what to wear to a funeral (3)

What to Wear to a Funeral?

If you are planning on attending a funeral soon, you'll want to know what to wear. We're sure this is something that many people ask for themselves or their loved ones when they need guidance on what's appropriate dress code. 

You don't want to be the person who shows up inappropriately dressed and disrupts the service by drawing attention away from those grieving and honouring the deceased with an elaborate outfit. 

Asking yourself what to wear to a funeral is an outfit dilemma you never want to find yourself in. 

So when you find yourself in that exact position, it can feel somewhat overwhelming. 

Preparing to attend a funeral is an emotional experience, whether it's for a loved one, immediate family member, friend, mentor or co-worker who has passed away; figuring out what to wear is always the furthest thing from your mind. 

This guide is designed to make it as stress-free and straightforward as possible.

You also might not have time to buy something new for the day, especially if the funeral is unexpected, and wandering around the shops is not somewhere you want to be at such an emotional time. 

So, instead, your wardrobe is an excellent place to start. When sifting through your hangers, look for an outfit that is respectful to those who have passed while ensuring you still feel comfortable and yourself.

Some general guidelines and specific suggestions are depending on whether it's a religious ceremony or not.

Let Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals help you select the type of funeral service that best fits your needs and your budget.

Hopefully, these tips will help get you into gear so that your attendance isn't distracting in any way.

What Is Appropriate to Wear to a Funeral?

Most funerals have an all-black dress code, with many mourners opting for something intelligent and respectful.

A funeral is also not the place to turn up a mini LBD or sheer top, so hemlines should remain below the knee, and spaghetti straps are often a no-go. 

Instead, opt for a sleeveless, shoulder-length or long-sleeved dress, or pair a turtle neck with a pair of black flared trousers.

Proper Colors to Wear to a Funeral

  • Black is always ideal; traditional, formal, or casual, you will never look out of place in black at a funeral.
  • Dark greys and deep blues are also highly appropriate, especially with accents and accessories.
  • Brown shades, lighter greys, and other earthy colours are acceptable for most funeral services.
  • Avoid bright colours such as pinks, yellows, oranges, and reds.
  • White is acceptable for jewellery, accents, and shirts worn under darker colours (i.e. a white dress shirt with suit and tie)

What to Wear at a Funeral: Women

Essential Tips for Women

  • Dark dresses or suits are always appropriate.
  • Keep shoulders covered
  • Skirts/dresses should reach the knees.
  • Tasteful colour accents can be acceptable.
  • Avoid bright sundresses
  • Avoid anything overly revealing.

Basic Funeral Outfit Ideas for Women

  • Skirt suit
  • Pantsuit
  • Dress
  • Skirt and blouse
  • Skirt and sweater
  • Pants and top with sleeves

For women attending a funeral, the traditional dress code has long been a modest black dress or a black business dress suit.

But again, with the changing times, less strictly formal attire has become acceptable to wear to a funeral. 

While you will generally want to wear respectful, non-attention-grabbing outfits, you will be okay with a conservative selection of brighter or lighter colours, business-casual options, modest dresses, and variations of skirts, blouses, and pants.

When in doubt––especially if you are unfamiliar with the family or service location – you should opt for the more conservative and more traditional options. 

Of all occasions in life, it is best to come to a funeral overdressed rather than underdressed.

What to Wear at a Funeral: Men

what to wear to a funeral

Essential Tips for Men

  • Dark suits or buttoned shirts are always appropriate
  • Long-sleeved shirts, something with a collar
  • Belt with a tucked-in shirt
  • Dress shoes or loafers
  • Avoid: sneakers, athletic shoes, flip flops
  • Consider avoiding: jeans (though in many settings, dark jeans with the tucked-in shirt are acceptable)
  • Avoid: shorts
  • Avoid: baseball caps

Basic Funeral Outfit Ideas for Men

  • Dress suit with tie
  • Polo shirt, slacks, belt
  • Button-down shirt, tie, slacks, belt
  • Button-down shirt, vest, plays (or dark jeans), belt
  • Any of the above with blazer

The traditional dress code for men at a funeral has long been a suit in darker colours (black, grey, or dark blue) with the customary collared dress shirt and tie.

