Let’s Talk About Funeral Attire

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  • #27984

    Nana
    Member

    As someone who’s having to attend an awful lot of funerals this summer, I think it’s time we have a discussion about what to wear to a funeral. Like weddings, there seem to be a lot of unspoken rules that people are expected to magically absorb about what’s okay and what’s not, but it’s perfectly possible to miss out on this, and if you move/change cultures, your old rules may no longer apply. So even though we probably don’t want to, let’s talk funerals.

    **Appropriate funeral attire varies somewhat based on culture**, so please specify your cultural/regional background when commenting.

    #27985

    vanessaves

    I’m from Asia. Black, deep navy or white are all acceptable. No deviations into gray or any other tones, children included. No accessories. Attire should have sleeves and at least cover the knees.

    Although Chinese culture has one exception: if the deceased was at least 100 years old, then everyone wears bright red to celebrate his/her longevity! Slightly surreal when that happens tbh

    #27986

    tyrannosaurusregina

    Massachusetts, US. Mainline Protestant/Catholic family of origin, Jewish in-laws.

    My family was definitely of the “wear black if you’re a member of the deceased’s family, wear gray/navy otherwise” school. It was seen by my family as attention-grabbing to wear black to a funeral if you weren’t a family member. My family is a stuffy family.

    Seconding that the local/family “rules” about funeral attire included being covered up in terms of neckline, skirt length, and sleeve length. I definitely have a “funeral capsule” that meets the expectations of both my Christian relatives and my husband’s Orthodox Jewish relatives.

    I think memorial services are, on the whole, meant to be more celebratory events, so my experience is that business casual in any colorway works just fine. The exception here would be a group memorial service for people who died as part of a tragic event (firefighters killed on duty, for example), because those are generally about mourning together.

    I definitely see people coming to funerals in jeans, t-shirts, whatever. It’s not my own choice, but I think the most important thing is them showing up to honor the deceased and comfort the family, so I cut all the slack.

    Except for the person who wore the “One Tequila…Floor” t-shirt to the funeral of a classmate who died while driving drunk. That person is welcome to be devoured by fire ants.

    #27987

    RAproblems

    I am in Northeast Ohio. Though people have told me that I can be a little more flexible with color choice, I am really firm on black. There is something about wearing black to me that signals to everyone how important this person was and how you’re truly mourning their death. Wearing black to my best friends funeral felt like the only appropriate thing to do, and allowed me to have sympathy for myself, in a way. It was a marked choice that morning when I opened my closet. ‘This is the saddest day of my life, and I am choosing my black dress as a way to express that’. It allowed the consequences of her death to feel more real to me.

    My other rule is that my goal when dressing for a funeral is to look plain, boring, and standard. I want to attract zero attention, whether positive or negative, to myself. Usually business casual.

    Edit: When I say I am firm on black, I mean for me personally. I am not at all offended if others where navy, gray, etc.

    #27988

    atrueamateur

    I’ll start:

    I come from Florida, Protestant background, where wearing black clothes is sometimes *literally* dangerously hot and we avoid it when possible. Typically at funerals, only the close family wears solid black clothes. More distant relatives wear gray, predominantly-black prints, or separates where one piece is black. Other people who’ve come to support the family can wear any color, but they should wear clothes in the “church dressy” category. Women’s dresses and tops should cover the shoulder area (can be sleeveless, though a total-shoulder-covering cardigan would be wise if there’s a church component and a graveside component), and skirts should be no shorter than upper-knee. Midriff should be covered.

    Children at funerals, regardless of their connection to the deceased, can wear essentially whatever their parents want as long as it’s at least “church dressy”, and it’s considered acceptable.

    #27989

    chiefladydandy

    I’m in the greater Philadelphia area, white, non-religious, solidly middle class background. We tend to be pretty conservative about funerals. Black or a dark colored suit for men and women, closed-toe shoes, nothing too short or tight or revealing. Dark colors like burgundy or dark green are unusual, but are generally acceptable. Small children are generally dressed in their normal clothing, but if they’re middle school aged or older they wear their nice occasion clothing, no matter the color. Jewelry and makeup are okay but should be conservative and inconspicuous.

    I have seen funeral attendees who aren’t close to the family show up in jeans. However, jeans and a shirt (preferably a local team’s jersey) are the general uniform in these parts. It’s not a huge offense, but it’s definitely not preferred by the older and more conservative set.

    Every once in a while, someone decides they don’t want a traditional funeral. The family will notify everybody what’s expected before the service. Even in a situation where the family calls for a bright color, traditional funeral garb probably won’t be out of place. My cousin was a teacher, and when the school held a memorial service they asked everyone to wear pink in her honor because it was her favorite.

    All that said, do your best with what you have. There are a lot of retail employees in my circle and not everybody has or can afford a nice suit or special dress. If that’s the case, go with whatever your nice outfit is. Slacks and a shirt with black sneakers would be a little odd but definitely not too conspicuous. As long as you are making an effort to honor the deceased and their family, you’re doing okay.

    #27990

    loupammac

    Australia. My knowledge is funeral = black. I was shocked to attend a funeral and see people in heels and clubbing dresses. Many attendees looked like they were at a resort not a memorial garden. The immediate family and myself wore black. I could have probably left out the black tights and worn regular pantyhose instead. I wore a dress that covered my knees and shoulders. So many people wore off the shoulder and cold shoulder styles which is in poor taste imho.

    #27991

    [deleted]

    African-American Southern Baptist, here. In the bible belt, modesty at funerals only applies to skin being shown. But big hats, big jewelry, or otherwise “showy” attire are acceptable at funerals as long as its dark. Black or deep navy is pretty much a requirement, unless the family specifically requests that attendees wear another color. I’ve seen this happen quite a bit, where families specifically request that people wear purple or royal blue to honor the favorite color of the deceased. If a child dies, wearing white isn’t unheard of. But again, it always defers to the requests of the family. I see a lot of other people saying grey, but as a “default” color, I’ve never seen a lot of grey at funerals.

    #27992

    m4dswine

    I think honestly it is family specific.

    When my uncle died, we all wore bright colours because that was what he wanted.

    When my 2 grandfathers died we went more traditional.

    When my grandmother died we all wore purple.

    When I attended my aunt’s funeral before Christmas I wore all black not because that was expected (it wasn’t) but because that is all I own.

    In all cases the attire has been formal for the family.

    #27993

    hairlikemerida

    Also from Philly and I’m Italian.

    Italian funerals are very formal. Everyone is dressed tastefully. Full suits for men, dresses and skirts for women (all in dark colors; black, navy, and dark greys). Everyone must have sleeves. Sneakers and jeans are frowned upon and you bet your ass if you violate any of these dress codes, you will be talked about in the car during the procession. If you’ve watched The Sopranos, every funeral scene they do is depicted very accurately.

    I did attend an Irish funeral recently (my best friend’s father) and I was surprised at the lack of formal attire, as I had never been to anything but Italian ones. I was the most dressed up person at the funeral, even among my best friend and her family. People showed up in sweatshirts, sweatpants, and jeans and it really rubbed me the wrong way. My ex, who attended the viewing with me, showed up in white canvas sneakers and I was thoroughly embarrassed the entire night.

    #27994

    blahdimir-nabokov

    I’ve never been to a funeral, but in the Hindu tradition you wear white to symbolize the deceased person’s soul being at peace. The idea is to look neat, clean, and put-together, but not showy, so minimal jewelry and no loud makeup. Black is actually considered an inauspicious color so wearing it in most religious settings is kind of frowned upon.

    #27995

    Toirneach

    Colorado, not particularly religious family and friends.

    Black is for the family. Otherwise, wear a dark color, nothing that calls attention to yourself. The funeral is not about you. That being said, at my family funerals there’ve been folks show up in Carharts and workboots, because they left work long enough to come pay respects. And tbh, those were the people who made me want to cry – they loved my family members enough to lose wages they could ill afford to lose.

    I think the key is ‘it’s not about you, it’s about the family’. Don’t dress to attract attention or show off how fashionable you are. Blend in, show up.

    #27996

    doki36

    If I may ask a question: does funeral attire differ from memorial service attire? I’m in the northeast US, for context.

    I’m from New Jersey and have pretty much only attended funerals of Italian relatives. People wore some dark clothing, but not *all* black/navy/charcoal, and not super formal. Most just wore regular church clothes (shirt and slacks, modest dress or skirt, etc.) in any color. Maybe not super bright colors like coral or lime, but definitely not all dark colors. Also not super dressed up (very few blazers, even on men), but certainly several steps above jeans and a t-shirt. I distinctly remember wearing black chinos and a light blue button-up shirt when my grandmother passed away. She loved colors but hated black, so it almost seemed wrong to wear entirely black.

