What Not to Wear to a Funeral

black dress on a hanger

The Spruce / Christopher Lee Foto

If you're getting ready to attend a funeral, you might be wondering what you should or shouldn't wear. It's important to dress in a manner that respects the occasion. The most important thing to remember is that you should never call attention to yourself with your attire. The whole focus should be on what you're there for. 

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5 Simple Tips for Getting Dressed for a Funeral

What Women Should Not Wear to a Funeral

Women have a list of things to think about before dressing for a funeral. From makeup to shoes and everything in between, there are some respectful rules to follow:

  • It's recommended that hems remain at knee-length or below the knee.
  • Pair a sleeveless dress with a tailored jacket, sweater, or shawl to drape over your exposed arms.
  • Keep your footwear simple, closed-toe, and with flat or small heels. You may find yourself walking in the grass or on uneven ground, so high heels may feel uncomfortable.
  • Wear a sensible hat that isn't so large or floppy that it blocks someone's view of the officiant.
  • Leave noisy bangle bracelets and necklaces at home.
  • Keep your makeup to a minimum and waterproof mascara helps if you're likely to shed tears.

What Men Should Not Wear to a Funeral

Men shouldn't wear sports caps or items with logos or writing on them. Leave your graphic and printed T-shirts in the drawer and opt for something more subtle and conservative. A conservative suit or tailored pants and a blazer are appropriate for most funerals. Wear a lightweight jacket to stay comfortable if the weather is warm. Add a tie in a muted color or subtle print.

Dress Conservatively

Because a funeral is a somber occasion, it is best to dress in conservative colors and styles in semi-formal attire. Black is still the safest color for funeral attire, but you don’t have to wear solid black. A black suit with a white shirt is acceptable or a dress that's mostly black but has a subtle color in the pattern is also fine to wear. Here are some other things both men and women need to avoid:

  • Resist wearing bright colors or wild prints.
  • Avoid dressing in casual clothing, such as athletic wear, tank tops, or shorts.
  • Skip the flip-flops, tennis shoes, sneakers, or boat shoes.
  • Remove the neon necktie, purse, or accessory.
  • Shy away from wearing jeans, even black ones, because they are considered too casual for a funeral. But if you only have a pair of black jeans, pair it with a tailored blazer, a nice shirt, and shoes (not sneakers) to make the look more fitting for the occasion.

Exceptions

There are exceptions to the above. It is acceptable to dress in a military uniform for the funeral of a veteran. If your religion or the religion of the deceased calls for a specific style of dress, follow the rules. 

Many people consider funerals a celebration of life rather than a sad end-of-life occasion. If this is the case, the family of the deceased may ask people to dress in a more upbeat or festive manner or wear something in the deceased's favorite color. At times, the family may hold a service away from a place of worship and at a casual location, and they may request that you wear less formal attire. It is proper etiquette to heed their request. If you're unsure about what to wear, don't be afraid to ask. That's better than showing up in inappropriate attire. 

what to wear to a funeral

Illustration: Catherine Song. © The Spruce, 2018

More Things to Consider When Dressing for a Funeral

As you choose something to wear to a funeral, there are several more things you need to take into account. The following tips and manners apply to both men and women:

  • Do not wear anything that requires constant adjusting because you may feel uncomfortable.
  • Follow the dress code for a place of worship if the funeral service is being held in the sanctuary.
  • If you are unsure how to dress, wear what you would wear to an office job interview.
  • A pantsuit or dress pants and a jacket are now acceptable for funerals.
  • You don't have to buy a new outfit. Look in your closet and put pieces together to make an appropriate ensemble; A nice jacket can complete an outfit for a funeral.
  • Wear plain, simple, unembellished sunglasses for outdoor services.
  • Keep your hairstyle as simple and natural as possible.
  • Do not wear strong perfume or scented body lotions that may cause allergic reactions, sneezing, or coughing during the services.