However, with the changing times, this traditional attire is no longer an absolute requirement. Instead, it is acceptable to wear something along the lines of "business casual" or "Sunday best." 

Use your judgment, but it is generally sufficient to wear slacks in any colour along with a collared shirt. 

This can be a dress shirt minus the tie or even a golf or polo shirt. Keep the colours subdued, but acceptable funeral attire is no longer limited to only the darkest colours.

If you are unsure or not quite as familiar with the family or location, you should play it safe and go with the more conservative options. 

It is better to dress in more traditional funeral attire than to arrive underdressed.

Things to Consider

It's also always a good idea to bring a jacket with you as it can often get cold at the venue, and you can use pockets to keep tissues at the ready without digging into your handbag and missing part of the service.

Make sure to wear a pair of bright but comfortable shoes, as there's often some walking throughout the day. This doesn't mean your favourite pair of trainers or cute strappy sandals––your best bet is a pair of round or pointed toe heels or a stylish flat. And if you know you might be walking on grass, leave the stilettos at home.

If it is a very traditional funeral, hats or headbands could be a nice touch; just make sure to keep the proportions to a smaller scale; nobody wants a big hat in front of them at the service.

Things to Avoid

While you should generally steer clear of bright colours and loud prints (unless otherwise requested), other things to avoid include very revealing or overly casual clothes, like ripped jeans, sheer tops or pieces with inappropriate cut-out details.

Accessory-wise, keep things minimal. Your favourite oversized tote can stay at home this time; try opting for a clutch or smaller handbag instead.

The same goes for jewellery - keep it classic and understated. Search your jewellery box for some timeless silver and gold pieces, be it a simple chain or classic pair of hoops.

One accessory that people are often quite lenient about at funerals is sunglasses. Pack a pair in your bag or jacket pocket just in case - grief can work in unexpected ways, and if things suddenly get too much, or if you don't want to feel watched, you can pull out your glasses and put them on.

What Women Should Not Wear to a Funeral

Avoid miniskirts, low-cut blouses or dresses, and spandex. You don't want to draw attention to yourself. Women may wear skirts and blouses, dresses, or pantsuits that don't emphasise their curves, cleavage, or too much leg. 

Keep your accessories simple. You may find yourself walking in the grass or on uneven ground, so leave your stilettos for clubbing and wear more sensible flats or low-heeled shoes. Don't wear a floppy hat that's meant for a day at the beach. 

If you wear a hat, make sure it doesn't call attention to you or block someone's view of the officiant. Jewellery should be understated, so leave your noisy bangle bracelets and sparkling necklaces at home.

What Men Should Not Wear to a Funeral

Men shouldn't wear sports caps or anything with writing on them. Leave your graphic and printed T-shirts in the drawer and opt for something more subtle and conservative. 

Don't add a vibrantly printed tie unless there is a reason to do otherwise. A conservative suit or tailored pants and a blazer are appropriate for most funerals.

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 deceased's family may ask people to dress more positively. 

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. 

Be Conservative

Because a funeral is a sad occasion, it is best to dress in conservative colours and styles. You don't have to wear all black, but it is acceptable to do so.

You will probably want to avoid a bright floral dress or wild print or neon necktie unless the deceased's family asks you to. It is also inappropriate to show too much skin, so don't wear something with a plunging neckline or short hemline.

