What to wear to a funeral is both an easy, and complicated question — you’ve lost someone close, you want to grieve and support your family and friends and you want to show that that’s why you’re there. What you decide to wear sends that message.
Most advice on this subject is pretty blanket, as counter to most fashion tips, funeral attire is meant for you to fit in, not stand out. So in that sense, the answer is easy: wear black. But for some of us that may not be an option, not to mention all those suits and dresses that probably don’t fit anymore after spending the majority of the year inside.
TLDR: be sensible and be sensitive
Plus, the occasions around burial services vary, such as attending a wake versus a funeral service, or a celebration of life versus a memorial service or summer versus winter. So in that sense, the answer is complicated. Whether you’re a woman, man or you’re a parent dressing your kids, Atticus has the ultimate guide for what to wear to a funeral and other burial services.
Atticus tip for a Zoom funerals - Covid-19 is preventing many families and friends from gathering, and funerals are one of those events that are highly disrupted. If you're attending a Zoom funeral and need some help, check out Atticus’ Wear Your Pants! - What to Wear (and NOT to Wear) to a Zoom Funeral.
Funeral clothes for women, men and children
Women have so many more options in their attire, and when it comes to funerals that remains true. Dresses and suits, skirts and pants can be worn at a funeral or burial service, but there are many considerations to take when choosing one.
Funeral clothes for women
For a very long time the advice for women attending funerals was to wear a dark dress, preferably black. Pant suits and skirts suits have been added to what’s acceptable, and so too are skirts with blouses or sweaters and also pants with a formal top that has sleeves.
What women should wear to a funeral
- Wear a dress
- Wear a pantsuit
- Wear a skirt suit
- Wear dress pants with a long sleeve top
Within this framework of outfits, what should be top of mind in your decision making is the family of the deceased (perhaps your family). Are they more conservative dressers, or more casual? When it comes to a funeral, it’s better to err on the side of formal wear versus casual, and to avoid wearing certain clothes like these:
What women should not wear to a funeral
- Don’t wear a short skirt
- Don’t wear revealing clothing
- Don’t wear dangly earrings
- Don’t wear bright clunky necklaces
Funerals are generally more formal occasions, so in that case it’s a good idea for women to keep their shoulders covered. Skirts and dresses, while preferred in many cases, should reach to the knees. Sundresses, or more revealing attire may have their place in tropical burial services, but not at a traditional funeral.
For jewelry, the mindset is the same — flashy is not the objective. Silver and gold are preferred over diamonds, try to choose earrings that don’t dangle, and wear necklaces that have smaller pendants.
Hats are also appropriate for women to wear at funerals and are a good occasion to bring them out. Accent colors can be bright, but not the hat itself, and make sure that it’s not gauche, outlandish, or so big that it blocks the view of someone sitting behind.
Atticus Tip: Check the Obituary — Find the obituary on Facebook, elsewhere online or in the local paper. It may contain special requests such as what to wear.
What colors women should wear to a funeral
- Wear black or dark gray
- Don’t wear bright colors or patterns
- Wear light colors for accents
- Don’t wear bright make-up
When in doubt, go with black, but there are a number of other colors that are just fine to wear. Just be sure to try and stick with a color, as patterned dresses tend to stand out. Try to avoid red and white bottoms or dresses. For makeup, consider nude colors, and be sparing with eyeshadow and blush. For a visual reference, consider these color palettes:
Funeral Clothes for Men
When a man dresses for a funeral, the question that will probably come to mind is, how formal do you want to be? For generations the adage was that every man should own a suit, and funerals are one of those occasions when it comes out. But a suit is not necessarily required in all funerals, and many men either don’t have one, or own multiple suits.
What men should wear to a funeral
- Wear a black suit
- Wear a collared shirt
- Wear dress shoes with matching belt
- Wear slacks
If you have a black or dark gray suit, that’s the preferred attire for men at funerals. They’re best paired with a long sleeve shirt with a collar. Just make sure to tuck that shirt in, and try to have a belt and pair of dress shoes that match each other. A tie is a nice touch and offers a chance to give a little (not a lot) of color to your outfit, but if you wear a suit, an open collar will probably work just fine.
A matching belt and pair of shoes also looks best if you decide to not wear a suit. “Business casual” is more acceptable these days, so a collared shirt, such as a dress shirt or polo shirt, are preferred with slacks. In some cases, dark jeans may be acceptable, but that means dressing up your top, and perhaps pairing it with a blue blazer.
What men should not wear to a funeral
- Don’t wear athletic shoes
- Don’t wear baseball caps
- Don’t wear shorts
These days, a suit with sneakers, athletic shoes or flip flops may be a fashionable outfit, but a funeral is not the time for them. It’s also not the time for a baseball cap, but more formal hats are acceptable. In rare instances shorts might be acceptable, but when in doubt assume that they’re not.
What colors men should wear to a funeral
- Wear black or dark gray
- Don’t wear bright colors
- Wear dark slacks
If you decide to not wear a suit jacket, then you should give some thought to the color of the top you choose. White is good as an accent color, but consider choosing a darker color if it’s the only top you’re wearing or pairing it with a dark colored vest. Bright colors such as red, orange and royal blue are mostly discouraged for men. See the color palette above for reference.
Funeral Clothes for Children
Rules on attire are much looser for children, because, well, they’re kids! The most important thing to keep in mind when dressing a child for a funeral is that they’re comfortable.
What children should wear to a funeral
- Wear clothes like their parents
- Wear a suit, or formal dress
Just as men and women have basic rules of thumb for their attire at a funeral, the preferred ensemble for children is to dress like their parents. Try to match colors as much as possible, and don’t worry if your kiddo doesn’t have a suit or formal dress. Just try to make sure their shoes are clean and their clothes are understated. Shorts are also acceptable, but only if paired with a collared shirt.
What children should not wear to a funeral
- Don’t wear wrinkled clothes or scuffed shoes
- Don’t wear cutesy-type dresses
A collared shirt of some sort is preferred for boys, and a dress is most popular for girls. Your child will look extra sharp if that shirt is clean and not wrinkled, and that dress isn’t too cutesy or faddish.
What colors children should wear to a funeral
- Wear colors that are similar to parents
- Wear dark colors, if possible
Children are not bound by the same rules as men or women when it comes to acceptable colors to wear at a funeral. Brighter colors are okay, as long as they’re not too loud. Anything formal on a small child will look adorable anyway, and that will probably make a lot of people smile.
What women, men and children should wear to a summer funeral
What women should wear to a summer funeral
Comfort is key for a summertime funeral, and for most women that will mean wearing less clothes. What’s most important is to consider whether the service will be held indoors, in air conditioning, or outside, in the summer heat. If the latter is the case, then consider the following:
- Clothes - Dresses with thinner fabric, such as cotton and linen, and some sundresses are appropriate for a funeral in the sun. Just avoid showing too much below the collar, and spaghetti straps are a no-no. Try to make sure your clothing isn’t too tight, and avoid mini-skirts.
- Accessories - An outdoor funeral may require you to seek some shade, and that can be accomplished with a black umbrella. Likewise for sunglasses, as anything black will do. Consider a hat for shade also, so long as it won’ obstruct the person behind you.
- Colors - The same colors are acceptable for indoor versus outdoor, and winter versus summer funerals. The tendency will be to wear brighter colors because it’s summertime, but try to stick to black, gray, dark gray and navy blue.
What men should wear to a summer funeral
The same is true for men as it is for women during summer time funerals — comfort is key. For men who want to maintain a formal appearance, it’s best to dress in layers. As for the rest, see the following tips:
- Clothes - Lightweight, and dark colored fabrics are difficult to come by for men’s pants, so consider wearing cloth or linen for a shirt. Polo shirts are also far more acceptable in outdoor weddings, and can even be worn under a blazer or suit jacket.
- Accessories - Baseball caps are still a no-no, but if you have a more formal hat, this is a good time to bring it out. Umbrellas are good for the sun, as well as black sunglasses.
- Colors - Dark colors are still much preferred in the case of outdoor funerals, and this might surprise men, but actually even more important. The reason is because of sweat, which is sure to find you if you keep that suit jacket on. Khaki is also more acceptable for outdoor funerals.
What children should wear to a summer funeral
Depending on how formal the funeral you’re attending is, consider that a child with less than perfect attire is far more preferable than a screaming child who’s too hot. Not only is the heat a hazard to the child, and a hindrance to others, but consider your own grief, as you don’t want this emotional moment to be compromised. Comfort is key, but doubly so for children. That means it’s okay for them to wear shorts, but it’s best to pair them with dress shoes over flip-flops.
What women, men and children should wear to a winter funeral
What women should wear to a winter funeral
- Clothes - Clothing choices remain the same, as dark colors and non-revealing clothing is always preferred, but in this case, a winter coat will likely be part of your wardrobe. Dark colors are preferred, but if your winter coat is patterned or light, consider taking it off during the service.
- Accessories - If you’ve got your winter coat, then you may want to match it with gloves and scarves. Consider if it’s going to rain, and if that’s the case, an umbrella is great, and rain boots of most colors are just fine.
- Colors - Dark colors are more fashionable in the winter time, so in the case of a winter funeral, make an extra effort not to wear bright colors, as they will stand out against everyone else.
