What To Wear To a Funeral: Best Dresses and Shoes

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Funerals are one type of event no one wants to think about. Yet, they are a reality of life. It is an opportunity for you to remember the person who has died.

While your clothing is likely to be the last thing on your mind, it is a necessary element of the day. Get the dress etiquette wrong, and no one will forget. We all know that black is the traditional color for mourning, but it is more complicated than that.

Our guide takes an in-depth look at what to wear to a funeral for both men and women. When the time comes that you have one to attend, you’ll know what to wear.

Funeral Attire Etiquette

Funeral attire etiquette is easy to understand.

The rule of thumb with funerals is to dress conservatively and not to draw attention to yourself. You’re mourning the loss of someone in your life, and you’re attending as a mark of respect.

The day isn’t about you showing off your newest pair of Louboutins to the world. It’s best to dress understated for such a sad occasion.

The etiquette for funeral attire is generally the same for both men and womenThe etiquette for funeral attire is generally the same for both men and women

When we see funerals on TV, you’ll often spot women wearing hats and black veils. If you decide to wear one, keep it understated and simple. Avoid floppy hats or anything too over the top.

Gigi Burris Estella Wool Felt Breton Cap with Veil, $350 at Bergdorf Goodman

A simple black hat with a veil from Gigi Burris should add a hint of sophistication to your funeral lookA simple black hat with a veil from Gigi Burris should add a hint of sophistication to your funeral look

Funeral attire etiquette demands that you don’t draw unnecessary attention to yourself. After all, the day is not for you.

Both men and women should wear minimalistic accessories. Keep your jewelry simple with either silver or gold pieces. Swap hoop earrings out for simple studs and add cufflinks to your shirt.

David Donahue Mother of Pearl and Brass Stud Set, $85 at Zappos

Finish your dress shirt with round mother-of-pearl cuff linksFinish your dress shirt with round mother-of-pearl cuff links

You want to make sure that any jewelry you wear is quiet. The last thing you want is for a stack of noisy bracelets to jiggle during a silent moment. Speaking of accessories, leave baseball caps at home.

Jennifer Meyer Mini Daisy 18-karat Gold Diamond Earrings, $750 at Net-A-Porter

Add just the right amount of sparkle with these Jennifer Meyer stud earringsAdd just the right amount of sparkle with these Jennifer Meyer stud earrings

If you have to take a handbag with you, don’t bring one that is covered in a monogram logo. You want your outfit to be understated and sophisticated in every aspect – from head to toe, including accessories.

Tory Burch Kira Pebbled Convertible Shoulder Bag, $498 at Zappos

Carry your essentials in an understated, minimalist handbag like the Tory Burch KiraCarry your essentials in an understated, minimalist handbag like the Tory Burch Kira

Another minimalistic aspect of your look should be your hair and makeup. A natural look is always best. Avoid dramatic smoky eye makeup and statement hairstyles.

If you think you might cry during the ceremony, make sure you’re wearing waterproof mascara and have tissues on hand.

Dior Iconic Extreme Waterproof Mascara, $29.50 at Nordstrom

Be ready for anything with this waterproof and cry-proof mascara from DiorBe ready for anything with this waterproof and cry-proof mascara from Dior

Jeans are not appropriate for either men or women. You want to wear formal trousers from a suit or pantsuit. Try to wear a tailored pair that is one solid color.

Dockers Pre-Tailored 32” Finished Bottom Hem Suit, $105 at Zappos

You'll never go wrong with a black pants suit like this pre-tailored Dockers suit setYou’ll never go wrong with a black pants suit like this pre-tailored Dockers suit set

One thing you might not think about is perfume. When funerals return to normal after COVID-19, you’ll be sitting close to someone as you all pack into the church.

Wearing perfume could trigger someone’s allergies and result in them sneezing or coughing the whole way through the ceremony.

Different religions will have their own funeral attire etiquette, although these rules apply to almost every funeral. If you’re attending a funeral for someone of another religion, make sure you take the time to check if there are any nuisances.

Does their place of worship require women to cover their heads before entering? You want to make sure you’re also following the attire etiquette for the church you’re attending.

If your child is coming with you, the etiquette rules will be the same for them. However, depending on their age, you usually want to prioritize their comfort. While an adult can’t wear a pair of shorts in summer, a child could.

Finally, you want to consider the person whose funeral it is. If it’s someone that you knew followed strict dress codes and led a more formal lifestyle, you can expect their funeral to reflect that.

If the person was someone with standing in the community that brings extra attention to the day, you want to choose a more formal outfit to reflect that fact.

