What color nail polish is appropriate for a funeral?

Ideally, clean nails with no nail polish will be most appropriate. But if you must wear nail polish, go for neutral shades and make sure the nails as well as the polish are not chipped.

Is it okay to wear a hat at a funeral?

Yes, it is. Keep in mind that it must be formal. It does not only have to be black but can be navy, gray, or taupe are appropriate colors as well. Women do not have to take it off in church.

Key Takeaways

  • Wear dark, neutral colors such as black, navy, or dark gray to appear respectful and for the solemn occasion.
  • Avoid too funky, flashy, or revealing attires like mini skirts or deep-necks.
  • Wear clothes that are formal and do not call for unnecessary attention.
what to wear to a funeral

Image: Stable Diffusion/StyleCraze Design Team

Funerals are a somber occasion and you need the proper attire for them. Check out this video for respectful dressing tips, from colors to wear and mistakes to avoid.

Personal Experience: Source

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Traci Jeske

Traci JeskePersonal Stylist

Traci Jeske is an internationally certified personal stylist with over 30 years of experience. She is also the director of En Vogue Stylist and helps women 50 and beyond up level their glamor game by finding their unique style and looking and feeling absolutely fabulous. Traci was born and brought up in Canada and then established her stylish brand in...read full bio

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