What to Wear to a Funeral

Here’s a subject no one really wants to think about, but which many of us unfortunately have to face at some point – what to wear to a funeral?

what to wear to a funeral

Before we go any further, it’s important to note that most people don’t wonder what to wear to a funeral because they’re hoping to impress anyone: it’s a question we ask purely because we don’t want to risk causing offence. Because funerals are normally formal occasions, working out what to wear to one can feel like a bit of a minefield, so let’s get the basics out of the way first…

You don’t necessarily have to wear black

It used to be the case that black was considered the ONLY appropriate colour to wear to a funeral. These days, that’s not normally the case, and any relatively muted colour will often be acceptable. At some funerals, you might even be asked to wear a certain colour that was the deceased person’s favourite, or to wear something bright to celebrate their life: if you haven’t been specifically asked to do this, however, it’s best to stick to darker shades like black, navy, grey or dark green.

… but you do have to dress respectfully

Colour aside, the most important thing to note when working out what to wear to a funeral is that it’s a sombre occasion, at which you’re expected to dress respectfully. That means not wearing anything too flashy, loud or attention-seeking – you’re not going to a club, and you’re not the centre of attention, so your choice of clothing should reflect that. Very short, tight or revealing clothes, for instance, are out – instead, a good rule of thumb is that if you wouldn’t wear it to work (assuming you work in an environment which is at least semi-formal), you wouldn’t wear it to a funeral either.

Actually, if you work in an office job, the “would I wear it to work” test is a pretty good one: think skirts, tailored trousers, dark-coloured dresses etc, worn with shoes you can walk in, and makeup/jewellery that isn’t too garish.

Don’t dress too casually 

Again, most funerals are fairly formal occasions, so unless you’ve been asked to dress casually, things like jeans, leggings and sportswear will be too casual: the aim is not to look stuffy or “dressed up”, per se, but simply to show respect. Very casual outfits give the impression that no effort or thought has been made, which will make people think your attitude is as casual as your clothing – not a good impression to make at a funeral.

If in doubt, ask

Of course, different cultures have different traditions when it comes to funeral: we’ve written this article with British traditions in mind, but if you’re not sure what’s expected of you, ask. You obviously won’t want to bother members of the immediate family with questions about what to wear, but you should be able to find someone who’ll be able to tell you if there are any specific customs or requests you should be aware of : better to ask, than to risk offending someone by wearing something inappropriate!


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