What to wear to a funeral


What to wear...

If there's one thing guaranteed to exercise the minds of mourners it's the age-old 'What should I wear to a funeral?' question. Above all, common sense, and sensitivity to any special family wishes are the key to wearing something suitable. The one certainty is that funerals are becoming less formal, and that the obligatory black funeral clothes of Victorian times are long-since a thing of the past.

What do you wear to a funeral?

General guidelines

If in any doubt about what to wear, mourners are still encouraged to choose more subdued, formal, dress, particularly for a religious ceremony or the funeral of an older, more conservative, person. You can't go wrong with something smart, unfussy and comfortable (perhaps with a dark coat or jacket). Many commentators recommend taking your lead from what you'd wear to a job interview or from any special request from the family. If in doubt, ask what you should wear.

Increasingly, mourners are invited to wear brighter colours, summer dresses or something equally upbeat. Some people, especially the young and the young at heart, have a strong dislike for anything 'sombre and depressing'. Because people's tastes and interests vary so much, be prepared for something completely different when choosing what to wear to a funeral. One online forum even references a Star Trek themed funeral while another describes the black and purple funeral attire requested for a young Goth woman's send off...

What to wear to a funeral?

Guidelines for men

Traditional etiquette dictates a black suit, plain white shirt and a subdued plain tie for men. Nowadays, however, all sorts of variations are acceptable, including darker (navy blue, grey or even dark green) business suits with or without a tie; even dark turtlenecks or smart black T-shirts can have their place along with brighter accent colours depending on the family's wishes.

Guidelines for women

For a traditional approach to what to wear at a funeral, women will probably opt for a black suit (with a skirt or trousers). Less traditional options might could include a black cocktail dress (plain and neither too short or low-cut) or something in navy, burgundy or grey. In colder weather, a smart black or dark skirt and sweater, or a long-sleeved dark dress, is appropriate. Hats, though not essential, are still appropriate, but, as with the choice of footwear, you should avoid anything too ostentatious.

Depending upon the religious context be aware of the need to keep shoulders and heads (Greek Orthodox or Jewish ceremonies) covered.

 The modern funeral

Above all, ensuring that you wear something appropriate to the person whose life is being celebrated, and consistent with the wishes of the family, lies at the heart of modern funeral etiquette.

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