Sombre Occasion Etiquette: What's an Appropriate Outfit for a Funeral?

Of all the events in life that call for wardrobe guidance, a funeral is definitely at the top of the list. It can be tricky to determine what is both respectful to the deceased and also comfortable for you, the bereaved. As someone who recently lost an immediate family member, I can attest to this—I wanted to be comfortable and feel like myself without insulting the memory of the person who died. In fact, I believe that person would’ve wanted me to dress up in their honour rather than letting my sadness obliterate my sartorial interests. And by doing so, I felt a little bit steadier on what was easily the hardest day of my life. But whether or not you consider fashion a hobby, putting on a nicer outfit for these occasions is simply the respectful choice, and one with little wiggle room.


(Image credit: Getty Images )

So what constitutes “nice” under these circumstances? Below are a few crucial guidelines:

Cover up: You don’t have to swath every inch of your skin in fabric, but skirts should go to the knees or beyond, and sleeveless tops are only acceptable if the straps are wide and the weather is warm. Cutout anything is a don’t.

Modest shoes: This is not the time to bring out your sexiest heels, even if they’re black. Opt for a lower heel in a simple shape like a pointed-toe pump or a fancier flat.

Wear dark colours: This really does matter, even if it seems like a cliché by now. There’s just something uncomfortable about people wearing light, bright colours on a day that’s filled with tears, and the immediate mourners may be offended.

Consider a one-piece option: Especially if you’re in the immediate funeral party, a dress or a jumpsuit is the best choice. This will help you avoid any outfit fidgeting and leave you free to focus on honouring the dead.

Minimal jewellery: As with the shoes, this is not a time to show off your swankiest jewels. Stick with simple pieces or those that evoke the person you’ve lost.

Scroll to shop three outfits that we think fit the bill.

#1: Black dress + low heels


(Image credit: Getty Images)

Style Notes: A black dress below the knee and the modest shoes are chic but also easy to wear. At funerals, it’s always a great idea to bring a pair of sunglasses in case you want to hide puffy eyes.

Key Buy:

#2: Coat + trousers + blouse


(Image credit: Getty Images)

Style Notes: A long black coat will never go out of fashion, so if you’ve already invested in one, we suggest bringing it out again for a funeral too. It’ll keep you warm but also look smart.

Related: 25 Little Black Dresses for Timeless Summer Style

Key Buy:

#3: Dress + Trench + High Heels


(Image credit: Getty Images)

Style Notes: Finally, a black dress is never going to go amiss in your wardrobe. Ensure it’s an appropriate length and you’ll feel comfortable all day.

Key Buy:

This post was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated.

Jessica Schiffer
Contributing Editor
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