This guide for what to wear at a funeral is geared for contemporary Western culture; other cultures may differ and vary considerably. Even within modern Western culture, there is quite a bit of variation and leeway.
At a more formal, traditional funeral, you may be expected to wear black dress clothes (buttoned suit for men, dress for women). At most funerals all that is expected is something nice in darker colors. For others, there is may be no expectation of dress at all, and for some non-traditional funerals (perhaps a “celebration of life” or a funeral for a cosplay enthusiast) you may be expected to dress in bright, celebratory colors or even in a superhero outfit.
However, most people at most funerals want to pay their respects to the deceased and the family by dressing in a way that communicates sympathy and mouring, so here is our collection of tips, guidelines, and ideas for what to wear at a funeral.
Guidelines for what to wear at a funeral
General tips on clothing:
- Black is a traditional color, always appropriate
- Non-black clothing is generally acceptable, as long as it isn’t brightly colored
- Shirts/dresses should cover up to the neck; no open collars
- Pants/dresses should cover the knees; no shorts or miniskirts
- No flip-flops or athletic shoes
- In a casual setting, t-shirts may be appropriate – but avoid wild prints, logos, etc
- Keep a formal jacket on hand; this basic addition can help make many outfits passable!
General tips on style:
- Subdued style and colors; you do not want to attract attention away from the deceased
- Style should be characterized as tasteful and conservative
- Dress as you would for church or a job interview
- Revealing attire is generally not appropriate; many traditions require shoulders and knees covered
- Be considerate of any religious setting; i.e., some require hats for women and/or men
- For information on funeral traditions of different religions, see here
Tips for men:
- Dark suits or buttoned shirts are always appropriate
- Wear long-sleeved shirts, something with a collar
- Wear a belt and tuck in shirt
- Wear dress shoes or loafers
- Avoid sneakers, athletic shoes, flip flops
- Avoid jeans (though in many settings, dark jeans with tucked in shirt is acceptable)
- Avoid shorts
- Avoid baseball caps
- Basic funeral oufit ideas:
- Dress suit with tie
- Slacks, polo shirt, belt
- Slacks, button down shirt, tie
- Slacks, button down shirt, vest
- Slacks, button down shirt, blazer
Traditionally, appropriate attire for men attending a funeral has been a black, gray or dark blue suit with a collared shirt and tie. These days, however, it is quite acceptable to wear slacks and a blazer or sport coat instead of a suit, to omit the tie, or to opt for a collared golf shirt in place of a dress shirt or button-down. Colors are still usually subdued, but are no longer limited to black, gray and navy. When in doubt, it’s probably safe to choose more conservative options if you are concerned about being underdressed.
Tips for women:
Dark dresses or suits are always appropriate
- Keep shoulders covered
- Skirts/dresses should reach the knees
- Tasteful color accents can be acceptable
- Avoid bright sun dresses
- Avoid anything overly revealing
- Basic funeral outfit ideas:
- Skirt suit
- Pant suit
- Skirt and blouse
- Skirt and sweater
- Pants and top with sleeves
Traditional attire for women called for a black suit, conservative dress or skirt and blouse. These days, appropriate options are much more varied. While the clothing should still be respectful and not distracting from the service, it is acceptable to wear bright or light colors, and business casual separates as opposed to a suit. Dresses are common, with color replacing the traditional solid black.
Funeral outfit ideas for women
Three variations on the contemporary knee-length black dress, with complimenting shoes and bags. Note that the style of these funeral outfits is airy and attractive, yet the shoulders are covered and the necklines are appropriate for the occasion:
Here is an outfit designed for an outdoor funeral service. The hat and umbrella are a good idea for colder weather, the the light dress works perfectly with the pea coat. Add gloves to warm the hands, and the jewelry adds an antique sensibility appropriate for a traditional funeral.
Here we have an example of appropriate yet stylish funeral attire in varied colors. The vintage style is a tribute to restraint rather than excess, with muted brown and navy blue tones.
The “little black dress” is a funeral staple, for good reason. A classic look, always appropriate, perfectly accessorized with simple necklace and earrings.
Here is a more contemporary professional look, an example of the ideal skirt and blouse combo:
The simple black dress can always be accented with a bit of muted color, like the tan shawl and heels in this funeral outfit:
Little Miss Funeral is a blog run by a young funeral professional who loves fashion. Lots of great ideas for what to wear at a funeral, especially if you will be attending in a working/professional capacity. Here is the time-honored black coat with scarf, black dress and tights, with fur-lined heeled boots:
And here is a “casual dressy” look which utilizes a light gray cotton dress, black tights, and black shoes:
If you know the occasion will have something of a contemporary-casual feel, here is a good look that bridges the gap between dressy and casual. The darker colors help retain a sense of solemnity, while the floral patterned dress and green sweater provide a comfortable yet conservative look.
If you need to make jeans work, choose a darker pair and be sure to accent them with dressy neutral or earth tones, like the outfit here:
- Dresses: Amazon, Macy’s, Lulus, ASOS
- Shoes: Go Jane, Zappos, Heels, Designer Shoe Warehouse, Overstock
- Handbags: Bloomingdales, Tradesy, The Real Deal (authentic gently used items)
- Accessories: Forever21, Amazon, Buckle, DSW
Funeral outfit ideas for men
Starting off with the classic look of the traditional black suit and tie:
Here is the traditional look with a little modern flair thrown in by substituting a black shirt:
If you don’t have a formal black suit available, the next best option is the suit you do have. Below is a classy charcoal suit with gray shirt and tie:
If you don’t have a suit, go with the classic, time-honored dress shirt and tie. Again, stick with darker colors, black pants if at all possible:
Now we’ll get into some dressy casual looks which will be appropriate for most funerals. Here is a nice combination of black chinos, a charcoal blazer, and dress shirt:
If you’d like to make jeans work for attending a funeral or memorial service, try to class it up as much as possible. Here the jeans are dark, and balanced nicely with a sweater and tie:
For most contemporary funerals here in the USA, a respectful casual look will not look out of place. Khakis or dress pants paired with a collared shirt and sweater is a good standard:
Or, for warmer climes, go with a vest instead of the sweater. You can go with or without the tie; but with is definitely the superior option: