What to Wear to a Funeral: Funeral Outfit Ideas, Colours, Tips

what to wear to a funeral

By Selina Kirkham

Let’s talk about what you should wear to a Funeral.

Expectations can vary: At a more formal, traditional funeral, you may be expected to wear black dress clothes (buttoned suit for men, dress for women). For many funerals, the only requirement is that you wear something nice in darker colours.

Traditional, high-profile, upper class or more “formal” families will expect you to dress in traditional funeral attire. For others, there may be no expectation of dress at all, and for some non-traditional funerals (perhaps a “celebration of life” or a funeral for a cosplay enthusiast) you may be expected to dress in bright, celebratory colours or even in a superhero outfit. We’ll talk about each of these in turn below.

However, most people at most funerals want to pay their respects to the deceased and the family by dressing in a way that communicates sympathy and mourning, so you will be best served following our general collection of tips, guidelines, and ideas for what to wear to a funeral.

This guide on what to wear at a funeral is ideal for contemporary Western culture; other cultures may differ and vary considerably. Even within modern Western culture, there is quite a bit of variation so please keep in mind the culture and traditions of the deceased’s family, region, heritage, and/or religion.

1. What to Wear to a Funeral: General Guidelines

12 easy tips for everyone

  1. Black is a traditional colour and is always appropriate
  2. Non-black clothing is generally acceptable, as long as it isn’t brightly coloured
  3. Shirts/dresses should cover up to the neck; no open collars
  4. Trousers/dresses should cover the knees; no shorts or miniskirts
  5. Avoid flip-flops or training shoes
  6. In a casual setting, t-shirts may be appropriate – but avoid wild prints, logos, etc
  7. Keep a formal jacket on hand; this basic addition can help make many outfits passable!
  8. Wear subdued style and colours; you do not want to attract attention away from the deceased
  9. Dress as you would for church or a job interview
  10. Revealing attire is generally not appropriate; many traditions require shoulders and knees covered
  11. Be considerate of any religious setting; i.e., some require hats for women and/or men
  12. For information on funeral traditions of different religions, see here

Proper colours to wear to a funeral

  • Black is always ideal; traditional, formal, or casual, you will never look out of place in black at a funeral
  • Dark greys and deep blues are also highly appropriate, especially with accents and accessories
  • Brown shades, lighter greys, and other earthy colours are acceptable for most funeral services
  • Avoid bright colours such as pinks, yellows, oranges, and reds
  • White is acceptable for jewellery, accents, and shirts worn under darker colours (i.e. a white dress shirt with suit and tie)

2. What to Wear at a Funeral: Women

Basic tips for women:

  • Dark dresses or suits are always appropriate
  • Keep shoulders covered
  • Skirts/dresses should reach the knees
  • Tasteful colour accents can be acceptable
  • Avoid bright sundresses
  • Avoid anything overly revealing

Basic funeral outfit ideas for women

  • Skirt suit
  • Trouser suit
  • Dress
  • Skirt and blouse
  • Skirt and sweater
  • Trouser and top with sleeves

For women attending a funeral, the traditional dress code has long been a modest black dress or a black business dress suit, however, with the changing times, less strictly formal attire has become acceptable to wear to a funeral. While you will generally want to wear respectful, non-attention-grabbing outfits, you will be fine with a conservative selection of brighter or lighter colours, business-casual options, modest dresses, and variations of skirts, blouses, and trousers.

When in doubt – especially if you are unfamiliar with the family or service location – you should opt for the more conservative and more traditional options. Of all occasions in life, it is best to come to a funeral overdressed rather than underdressed.

3. What to Wear at a Funeral: Men

Basic tips for men:

  • Dark suits or buttoned shirts are always appropriate
  • Long-sleeved shirts, something with a collar
  • Belt with tucked-in shirt
  • Dress shoes or loafers
  • Avoid: training shoes, flip flops
  • Consider avoiding: jeans (though in many settings, dark jeans with tucked-in shirt is acceptable)
  • Avoid: shorts
  • Avoid: baseball caps
  •  

Basic funeral outfit ideas for men:

  • Dress suit with a tie
  • Polo shirt, trousers, belt
  • Button-down shirt, tie, trousers, belt
  • Button-down shirt, vest, trousers (or dark jeans), belt
  • Any of the above with blazer

The traditional dress code for men at a funeral has long been a suit in darker colours (black, grey, or dark blue) with the customary collared dress shirt and tie, however, with the changing times, this traditional attire is no longer an absolute requirement. Instead, it is acceptable to wear something along the lines of “business casual” or “Sunday best.” Use your judgment, but it is generally sufficient to wear trousers in any colour along with a collared shirt. This can be a dress shirt minus the tie or even a short-sleeved shirt. Keep the colours subdued, but acceptable funeral attire is no longer limited to only the darkest colours.

If you are unsure or not quite as familiar with the family or location, you should play it safe and go with the more conservative options. It is better to dress in more traditional funeral attire than to arrive underdressed.

4. Dressing for the Seasons

What to wear at a funeral in Summer.

