Dressing for a funeral is simple, right? Just wear something black. If you want to be comfortable, respectful, and supportive, there’s more to it. Here are some tips for dressing for funerals…but first, a story.
My neighbor LOVED flamingos. She had them in every form imaginable – yard flamingos, flamingo bird feeders, flamingo wind chimes, ash trays, paintings, earrings and dresses, just to name a few. And the louder the better.
When she passed away, almost everyone who attended her funeral wore a flamingo in some form or fashion. The flamingos weren’t planned, they just happened organically. Men wore pink shirts, flamingo ties, tie tacks and some even wore huge rhinestone flamingo pins on their jacket lapels. Women wore bright pink clothing or flamingo jewelry, shoes, handbags and more.
All those flamingos connected mourners to her and each other. People told stories about her, asked about their different flamingos, and shared her love and zest for life. It was a wonderful experience, even though it was a sad event.
There are some considerations when dressing for a funeral. Will you attend the visitation, funeral, religious service, burial, procession, parade or a ritual specific to the deceased’s or local culture? What’s the weather? Are there any special cultural or religious considerations? Here are some tips to help you get dressed.
Wear or carry something to remember the departed. Is there a special symbol that reminds you of them, a garment that they loved, piece of jewelry they gave you, their favorite color? Incorporate that into your look to make it special and personal. It will also give you a conversation-starter.
Funerals are somber occasions, so keep your outfit modest and understated. Cover cleavages (front and back), thighs, and shoulders. Men should keep their whole legs covered. Sleeveless tops are okay if the weather is warm and the shoulder straps are wide.
Wear layers so you’ll be comfortable anywhere the services take you – inside or outside, rain or shine, with air-conditioning or heat, procession-ing or parading. Layer a jacket, sweater, wrap, poncho, or coat on top so you you can get warmer or cooler, depending on the temperature. Bring along an umbrella or parasol if it’s raining or blazing hot.
Wear (or bring a spare pair of) wedges or flat shoes in case you find yourself standing in the grass, walking long distances or dancing in a parade.
In general, darker muted colors without loud embellishments, patterns or details work best for melancholy occasions. Gray, burgundy, forest, eggplant, navy, brown, olive, etc. are acceptable alternatives to black.
Minimal or waterproof mascara and foundation work best in case you tear up. Bring a small pack of tissues and touchup makeup, just in case.
Cultural and Religious Nuances
Different cultures have specific mourning customs, rites and rituals. The color of morning is white for some Asian cultures. Some African communities have specific tribal colors for weddings and funerals. Traditional Jewish morning can include cutting or tearing garments. Head coverings are customary for Jewish, Catholic and Muslim services. Check with the funeral home, house of worship or family member for information and guidance about specific customs.
Here is an extreme and unusual example. A friend of mine attended an event and discovered that the attendees were nude. No lie. This would be good to know in advance….for so many reasons.