What Colors are Appropriate

We often assume that you have to wear head-to-toe black to a funeral. For generations, you would have to wear black long after the funeral. The etiquette is no longer as strict, but black is still the most common color.

While black is the norm, any conservative color will do. In some scenarios, the family may ask guests to wear a specific color that meant something to them.

These cases are few and far between, and you’ll be told about the color choice in advance.

Other colors that you could consider instead of black are navy blue and charcoal. You want to choose a solid color, as your outfit should help you blend in with the crowd of mourners. A print will make you stand out like a sore thumb.

Like we mentioned before, there are a few occasions where the deceased’s family may ask you to wear a specific color. This decision is usually a request at the funerals of children or those who die of a long-term illness.

They are a rare occurrence. If the family asks you to wear pink, choose a muted shade and make sure it’s not a print. Wear the color as a solid piece or separate garment.

Seasonal Changes

You’ll want to keep the weather in mind when you are putting together your outfit. Most funerals take several hours, including the burial and any reception afterward. You want to be comfortable while still being dressed appropriately.

Here are a few points to keep in mind for summer funerals:

If the funeral is happening inside a church, you want to make sure your shoulders are covered. Even if temperatures are at a record high, it’s not appropriate to be wearing a sleeveless top.

Add a lightweight cardigan or wrap a loose shawl around your shoulders for the duration of the service.

1901 Cotton Blend Black Cardigan, $49 at Nordstrom

A lightweight cardigan should help keep your look modest during the serviceA lightweight cardigan should help keep your look modest during the service

When the temperature drops and you need to wear a coat to a funeral, choose a formal option. Avoid hiking jackets, and other casual styles, at all costs.

Your outfit has to show that you are paying respect and that you took time and effort to get ready.

Lauren Ralph Lauren Wool Blend Reefer Coat, $149 – $220 at Nordstrom

Layer this Ralph Lauren coat over your outfit in case the temperature dropsLayer this Ralph Lauren coat over your outfit in case the temperature drops

If the funeral involves an inside service and an outside burial, be prepared for any weather. Take an umbrella along with you, preferably a full-length one that you can use to offer shelter to you and other guests.

Avoid bringing any with tacky logos and instead choose a simple, minimalistic one.

Likewise, you’ll want to make sure you have a pair of sunglasses if the sun is blinding you during the burial. The same rules apply to sunglasses.

Choose a black or tortoiseshell pair that is simple with minimal logos or hardware. Avoid wearing your vacation sunglasses with their ombre lenses or glitter-embossed frames.

For funerals during winter, you will want to consider these points:

As tempting as it might be to layer up during a cold day, it rarely works for funerals. You’ll be spending at least an hour and a half inside a church.

Not only will you be sitting next to dozens (or even hundreds!) of people, but the church will also probably already have their heating on.

If you’re wearing too many layers, you could start to sweat. Choose layers that are easily removable like a scarf.

AllSaints Half Cardigan Scarf, $78 at Nordstrom

All Saints' cardigan scarf is a comfortable and stylish way to wear a cardiganAll Saints’ cardigan scarf is a comfortable and stylish way to wear a cardigan

Keep in mind that you will be going from a warm church to a cold cemetery. Make sure to bring along a pair of gloves that you can stick in your coat pocket.

The same rules apply to your gloves as the rest of your accessories. Choose a style like black faux leather and avoid vibrant colors.

Dsane Winter Leather Gloves for Women, $19.99 at Amazon

Make sure to wear a simple pair of gloves when you're out in the coldMake sure to wear a simple pair of gloves when you’re out in the cold

The Best Dresses and Shoes for Women

You don’t have to run out and buy a new outfit for a funeral. For most people, the idea of shopping will be the last thing on their minds. You likely have everything you need already in your closet.

When choosing a dress, you want to go with a modest length and cut. A funeral is not a place for you to show off your cleavage or legs. When in doubt, choose an a-line dress that falls at your knees.

Carolina Herrera Taffeta 3/4-Sleeve Shirtdress, $2,690 at Neiman Marcus

Dress respectfully and conservatively in this modest knee-length Carolina Herrera shirt dressDress respectfully and conservatively in this modest knee-length Carolina Herrera shirt dress

Finley Cleo Gathered Pinstripe Shirtdress, $285 at Neiman Marcus

For a cheaper alternative, go with the Finley pinstripe shirtdressFor a cheaper alternative, go with the Finley pinstripe shirtdress

If you don’t have a dress with an appropriate neckline in the right color, consider adding a camisole underneath to cover your chest.

If a dress isn’t your preferred choice, you still have options. While jeans are a no-go, you can wear a pantsuit in a neutral color palette. A black pantsuit will always look best.

