If you ever have the misfortune of going to a funeral, be it that of a family member, a friend, someone you knew, or because you are accompanying someone, you’re going to have to dress the part.
Funerals are somber and formal events, and you can’t just wear the first thing you find in your wardrobe.
However, we understand that, when going to a funeral, one can sometimes struggle to decide on what is appropriate clothing, and if the death hits close, you don’t exactly have the mindset to be thinking about it much.
As a general rule, formal black clothing is what is appropriate at a funeral.
However, it is very important to check whether there is a dress code in place, as some funeral events ask you to come in a certain type of clothing or color, as a sign of respect to honor the deceased.
You also need to know whether it is a proper formal funeral or more of a casual black and whether it is actually a black sort of funeral or more of anything but.
To help you out, and so that you have a guide in place for whenever it is needed (hopefully not any time soon), we’ll talk you through all of the main rules and tips.
Traditionally appropriate clothing for a funeral
Traditionally, in most cultures within the Western world, the appropriate clothing for a funeral is something dark and modest, to show respect within the somber and formal occasion.
As a general rule, that is, if no other dress code is established, most people will wear black clothing to a funeral.
Black is a color very commonly associated with feelings of mourning, and it is a great option for somber events in which you are there to pay your respects.
However, although most people assume that black is the dress code that they should adhere to, there are plenty of other colors considered to be traditionally appropriate. Dark grays, dark navy, and other dark colors are equally okay to be worn at a funeral.
As a general rule, your clothing attire should also be modest and conservative, as you are there out of respect, and should draw attention away from yourself.
However, there are some funeral occasions in which it is okay to wear something more informal or casual, for example, at crematoriums or funerals with no ceremony.
What to wear to a non-black funeral
It has become increasingly popular, nowadays, for people to request a non-black funeral event.
This means that they would like guests to not wear black, as otherwise, the occasion becomes too much of a sad event, and it can be too much for those most hurt by the loss.
But…if you’re not allowed to wear black, what do you wear? After all, it’s pretty much the unwritten rule that if you’re going to a funeral, you’re going to be in black.
You could substitute black with some other dark and somber colors, such as gray, navy, or even maroon.
You could also talk to one of the family members or friends of the deceased, to ask what color would be appropriate and if there is a specific theme in mind.
It is also important to take into account the part of the world you are in, and the culture that the deceased belonged to, as black is not a universally accepted funeral option.
Here are some traditional funeral colors from other places and cultures:
- White: In Hindu and Sikh funerals, it is customary for mourners to wear white, and black would be considered highly inappropriate.
- Red: in South Africa, red is the color worn in some funerals. For Ghanain funerals, for example, while most people would still wear black, the immediate family and friends will wear red.
- Purple: In Thailand, the color purple is associated with sorrow, and it is worn by those in mourning, such as widows or immediate family members. In Brazil, both purple and black are worn at funerals.
- Gray: in Papua New Guinea, gray is the color worn by widows while they mourn their husbands, and they also apply this color to their skin with clay.
- Bright colors: In many places around the world, such as countries in Africa, the Caribbean, and more, many people choose to wear bright colors at a funeral. This is done to celebrate the life of the deceased, rather than their death.
Women’s clothing for funerals
Here are some suggestions for women’s clothing that are appropriate for a funeral:
- A black skirt or dress, knee-length and modest. Best worn with tights.
- Smart pants of a dark color. (Jeans and other casual pants are not usually considered appropriate, unless explicitly told as much)
- A modest and plain blouse or top (no patterns or designs!)
- If it is winter, wear a plain dark jumper, blazer, cardigan, or coat.
- Smart shoes can be either flats or heels.
Men’s clothing for funerals
Here are some suggestions for men’s clothing that are appropriate for a funeral:
- Black or dark suits, for formal funerals.
- Smart pants combined with a shirt or blazer.
- A plain black tie (never wear a flashy tie with a pattern or design, unless told otherwise).
- Polished black shoes, especially for smart wear funerals.
- Avoid wearing jeans, short-sleeved shirts, hats, and similar informal items.
Children’s clothing for funerals
A funeral is no place for children, but if they have the misfortune of having to attend one, they should wear something smart, dark, or black in color. The options are a lot more flexible.
When choosing your clothes for a funeral, the most important thing is to be aware of the kind of funeral it is, and what is expected as the dress code.
If nothing is said, play it safe and wear something black or dark that is formal. However, some funerals are more casual, and some will even have a theme or specific colors to be worn.
Like this article? Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter for more content like this.