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

Of all the events in life that call for wardrobe guidance, what to wear to a funeral is definitely at the top of list. It can be very 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 definitely attest to this—I wanted to be comfortable and feel like myself, but not so careless that I ended up insulting the memory of the person who died. In fact, I believe that person would’ve wanted me to dress up in his honor rather than letting my sadness obliterate my sartorial interests. And by doing so, I felt a little bit steadier on what was easily the most difficult day of my life.

But whether you consider fashion a hobby or not, putting on a nicer outfit for these occasions is simply the respectful choice, and one with little wiggle room. So what, exactly, constitutes “nice” under these circumstances? Below, a few crucial guidelines…

1. 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.

2. Choose 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 pointed-toe pumps or fancier flats.

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

4. 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 outfit fidgeting and leave you free to focus on honoring the dead.

5. Minimal jewelry. 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 down to shop three outfits that we think fit the bill.

Look #1

Look #2

Look #3

Jessica Schiffer
Contributing Editor
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