What to Wear to a Funeral

February 10, 2016

I keep putting off writing this article. There never seems to be a good time. No one wants to talk about death on a beautiful summer day and definitely not during the holidays. The New Year feels like a time of beginnings not endings. So, suffice it to say, this topic has been on my list for a long time.

In the meantime, however, clients are telling me they need a somber outfit sometimes in desperation but more often because they want to feel prepared. Who wants to think about what to wear on a sad occasion when it strikes when really you want to be spending time with loved ones and taking extra good care of yourself? Having a readymade outfit in your closet offers some ease and grace during a difficult time.

Recently, I attended a funeral of our dear friend, Ruth, who was 100 (you might remember me talking about her in a recent newsletter). I had not been to a funeral in a very long time and as I looked in my closet I realized had very little that felt right. I realized that if I had written this article earlier I, too, would have felt more prepared.

As it was I had something that would work, but I did have to spend a little time coordinating it. I tend to wear a lot of color and although Ruth was a very colorful woman I wanted to feel respectful and not stand out in a sea of black. I wore a deep navy blue jacket and pants with a pretty necklace.

Have you had the same experience?

To make your life easier when you need it, here are a few guidelines that you can use to explore what you already own (then you can take a couple of pictures of the options so you don’t have to think about it again until you need it) or use these tips as you deliberately shop to prepare.

3 Steps To Dress For A Funeral

1. Dress to Fit the Mood

Most funerals are a time of sadness, contemplation and deep connection and it is important to respect the mood by wearing deep, dark or muted colors to wear. At first glance, you might think that black is the only choice, but it isn’t. I do not own a black outfit and have no interest in buying one since I would never wear it except to a funeral. Navy blue worked just fine for me and was perfectly appropriate to the situation.

Here are some ideas in colors other than solid black:

Forest green has a gentle beauty to it and is flattering on many skin tones.

This dress is a favorite of mine. It looks shapeless and uninteresting on the hanger, but nearly everyone who puts it on loves it. Every season they seem to make it in different colors so clearly it is a popular style. This deep merlot is modest and understated enough to go to a funeral.

Or combine a deep color with black so it doesn’t feel overly heavy.

Perhaps your look is more eclectic, quirky or unconventional. Here is a gorgeous dress with interesting, but not overpowering, asymmetry.

You will see many more options HERE
including dresses for petite, plus and tall women.

Of course, in some cases the focus is on the celebration of life rather than death at which point vibrant colors and shimmering beauty could be the perfect antidote to the sadness. For our purposes today I am addressing the more somber approach to a funeral.

2. Solids vs. Prints

It is often safest to go with a solid color, but there is nothing that precludes you from wearing an understated print. I would stay away from anything too vibrant, busy or sweet. Here are a few ideas for how to incorporate prints into your funeral garb.

Keep the contrast level low like this dress.

The contrast level can be a bit higher if the design is very elegant and tailored and, in this, case, the floral design feels appropriate to a funeral. Also, higher contrast will look more natural on someone whose natural coloring is high contrast. For example, someone with dark hair and light skin. It will look overpowering and stand out more on someone whose natural coloring is quieter.

If you do not like wearing black, you can find softer subdued colors in prints that also work like this dress.

Find more funeral appropriate print ideas HERE.

Nothing says you have to wear a dress to a funeral. You can wear basic pants and a top, cardigan or blazer.

Here is an unexpected cardigan that will be perfectly funeral-appropriate especially if you add a navy tank under it instead of the white.

Or a beautiful belted knit blazer in purple and black like this.

If your personal style runs more non-traditional, an asymmetrical black jacket works.

Or even this gorgeous coat jacket. I have seen this in person and it is very elegant. I would suggest wearing it with slim pants as opposed to leggings and replace the stilettos with a simpler pump or boots.

And, if a simple top and pants or a skirt is more your style than wearing a blazer or dress, that works, too.

Here is a top in a stunning color:

Or, you can do a softer color like this that feels understated and elegant even though it is light.

I have many, many more ideas for tops, tunics and blazers or jackets HERE.

Hopefully you are not attending so many funerals that you need an outfit or two designated specifically for that occasion. Instead, it would be nice to know that whatever you plan to wear to a funeral you can also wear on a daily basis. In fact, doesn’t that feel better than having an outfit that is strictly for funerals? Wearing something only on sad occasions can give the outfit depressing associations or energy.

If your personal style does not lean towards a classic or traditional feel and you do not want to purchase an outfit that will mostly sit in your closet because it doesn’t express your personality, you still have options.

Black and white can go almost anywhere and this dress, with its non-classic styling and higher contrast, is not for everyone, but it can be perfectly appropriate – especially if worn with black tights and black shoes or boots.

At first glance this dress might seem totally inappropriate, but when worn by someone who is naturally passionate and dynamic, and if your family or friends know and love this about you, this dress can work. Her body is modestly covered and the styling is simple except for the detail down the arms and at the neck. Not everyone can pull this off, but I suspect those of you who can know who you are!

See other examples of colors, prints and styling that push the envelope a bit HERE.

3. What Not to Wear to a Funeral

As you can see from the examples I am sharing, and as I’m sure you know, a traditional funeral is not a time for bright colors, fun patterns or too much skin showing. I share several examples of outfits that are NOT funeral appropriate HERE. And this is one:

No denim jackets!

Lastly, you will see that most of the dresses and tops I have included have sleeves. Because of the somber nature of funerals they demand a certain level of propriety that doesn’t always lend itself to wearing something sleeveless. Not to mention that it is important to be respectful of certain religious settings and expectations. If, however, you live in a very hot climate or the family has shared that they invite personal expression to celebrate the deceased person then by all means wear what seems appropriate to you and honors the occasion. What I have shared here are simply guidelines. Since you are the one attending the funeral and you know the person who died or at least are acquainted with the family you know best what feels right. Listen to your heart.

And, of course, don’t not go just because you do not have the perfect thing to wear. Your presence is the most important part and, short of going in ripped jeans and a midriff-baring shirt, being there is what counts.

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A Note About the Clothes: All of the garments pictured here (and in the catalogue) are vegan (made from fabrics that did not harm any animals). Please note that I am passionate about ending animal suffering and choosing cruelty-free clothing is just one aspect of a vegan lifestyle. If you have any questions about being vegan please let me know. I am happy to help and will answer any questions with kindness and compassion.

Some of the affiliate links may generate commissions for Total Image Consultants which helps support the time spent creating these very specific recommendations.

Tweet: It is often safest to wear a solid color to a funeral, but an understated print works as well. See ideas here: bit.ly/1QpNFvZ

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It is often safest to wear a solid color to a funeral, but an understated print works as well. See ideas here: bit.ly/1QpNFvZ

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