Funeral Attire 101: What to Wear and What to Avoid

By: VGFS
Thursday, May 19, 2022

When it comes to funerals, dressing in a way that demonstrates respect for the departed is always in good taste.

As styles change and the rules for these events continue to evolve, it may leave you wondering if your existing wardrobe fits the bill.

The following collection of guidelines, tips, and suggestions will help you choose appropriate attire for funerals, memorial services, visitations, and celebration of life events.

Avoid extremely informal clothing.

Today’s celebration of life and memorial services frequently indicate a less formal vibe but you should still make practical choices. Shorts, jeans, tee shirts, baseball caps, and flip-flops are no-no’s regardless of how relaxed the ceremony may be. Instead, opt for a collared shirt, such as a dress shirt or polo, and slacks.

Let your conservative side shine.

Funerals are reverent events so forego the flashy attire. Say no to tight clothing, sheer tops, short hemlines, and spaghetti straps. Choose more traditional garments such as a simple black dress or a sweater and pants instead. Err on the side of dressing up as opposed to dressing down.

Make appropriate color choices.

No longer are funeral attendees expected to be dressed from head to toe in black or other somber shades. While funeral color palettes have become less strict over the years, it’s always a good idea to adhere to accepted standards so you don’t feel out of place. Here are some color considerations to keep in mind:

  • Whether the affair is formal, casual, or contemporary, you will never look out of place in traditional black attire.
  • Dark blue and deep shades of grey are also appropriate choices.
  • Earth tones and muted neutral colors are acceptable for most funeral services.
  • Vibrant hues such as yellows, oranges, and reds should generally be avoided. There are exceptions, however, as some celebrations of life and less formal events may request that guests wear favorite colors of the departed. In this case, it is perfectly acceptable to dress in deference to the wishes of the family and/or their cultural traditions.
  • White is generally suitable for accent pieces and shirts worn under darker colors, such as a white dress shirt with a suit and tie. In certain cultures and some parts of the American south, white may be worn to symbolize purity and rebirth.
  • If you are unsure of what to wear or are unfamiliar with cultural norms that may exist, it is perfectly acceptable to ask a family member if there is preferred attire for the funeral.

Dress for the season and climate.

As with any event, the temperature and weather will impact what you wear. If the funeral service is being held in the spring or summer or the climate is especially warm, breathable fabrics like cotton or linen are good choices. If the funeral is in the fall or winter, adding a layer of outerwear is sensible. A cardigan or wool coat, for example, are suitable options.

Select comfortable shoes.  

Funeral services, burials, and visitations can be lengthy affairs and may involve a lot of standing and walking. And if you plan to attend the graveside service, you’ll definitely want to give some thought to your footwear. Shoes with stiletto heels or strappy sandals will probably leave your feet aching and can make it challenging to walk across potentially hilly, muddy terrain. If you know a particular pair of shoes is uncomfortable, don’t even consider wearing them regardless of how attractive they may be.

Above all, don’t overthink it. There’s no need to agonize about what you should wear to the funeral. What matters is that you are making an effort to be there, celebrate the life of a loved one, and demonstrate your support for your grieving family and friends.

We hope you find these guidelines helpful. For more information about funeral attire, or if you require assistance with funeral arrangements, we are here for you. Please contact our caring professionals anytime.

About Vaughn Greene Funeral Services: For more than 25 years, Vaughn Greene Funeral Services has been providing a ministry of care to Baltimore’s African American community. As a leading local, minority- and family-owned provider, we promise to provide our highest level of service and respect to families who entrust us to honor their loved ones. For more information about our funeral, cremation, memorial, and repast services, please call us at 410.655.0015 or visit us online at https://vaughncgreene.com/.

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