More Things to Consider When Dressing for a Funeral

As you choose something to wear to a funeral, there are several things you need to take into account:

  • This is not the time or place to show off your sexiest outfit.
  • Avoid cropped tops or low-cut pants.
  • You shouldn't wear anything that calls attention to your attire or requires constant adjusting.
  • Keep your jewellery simple and understated.
  • Follow the dress code for the church if the funeral service is being held in the sanctuary.
  • If you are unsure how to dress, think about what you would wear to an office job interview and wear that.
  • Ladies may wear a sleeveless dress with a tailored jacket, sweater, or shawl over it.
  • A pantsuit or dress pants and a coat are now acceptable for funerals.
  • You don't have to go out and buy a new outfit. Look in your closet and put pieces together to make an appropriate ensemble. Remember that a nice jacket can complete your business and make it funeral ready.
  • Don't wear anything that makes noise. The clinging sound of stacked bangle bracelets is disruptive and shows a lack of respect for the occasion.
  • Wear closed-toe shoes. Either flats or heels are appropriate. Stilettos are not. 
  • If the survivors request more festive attire, you may wear bright colours. However, you still need to avoid showing too much skin or wearing anything that calls too much attention to yourself.
  • Keep your makeup to a minimum. If you tend to cry at funerals, make sure your mascara is waterproof.
  • If you have tattoos that may offend others, cover them up. 
  • Sunglasses are appropriate for outdoor funerals. The best ones to wear would be those without flashy embellishment. The plainer, the better.
  • Keep your hairstyle as natural and straightforward as possible.
  • Don't wear perfume or scented body lotions. Some people are highly allergic, and you don't want to cause others to sneeze and cough during the services.

Dressing for the Seasons

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What to Wear at a Funeral in Summer

When attending a summer funeral, consider the location first. If you are part of an outdoor service, you will undoubtedly want to come prepared for the sun and heat.

Bring sunglasses and an umbrella. The glasses should preferably be simple and black rather than a cheery "summer fun" style. The umbrella will preferably be black, but most styles and designs should ultimately be acceptable if needed.

Keep your clothing lightweight, and try not to do too many layers. Choose fabrics that are lighter and airy, such as cotton and linens. 

Avoid nylon, polyester, or other synthetic clothing that will trap heat and sweat. Also, stay away from shorts and flip flops; dressy or nicer strapped sandals are acceptable.

For women, choose a light and comfortable dress or a knee-length skirt with a light blouse. 

Short-sleeved shirts are acceptable; just try to stay away from tops that reveal too much of the shoulders or chest. 

Avoid spaghetti straps, too-tight clothing, and miniskirts. Wear black, grey, or dark blue if possible, but most contemporary funerals allow a more comprehensive range of colour as long as it is not too flashy.

For men, do not wear shorts or denim. Instead, stick to lightweight slacks or dress pants. Pair it with a collared shirt such as a button-up or a polo shirt. Avoid Hawaiian or other brightly coloured shirts. 

While lighter colours are acceptable, notably khaki slacks, it is advisable to wear a darker dress or polo shirt as this helps keep the outfit's tone sombre and may help hide any sweat from the heat. 

Dress shoes, loafers, or dark sneakers should be acceptable; just be sure to wear dark socks with them.

For children, they should generally follow the lead of their parents. Shorts are acceptable, especially when there will be heat or sunshine, but pair them with nice shoes and avoid sandals.

What to Wear at a Funeral in Winter

If the funeral is in the cold of winter, choose your outerwear carefully. The same dress codes apply to a funeral in winter, but you will want to add a coat along with accessories such as gloves, scarves, and hats. Bring a black umbrella for outdoor events.

For women, you will never go wrong with a classic wool coat in dark or moderate colours. 

Wintergreen, dark blues, browns, and plaids are also typically acceptable for your outerwear. 

Choose good rain boots for burial or outdoor funeral. Even if indoors, avoid open-toed shoes or sandals of any type. 

Accessories can include warm gloves, a scarf, and hats or other head coverings. Apart from outerwear and accessories, stick to the general guidelines for women's funeral attire.

For men, this is why it is essential to have a good-quality black wool coat—Accessorise with a dark scarf and warm gloves. 

Wear thick, dark wool socks. A black or grey beanie is acceptable, but a classic fedora is preferred. 

Choose rain boots for an outdoor burial service and your everyday winter footwear for indoor service. 

Aside from outerwear and accessories, follow the rest of the tips for men's funeral attire.

For children, again, follow the lead of the parents. Winter jackets in most colours will be acceptable, as will most rain boots. 

If possible, try to stay away from bright colours in accessories, but most people will understand when it is impossible to purchase an entirely new winter wardrobe for your children.

Traditional and Non-Traditional Services

A funeral is a traditional term for service with the body present, while a memorial service honours the deceased when the body is not present. 

Sometimes when the person has been cremated, either term can be used.

When you are attending the literal burial, the service is traditionally known as a committal service. Still, it can also be called a graveside ceremony, graveside service, burial service, or simply a "burial." Most often, this takes place immediately after a funeral service, and thus the dress code for one is identical to the other.

The term "celebration of life" has come into vogue in recent years, and the idea is to celebrate the life of the deceased instead of mourning their death. 

If this term is used, expect the service to be more casual with perhaps unique, creative, and alternative ceremonies and celebrations happening. Here at Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals, we provide religious and traditional funeral services.

What to Wear to a Funeral

When attending a funeral, it is important to dress respectfully to honour both the decedent (whose body is present) and the grieving family.

Since the body will be buried or cremated sometime after the service, by necessity, it will need to take place soon after the death. This means that the grief of family and friends will be recent and raw.

All the more reason, then, to choose funeral outfits according to the more traditional, formal, and conservative guidelines detailed above. This is a way for you to pay your respects to the departed and their family.

What to Wear to a Wake, Viewing, or Visitation

Awake is an open-casket viewing of the body and can also be called simply a viewing.

More accurately, a wake is traditionally a Catholic ceremony, but the term has been used more loosely in recent years. 

A visitation is a similar event but without the body present.

The wake, viewing, or visitation is a gathering for close friends and family to express condolences, share grief, and be together. If you are invited to one of these events, it is a high honour.

When attending, follow the same guidelines as detailed above for funerals. Expectations for attire can range from highly formal to dressy-casual. 

If you are already familiar with the family, you will be aware of their style and sensibilities, so dress accordingly.

On the other hand, if you are not very familiar with the family, then it is always best to be safe and dress in more formal attire. Black or grey dresses and suits will always be appropriate.

What to Wear to a Memorial Service

A memorial service is typically held without the body present. 

This can happen due to various reasons, but in many cases, the memorial service can occur several weeks or even months after the person has died.

As such, a memorial service can sometimes be a little less formal than a funeral. 

The same guidelines for dress at a funeral are typically followed, but a memorial service can lean a few degrees more casual and informal. 

At a minimum, you should dress in nice clothing, in subdued colours, and follow the dressy-casual outfits worn to a job interview or church.

When in doubt, err on the side of more formal and more traditional.

What to Wear to a Celebration of Life

When you see the phrase "celebration of life" and a complete absence of funeral, memorial service, committal, etc., then you will most likely be attending a more casual affair. 

These can range in tone from a lighthearted memorial service to a full-on party with bands, dancing, drinking, and more.

You will still want to dress respectfully and appropriately and still keep in mind the culture and values of the family, but you are pretty safe to assume that a smart but casual outfit will be acceptable.

Do You Always Have to Wear Black at a Funeral?

It's custom to wear black to funerals, so that's always a safe option to stick with. 

If, however, you are usually a flamboyant dresser and wouldn't feel like yourself in an all-black look, make sure to dress in darker tones (like deep brown, navy or dark green) and avoid anything 'over the top' to avoid offending other mourners.

On rare occasions, some families might ask you to wear colour to celebrate the deceased's life, which can make an otherwise morbid day and dress code a little more flexible.

Clothing to Wear to a Funeral That Is Not Black

There are many funerals and memorial services where black clothing is not required. You can still wear black to those occasions (unless it is a "celebration of life" or similar event where you are specifically asked not to wear black).

If you are not wearing black to a funeral, it is best to stick with darker colours, especially in earth tones.

Visit Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals to know more about our prepaid funeral service and find the best funeral option for your unique situation.

Gray in nearly all shades and dark blues are highly appropriate. Aside from these mainstay colours. 

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