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What to Wear to a Funeral: A Helpful Guide

Attending a funeral can be an overwhelming and emotional experience and choosing what to wear is often a decision that adds to this stress.

While traditions and customs vary, a useful general rule of thumb is to dress in a respectful and conservative manner –and we’ll give you some pointers on exactly how to do this below.

It’s also worth noting that more and more families are choosing to buck the trend when it comes to traditional funeral attire and are encouraging their guests to do the same.

Clothing can be a truly meaningful way to honour the life of a loved one – whether they were a diehard supporter of a specific sporting team or simply using their favourite colour as a tribute.

What to Wear to a Funeral: Traditional Funeral Attire

Throughout history, black has been the traditional colour of mourning in various places around the world and is considered one of the most appropriate choices for funeral attire as it symbolises respect, solemnity, and grief.

In addition to black, other dark and solemn colours, such as dark grey, navy, and deep brown, are also acceptable to wear.

Typically, when attending a traditional funeral, it is customary to wear conservative and modest clothing to demonstrate respect for the occasion and convey a solemn attitude.

It is important to ensure that the clothing is clean, neat, and well-fitted. The focus should be on paying respects to the loved one, rather than drawing attention to oneself with flashy or inappropriate attire.

Ultimately, the goal of traditional funeral attire is to display reverence towards the deceased and their loved ones during a challenging time.

Traditional Funeral Attire for Men

  • Dark suit: Men often opt for a dark suit when attending a traditional funeral. This conveys a modest and polished look, appropriate for the occasion.

  • Ties: It is best to stick with solid colours or subtle patterns. Avoid bright or flashy ties, and instead opt for a more traditional style.

  • Overcoat: In colder weather, a black or dark overcoat is a great option to both keep warm and show respect for the occasion.

  • Dress pants: When choosing trousers, it is important to maintain a respectful look. Well-tailored dress pants are a great option.

  • Shoes: To appear more refined, consider a formal shoe option such as Oxford-style dress shoes.

Traditional Funeral Attire for Women

  • Dress: Women often opt to wear black or dark dresses when attending a traditional funeral. It is important to consider the length and style of the clothing and ensure that the dress length is modest and suitable for the occasion.

  • Blouse and skirt or slacks: Consider dark-coloured slacks or a long skirt paired with a blouse. These alternatives are also considered appropriate and respectful choices.

  • Suits: Women can opt for a simple and tasteful look by wearing a black or dark suit. During colder seasons, pairing a suit with an overcoat is a great option to consider.

  • Shoes: opt for closed-toe, conservative shoes in a dark colour. It is worth considering the length of the shoe's heel, especially if you anticipate standing for extended periods.

Funeral Attire to Avoid:

  • Bold hair and make-up: When attending a traditional funeral, it's important to present a conservative and modest appearance. This includes your hair and makeup, so avoid experimenting with elaborate hairstyles or bold makeup looks. Keep make-up to a minimum and opt for a simple and respectful hairdo.

  • Flashy or inappropriate clothing: It is important not to underdress at a traditional funeral. Wearing clothing such as t-shirts, jeans or shorts is generally considered inappropriate for the occasion. It is best to wear formal attire without being flashy. Business casual clothing is acceptable, if it does not include bright colours or wild prints.

  • Excessive jewellery: Although wearing jewellery is generally acceptable, it's recommended to avoid excessive or flashy accessories, which could detract from the sombre mood.

Non-Traditional Funeral Attire

While traditional funeral attire often leans towards conservative and formal clothing, some people may choose non-traditional options to reflect on the deceased's personality or celebrate their life in a unique way.

Here are some non-traditional funeral attire ideas:

  • Colourful attire: Many people choose to honour their loved ones through clothing. One way to do this is by incorporating their favourite colour or other meaningful colours into their attire.

  • Themed clothing: Reflect the interests or hobbies of the deceased by wearing clothing related to a specific theme. For example, if the person loved a particular sports team, you might wear their team colours or their favourite team's jersey.

  • Personalised accessories: Incorporating sentimental accessories, such as a piece of jewellery, scarf, or tie that belonged to your loved one, can be a beautiful way to pay tribute to their memory.

Things to Consider:

Funeral attire can vary within a country or region based on cultural and religious practices. In Western and Eastern regions of Asia, white is often linked to mourning as it signifies purity, rebirth, and death. Hindu funerals traditionally involve the wearing of white garments, representing purity. In China, where Buddhism holds significant influence, the family will usually wear white or use white cloth to cover themselves during the funeral.

Remember that the key is to show respect for the deceased and their grieving family. Different cultures and families may have specific preferences, so being considerate and understanding of the cultural differences is important.

If you aren’t sure what attire will be appropriate for an upcoming funeral contact the chosen funeral director or the family directly.

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