How to Dress For a Funeral

Four Methods:General Rules for EveryoneMenChildrenWomen

Funerals are respectful occasions, and part of being respectful is dressing appropriately. This article covers Christian funerals. What is considered suitable dress for mourning varies by country and culture. Though black is traditional for a funeral in Western cultures, there are other options that are just as acceptable today, depending on how well you knew the person.

Method 1
General Rules for Everyone

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    Plan to wear something tasteful and conservative. This is especially important if there is a religious service at a church, funeral home or graveside. Black, navy, gray or other dark colors usually appear more conservative. Revealing clothes are not appropriate, as some churches prefer shoulders and knees to remain covered.
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    Don't forget about the shoes. Leave your flip flops, Timberlands and athletic wear at home. Opt instead for more sensible and appropriate shoes.
    • Note: shoes should be polished. Don't wear scruffy shoes to a funeral.
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    As a rule of thumb, dress as you would for church. Or, if you don't go to church, think about what you'd wear to a job interview. Avoid sundresses (unless you have a wrap or it is a young child), celebratory patterns on shirts (i.e. martini glasses or wild prints), or anything too flashy (i.e. sequins, unless minimal). Gentlemen should wear a sports coat or suit.
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    Consider the temperature and dress accordingly. Men can opt to remove their jackets for anything outside but should at least wear them inside for any services.
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    Funerals out of town may necessitate that you bring multiple outfits or be able to adjust for different days.
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    Some do not believe that funeral attire should be strictly black. While the person's death should be grieved, it seems also appropriate to celebrate the person's life with some color. Don't wear anything too colorful like lime green or neon yellow, purple, or yellow but perhaps red or a pale blue.

Method 2

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    Wear a black suit with a white shirt. Accessorize with a long, neutral necktie. Think twice about wearing too much jewelry or hair product.
    • However, there are always exceptions to the rules. A blue suit with a black turtleneck, black dress shirt with long red tie, black dress shirt (no tie; first button unbuttoned), or a black T-shirt (clean, kind of silky) could all be acceptable depending on the family.
    • If you are a pallbearer, you should expect to wear a suit or a dark sport coat and tie at the very least.

Method 3

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    Children should be appropriately dressed as well. Little boys should be outfitted in a black suit, possibly similar to Daddy's. Little girls should wear a "box-like" dress that flows straight down from the shoulders without any unnecessary beading or sequins.
    • Pay attention to the shoes. Girls may wear ballet flats or plain black sneakers. And boys may wear black dress shoes or loafers (like Dad's) or even plain black sneakers.

Method 4

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    Women should choose classic black attire for a funeral. A black dress with sleeves, dark suit with jacket or a dark blouse with slacks or a skirt. It is possible to wear a not-too-brightly colored dress under a black coat.
    • Some color accessorizing is acceptable. Simple jewelry.


  • Be careful what you say, as people can be really sensitive during these times.
  • If you aren't sure, check with the family on dress code, or ask someone else if they think your outfit is appropriate.
  • It is a good idea to bring a handkerchief in case you or someone near you tears up.
  • Avoid loud, gaudy jewelry and accessories, including inappropriate cuff links or large necklaces.
  • If you have received a gift from this person that could be appropriate, the rules are more lenient. Though a football jersey or a Hawaiian shirt is never appropriate, any jewelry or ties given to you by this individual would be an appropriate way to respect and remember them, in most cases.
  • Make sure that your socks are matching if you can see them.
  • If the funeral takes place on a hot or potentially rainy day, bring an umbrella to protect you from the elements. It is polite to offer it to, or offer to hold it for, an elderly attendee.
  • If a member of the armed forces, it may be appropriate to wear a No. 2 dress (a parade uniform). However, this should be up to the discretion of the family. If you choose to do this, remember it will need to be in a much better condition to the civilian clothing others wear. If it's not ironed, polished, and pressed enough for visiting a head of state, it is not appropriate for the funeral, especially is the deceased was involved in the military themselves.
  • Remember to pack multiple outfits if you are attending a wake or viewing the night before. Those can be more business casual if you are a guest.
  • In some cases, all black is requested. This means a black dress, skirt, leggings, suit, black shirt, black tie, and black socks and shoes. Check with the party beforehand.
  • In some cases, you may be requested to wear light cheerful colors, to a young person's funeral.
  • For a very conservative service, some women may opt to wear a simpler, formal hat.
  • Immediate family should always lean to the more conservative with attire.
  • The family may choose to have a more celebratory gathering. If so, and you are not familiar, you shouldn't be afraid to ask what the appropriate attire may be.
  • What to wear if you are attending the wake, the funeral, and graveside service: to the wake you can wear mostly black with a splash of color. Children can usually wear the same thing, but teens and adults should dress differently for both events. Some color is acceptable, such as tones of blue, but avoid flashy colors.
  • Note for teenagers, young adults, kids, and sometimes women and men: if the family or churches are not incredibly conservative, it's okay to go to the funeral wearing dark (or black) jeans and a black T-shirt. The reason behind this is that in most large families, after the church and graveside services, there is a repast which is held at a rather formal restaurant but is still casual. If you think you will be playing around with cousins, walking back and forth across the room to talk to different people, it might be OK to do this.
  • When dressing for the funeral, think of the deceased person's personality and interests. If they enjoyed baseball, a man could wear a baseball print necktie and a woman could wear jewelry with baseballs on it. If they often wore floral dresses or camo or worshiped their red patent pumps, the dress code could reflect these as well.
  • Wear all black for the funeral , as its more respectable.


  • Waterproof mascara and minimal eye shadow/eyeliner is suggested.
  • Remember to be respectful.
  • Please offer your seat or umbrella to elderly guests or women with young children.
  • Avoid T-shirts with potentially offensive slogans. Generally, T-shirts should be avoided anyway, but slogans bearing bad language, nude imagery or advertising a particular brand name are definitely not advisable (unless the deceased specifically requested such attire in his/her will; check with the family in advance). In other words, if you feel it is appropriate to wear a T-shirt, it would be best to select a plain one (quality, fit, and condition should also be factors).
  • High heels may be difficult outdoors in grassy ground, especially if it has been raining.
  • Remember to be discreet if drinking water from a bottle in your bag.

Article Info

Categories: Death Funerals and Bereavement