    My other (non-Italian) grandmother hated black too. She recently passed away and the family will be holding her memorial service soon (no funeral). I’m under the impression from my mom that chinos, a nice top, and a cardigan would be appropriate attire as immediate family, which sounds less formal that other posts in this thread.

    #27997

    LighthousesForev4

    From PA, Catholic family. Generally dark colors and modest clothes. However when my mom died she asked us to all wear bright pink because it was her favorite color and she didn’t want “everyone moping around in all black, it’s a celebration of [her] life!” We obliged.

    Husband is Jewish. They wear all black, women close to the deceased tend to wear a black veil but it is not required. They are not to groom themselves for 30 days to indicate their grief. Covered mirrors in the home and while sitting Shiva (when mourners come to pay respect)

    #27998

    odetothetheotokos

    Where I’m from, if you’re a woman, you wear something black and modest. No bared arms, no bared legs below the knees, no gaudy jewelry, no logos or other displays of obvious wealth. Men can wear anything, as long as it’s clean and professional. For some reason, mourning is considered a feminine thing. I think that tenet spans many cultures.

    I have a standard funeral “uniform,” if you will. Black pants with a dark top: it can be black or charcoal or even, like, a white blouse with a black blazer, if I really, really don’t know the person/family well and am only going to the wake, not the funeral or burial. I wear pearls and my wedding rings. My hair is almost always up (which is not an appropriateness thing: it’s just easier to have it out of the way). I’m Catholic and we (not all of us) women veil at Church so I’d wear a black veil, too. Makeup is minimal: I should look presentable so no makeup is a no go but certainly I don’t wear anything besides a touch of liner, mascara, and a neutral lip color.

    #27999

    streetwearlurk

    I’m from Jersey, have attended mostly wisconsin midwestern funerals

    So black is usually the norm. But navy and grey can also be acceptable so long as it’s dark and conservative enough. Colored accessories can be acceptable so long as they aren’t flashy and showy, think dark violets, greens, and maroons as acceptable, I promise you nothing bright or red toned is necessary. White shades CAN be acceptable as an accessory color in a scarf or something for the cold but shouldn’t be worn during any accompanying church service. Also always cover up the shoulders. Something a few inches above the knee can be acceptable as long as you’ve got on tights. Don’t go overly tight on the skirt or dress, even if it’s a fit issue. The old people view it as sexualizing a church and a funeral and they’ll tut at you. Shoes don’t have to be black, but should be nude or neutral, dark, or just not bright colored or informal (so summery sandals aren’t a great call). If it’s winter your coat shouldn’t be gaudy. Occasionally with older people you get some extravagant fur or bright coats in winter and it’s a no no, my grandma says those people usually wear something else or freeze.

    #28000

    lovekiva

    What a fascinating topic! I just started rewatching Six Feet Under so I’ve been wondering about this.

    I’m from Scandinavia. We wear black or dark colours, though it doesn’t necessarily have to be all black, just as long as the general vibe of the outfit is dark and muted. Men wear suits with a black or dark tie, women tend to wear dresses (with tights!) but dressy trousers are equally acceptable. Dresses tend to be modest and perhaps closer to something one would wear at the office — super frilly or dramatic dresses would stand out and sundresses aren’t that appropriate either. Funeral wear tends to be humble and subtle, so nothing too dramatic. Kids wear whatever dark clothes they have, preferably something formal-ish.

    The deceased is traditionally dressed in a white robe-ish outfit, though I suppose they could also be buried in their own clothes. No one in the funeral sees the outfit anyway since open casket funerals are extremely rare: in fact, it’s perfectly possible to go your entire life without ever seeing a dead person. We don’t embalm our dead, either (which inspired the [US embassy to point this out to American travellers to Iceland](https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/heading-to-iceland-just-make-sure-you-dont-die-there.amp)).

    #28001

    chilli1989

    North East US, catholic background. All black is preferred, with neutral shirts under dark colored suits being okay for men. I generally wear black trousers, a black blouse, low black heels, and a black trench.

    That said, I’ve been to four funerals in the last two years and there suddenly seems to be an influx of people bending the rules or even just ignoring them completely. It seems super inappropriate and rude to me. I’ve seen sundresses, club wear, floral prints in bright colors, platform heels, and men in t-shirts and jeans. Someone wore a hawaiian print shirt to my grandmother’s funeral. I realize not everyone has the budget for a black suit, but everyone should be able to stick to the modest outfit of dark colors rule pretty easily.

    #28002

    recovering_spaz

    My rule is always black with thighs, and boobs covered. Heels to the calling hours and ballet flats when I was a pallbearer.

    I’ve been surprised, the last three funerals I’ve been too have had a lot of white and pastel colors. These funerals were Catholic and in rural, poor areas so people might have just dressed nicely in what they had.

    #28003

    stellarpiper

    Protestant from Tennessee here. I’ve been to a lot of funerals.

    The key words are somber and respectful. I’ve seen ladies wear just about any color, but not bold prints. You do have to be dressed nicely, but not necessarily black. I usually wear grey pants with a black blazer and white blouse, especially in winter.

    Wearing heels is very common, but I would strongly discourage that if there’s a graveside component, especially if the ground is soft. Getting your heels stuck in cemetery ground is not fun.

    #28004

    torosintheatmosphere

    Brit here, after my dad passed away I literally could not have cared less what I or anyone else was wearing. All I cared about was people actually physically being there, they could have been wearing jeans/a dress no matter what and it would have been fine. The most supportive person to me wore jeans and a t shirt to the burial. If I was my scared of people judging me I would have worn a tracksuit myself. As an unwritten rule though dark colours and conservative dress.

    #28005

    CaliGurl209

    Born and raised in Eastern Europe – black, black and more black. Formal attire for men, modest dresses for women.

    Currently living in California – everything goes. I was shocked at my first funeral where the widow was wearing a light blue summer floral dress. I was told this family does not mourn the dead, but celebrate the life of the decesased, so dark colors and formal clothes are frowned upon, people dress casual and in bright colors.

    #28006

    auroralovegood

    Massachusetts. Older family members are Catholic, some of the younger ones attend church on holidays and others do not go at all.

    Funeral masses/services at the funeral home are black, grey, or navy, especially for immediate family. Suits if you have them. Think classy business casual if you dress more feminine. Very conservative. I wear something subdued, I have a lot of black clothing by default so it’s usually dark in color. Most funerals require advance planning, so there’s time to change your outfit.

    Wakes/calling hours are much more flexible. Many people com directly from work. This is obviously going to vary based on region and who the deceased was, but most of the people I know are working class and want to pay their respects. So, while we might have to come from work we make sure to wash our boots off first. and put on a fresh shirt. I have worn a subtle floral dress as recently as my beloved grandmother’s services.

    I also think it is important to keep an open mind if you see close family members in colorful clothing or casual attire. My husband’s Grammie passed after a long, brutal battle with Alzheimer’s and HATED funeral colors. One of her last requests was to wear beautiful, bright colors and flowers to all her services and her husband did not want it to be a sad occasion. We wore our Easter best, basically, and lots of (relatively) casual floral dresses. Grammie would have loved it.

    Also, at the recent services for my own grandmother, we kept things very classy and traditional because she was elegant and my grandfather wanted everything to be perfect for her departure. Most of us wore “blingy” black pieces because my grandmother was always in a fabulous outfit – think sequins on the 4th, gold embroidery, etc. She would not have wanted us in boring colors and would have been draping us in sequins and scarves to jujj up the outfit!

    Oh, and my Dad hates ties and says he will haunt anyone who wears a tie to his funeral lol. So jeans and white sneakers it is – wear your best “dad at a cookout” look!

    #28007

    Silkkiuikku

    I’m from Finland. Here you’re advised to wear formal black clothes. It’s not appropriate to draw attention to yourself, so don’t wear anything too showy or sexy. No large jewelry, no cleavage, no bare arms, no mini skirts. If you don’t own suitable black clothes, navy or other dark colors are the next best thing. Children don’t have to wear black clothes, formal clothing in muted colors is fine. If it’s cold, make sure that you have a suitable coat. Don’t wear very high heels, they are impractical when walking in the church yard. Those who are next of kin can bend the rules, but others should follow them strictly so as not to be disrespectful.

    #28008

    avacynangelofhope

    My beloved grandmother passed away and her funeral was last week. She *adored* purple, and my aunt — her daughter — thought it would be nice if we all wore something purple to the funeral.

    I wore a dark purple knee-length dress with a black cardigan overtop, and black heels and black hose — Grandma would have risen from her grave if I’d gone barelegged. I can still hear her voice telling me to “wear nylons.”

    My brother and dad (her son) wore black suits with purple ties, and my aunt wore a black dress with the purple scarf Grandma loved best. My mom wore a floor-length purple floral dress. She was probably the most colorfully dressed in the family.

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