Tahari ASL Women’s Belted Asymmetric Pebble Crepe Pant Suit, $120.67 – $329 at Amazon

The Tahari ASL pantsuit would make a great alternative to dressesThe Tahari ASL pantsuit would make a great alternative to dresses

You can also put together a makeshift three-piece suit with a blouse, skirt, and blazer. Any skirt will work as long as it falls to at least your knee. You could wear a pleated midi-skirt or a knee-length pencil skirt. What matters is the color and fabric.

Marycrafts Formal Office Business Work Jacket Skirt Suit Set, $49.90 – $52.90 at Amazon

A black skirt suit like Marycrafts' is also perfect for funeralsA black skirt suit like Marycrafts’ is also perfect for funerals

While it might be tempting to reach for a pair of court shoes for a funeral, you have to consider the set-up. If there’s an outside burial involved, you may need to walk across the grass.

Choose a pair of flat shoes or a pair with a block heel if you need height. Stay away from strappy heels or anything that resembles what you would wear to a nightclub.

Bernardo Eloise Leather Bow Ballet Flats, $165 at Nordstrom

Dress appropriately and comfortably with these Bernardo Ballet flatsDress appropriately and comfortably with these Bernardo Ballet flats

Speaking of shoes, open-toe and peep-toe shoes are a no. You also want to avoid any sky-high stilettos or heels with an oversized platform. Consider the type of shoes you would wear for a job interview, as this is usually an appropriate place to start.

The Best Suits and Shoes for Men

For men, the general rule is a black suit. You could also wear a pair of tailored trousers and a blazer. You don’t have to wear a Saville row suit, but you want to show your respects.

Perry Ellis Men’s Two-Piece Finished Bottom Slim Fit Suit, $73.59 – $186.62 at Amazon

Wearing a neat, tailored black suit like the Perry Ellis suit set is a general rule for menWearing a neat, tailored black suit like the Perry Ellis suit set is a general rule for men

Forget about a t-shirt and wear a traditional shirt instead. You want to wear something similar to what you would wear for a job interview or a formal meeting.

Nordstrom Extra Trim Fit Non-Iron Solid Stretch Dress Shirt, $39.50 at Nordstrom

You may opt for a simple solid dress shirt to create a formal lookYou may opt for a simple solid dress shirt to create a formal look

When you’re choosing a tie, avoid anything with a vibrant print. It’s best to choose one that matches your suit or is in a neutral color.

Add a tie pin to keep it all together. You want to make sure that you button your shirt the whole way to the neck and wear your tie correctly.

Ted Baker London Solid Skinny Silk Tie, $95 at Nordstrom

Don't forget to add a simple tie that would match your suit of shirtDon’t forget to add a simple tie that would match your suit of shirt

If you have a visible tattoo, it’s usually a good idea to cover it up. Some religious might oppose such a piece of art, and you don’t want to draw unnecessary attention to yourself.

You will want to add a belt to your trousers and avoid anything with a logo belt. A funeral is not the time to show off your hypebeast ultra-ego.

Perry Ellis Portfolio 38mm Cut Edge Reversible Casual Belt, $24.99 at Zappos

Keep your belt simple and understated like this Perry Ellis reversible beltKeep your belt simple and understated like this Perry Ellis reversible belt

You also need to leave your sneakers at home and wear a pair of dress shoes. The day before the funeral, make sure you take the time to shine your shoes.

Bruno Marc Men’s Oxford Dress Shoes, $27.99 – $32.99 at Amazon

Finish off your look with these affordable yet classy Bruno Marc dress shoesFinish off your look with these affordable yet classy Bruno Marc dress shoes

Whatever type of outfit you choose, make sure to add a jacket or blazer on top. If it fits you properly, button it up for a tailored look.

When you are putting your outfit together, think of something that your office would class as ‘business casual’ or what you might think of as your ‘Sunday best’.

Topman Skinny Fit Textured Suit Jacket, $130 at Nordstrom

Adding a blazer or a jacket should put your funeral look togetherAdding a blazer or a jacket should put your funeral look together

If you have never attended a funeral or are attending one held in another religious institution, it’s okay to ask for advice. Depending on how well you know the family, you could ask them directly.

If you’re not close to the family, the name of the funeral director will usually be included in public notices. They will be more than willing to help.

While this article is written with a funeral in mind, the same rules will apply for a memorial service, wake, or a celebration of life. We hope this guide makes the process of choosing your outfit a little easier.

You want to keep it as simple and understated as possible. The day isn’t about you, it’s about the person you care for who has left this life.

Consider the most important rules of not drawing attention to yourself and wearing a conservative outfit you would wear to a job interview.

Credit: WENN

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