What To Wear To A Funeral

Written by Pratima Ati

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 the dignity by dressing up appropriately. It’s good to be informed – and in this article, we will discuss everything you need to know.

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


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 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 footwear, sandals, shoes, or 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


The general etiquette for women has long been a black dress or a dress suit. However, things are changing, and funeral dressing 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 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, 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.

The same rule applies to scarves, gloves, hats, or any other accessories you plan to wear. Stay away from color-blocking or contrast 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 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.

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!

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.

Times are changing, and people are inching away from the conservative attire as long as one is not informal. Business casuals work too. You can choose to wear slacks with subdued colored collared shirts. The tie is not a compulsion. And at the end, if you are not sure, check with the family or err on the traditional side.

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 work 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 a self-design 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.

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After working in Marketing and Business Development for a few years, Pratima Ati jumped ship to pursue two things she loved – fashion and writing. She’s now a full-time Fashion & Lifestyle writer and has never looked back ever since. She sleeps early, reads often, and when she can't, she finally gives a closure to all the characters living in her drafts. Sometimes, they pass off as poetry too! That, and her training in Indian classical music and playing (learning) the veena keep her sane, civil, and bearable.