When attending a summer funeral, consider the location first. If you are going to be part of an outdoor service you will certainly want to come prepared for the sun and heat.

Bring sunglasses and an umbrella. The glasses should preferably be simple and black rather than a cheery “summer fun” style. The umbrella will preferably be black but most styles and designs should ultimately be acceptable if needed.

Keep your clothing lightweight and try not to do too many layers. Choose fabrics that are lighter and airy, such as cottons and linens. Avoid nylon, polyester, or other synthetic clothing that will trap heat and sweat. Also stay away from shorts and flip flops; dressy or nicer strapped sandals are acceptable.

For women, choose a light and comfortable dress, or a knee-length skirt with a light blouse. Short-sleeved shirts are acceptable, just try to stay away from tops that reveal too much of the shoulders or chest. Avoid spaghetti straps, too-tight clothing, and miniskirts. Wear black, grey, or dark blue if possible, but most contemporary funerals allow a wider range of colours as long as it is not too ostentatious.

For men, do not wear shorts or denim. Rather, stick to lightweight trousers or dress trousers. Pair it with a collared shirt such as a button-up or a polo shirt. Avoid Hawaiian or other brightly coloured shirts. While lighter colours are acceptable, notably khaki trousers, it is advisable to wear a darker dress or polo shirt as this helps keep the outfit’s tone sombre and may help hide any sweat from the heat. Dress shoes, loafers, or dark trainers may be acceptable, just be sure to wear dark socks with them.

Children, should generally follow the lead of their parents. Shorts are acceptable, especially when there will be heat or sunshine, but pair them with nice shoes and avoid sandals.

What to wear at a funeral in Winter

If the funeral will be in the cold of winter, choose your outerwear carefully. The same dress codes apply to a funeral in winter, but you will want to add a coat along with accessories such as gloves, scarves, and hats. Bring a black umbrella for outdoor events.

For women, you will never go wrong with a classic wool coat in dark or moderate colours. Winter green, dark blues, browns, and checks are also typically acceptable for your outerwear. Choose good winter boots for a burial or outdoor funeral. Even if indoor, avoid open-toed shoes or sandals of any type. Accessories can include warm gloves, a scarf, and hats or other head coverings. Apart from outerwear and accessories, stick to the general guidelines for women’s funeral attire.

For men, this is why it is important to have a good-quality black wool coat. Accessorise with a dark scarf and warm gloves. Wear thick, dark wool socks. A black or grey beanie hat is acceptable, but a classic fedora is preferred. Choose rain boots for an outdoor burial service and your normal winter footwear for an indoor service. Aside from outerwear and accessories, follow the rest of the tips for men’s funeral attire.

Children, again, should follow the lead of their parents. Winter jackets in most colours will be acceptable, as will most rain boots. If possible, try to stay away from bright colours in accessories, but most people will understand when it is not possible to purchase an entirely new winter wardrobe for your children.

5. Traditional and Non-Traditional Services

funeralis a traditional term for a service with the body present, while a memorial service honours the deceased when the body is not present. Sometimes when the person has been cremated either term can be used.

When you are attending the literal burial, the service is traditionally known as a committal service but can also be called a graveside ceremony, graveside service, burial service, or simply a “burial.” Most often this takes place immediately after a funeral service and thus the dress code for one is identical to the other.

The term “celebration of life” has come into vogue in recent years, and the idea is to celebrate the life of the deceased as opposed to mourning their death. If this term is used, expect the service to be more casual with perhaps unique, creative, and alternative ceremonies and celebrations happening.

What to wear to a funeral

When attending a funeral, it is important to dress respectfully to honour both the deceased (whose body is present) and the grieving family.

Since the body will be buried or cremated sometime after the service, by necessity it will need to take place soon after the death. This means that the grief of family and friends will be recent and raw.

All the more reason, then, to choose funeral outfits according to the more traditional, formal, and conservative guidelines detailed above. This is a way for you to pay your respects to the departed and their family.

What to wear to a memorial service

memorial service is typically held without the body present. This can happen due to a variety of reasons, but in many cases the memorial service can happen several weeks or even months after the person has died.

As such, a memorial service can sometimes be a little less formal than a funeral. The same guidelines for dress at a funeral are typically followed, but a memorial service may be more casual and informal. At a minimum, you should dress in nice clothing, in subdued colours, and follow the dressy-casual outfits worn to a job interview or church.

When in doubt, err on the side of more formal and more traditional.

What to wear to a celebration of life

When you see the phrase “celebration of life” and a complete absence of funeral, memorial service, committal, etc, then you will most likely be attending a more casual affair. These can range in tone from a light-hearted memorial service to a full-on party with bands, dancing, drinking, and more.

You will still want to dress respectfully and appropriately, and still keep in mind the culture and values of the family, but you are fairly safe to assume that a smart-but-casual outfit will be acceptable.

Thanks for reading our guide on what to wear to a funeral, hopefully it will help to answer any questions that you may have, however if you are still unsure feel free to contact at:

Aubrey Kirkham Funeral Directors: https://aubreykirkhamfuneraldirector.co.uk/contact-us/