What men should wear to a winter funeral
- Clothes - If a man has a suit and a black wool coat then he has all the formalwear he’ll ever need for winter. Consider wearing wool socks, and a beanie is acceptable, but a formal fedora is preferred.
- Accessories - Gloves and scarves are a great pairing with your wool jacket, and just like for women, rain boots are perfectly acceptable if rain is in the forecast.
- Colors - Just as for women, dark colors are more fashionable in the winter time, so in the case of a winter funeral, make an extra effort not to wear bright colors, as they will stand out against everyone else.
What children should wear to a winter funeral
You may have chosen rain boots and a winter coat that is more colorful for your child, and in the case of a winter funeral, don’t bother buying a new ones just because they aren’t dark. If the service is outside you’ll definitely want to consider how long it is, and if layering may be necessary. Warm socks and a head cover will keep them warm, and are perfectly acceptable for them to wear.
What women, men and children should wear to non-traditional services
What women, men and children should wear to a wake or viewing
A "wake," or "viewing" as it’s also known, is a tradition started by Catholics. The ceremony has been expanded beyond Catholicism, but it still retains the same basic pretense — it’s an open casket viewing of the body of the deceased. While funerals and memorial services are typically larger affairs, a wake or viewing is usually reserved for the closest family and friends.
- Women - Unless a family specifically says otherwise, this is definitely not the occasion to dress down or revealing. Being invited to a wake is a great honor, and that makes it even more important to err on the side of formal.
- Men - There may not be a more appropriate time for a man to bring his black suit out of the closet. Knowing the family of the deceased is key to making this decision.
- Children - Children’s presence at wakes are perfectly fine, and this just might be the occasion to buy them something that’s formal.
What women, men and children should wear to a memorial service
Memorial services are typically held without the body present. This can be for a variety of reasons, but in the end, more often than not, this sort of occasion can take on a more casual tone. However, if that’s not specified by the family of the deceased, then, as always, err on the side of formal.
- Women - Casual is not a way you want your clothes to be described, however, business casual will work just fine. If you cover your shoulders, keep your neckline high and your skirt at knee length, then you can get a little more creative with your attire.
- Men - Men just might be able to forego the suit on this occasion, and certainly do away with their neck tie. This is a good occasion for those khaki pants, but don’t go crazy on the colors.
- Children - Children should match their parent’s casualness or formalness, and even though it may be an occasion to dress down, clean clothes and shoes are the expectation.
What women, men and children should wear to a celebration of life
A celebration of life, compared to other burial services, is generally the most casual of all. In most cases it’s meant to be fun, celebratory and could include festivities such as dancing and drinking. This event will likely emulate the style of the deceased and their family even more, so if a dress code isn’t specified, be sure to ask someone who’s attending, or consider the following:
- Women - It’s all out the window for a celebration of life, and hopefully you can get some inside information from the family. If you want to err on the side of caution, still be sure to avoid showing too much skin, and bright colors.
- Men - This is probably an occasion where you won’t have to think about wearing a suit, but those slacks and button up shirt are probably the way to go. Jeans might even be appropriate, but that’s just not something you want to wear without checking in with the family of the deceased first.
- Children - As with most burial services, children should match their parent’s casualness or formalness, and even though it may be an occasion to dress down, clean clothes and shoes are the expectation.
What women, men and children should wear to a funeral depending on religion and faith
Funeral attire in most religions follow very similar precepts — dress dark, dress conservative and dress formal. For specifics, please see the above specifications on what women, men and children should wear to funerals. Otherwise, the burial services for the below religions have the following notable expectations and exceptions.
What to wear to an Anglican/Episcopalian funeral
There is plenty of variance, but the common Angelican/Episcopalian belief is that faith in Jesus Christ will lead to eternal life with God. Burial services typically come within days of death, and in just about all cases, the most formal of attire is required.
What to wear to a Baptist funeral
The common belief among Baptists is that faith in Jesus Christ will lead to eternal life with God. Baptists tend to have a little more variance between churches, as each is autonomous. Viewings are common in the Baptist faith, which may be more casual, but with a heavy religious influence on their funerals, you can count on formal attire to be more appropriate.
What to wear to a Buddhist funeral
Buddhist beliefs hold that dying is another part of the life cycle as part of the concept of samsara, and a person may be reincarnated after they die. If you attend a Buddhist wake you may find that the person who died is wearing comfortable, everyday clothes. Buddhist religion shies away from displays of wealth, and the common color to wear is white, not black.
What to wear to a Catholic funeral
Catholicism contends that a person who dies has left the physical world, and will find themselves in Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory. Typically, families will hold a Vigil the night before the funeral, and this is the best time to deliver a eulogy, or say some words. Dress up for this occasion, unless the family specifies otherwise. As for the funeral, often times mass is held during the service, which requires you to wear your “Sunday best.”
What to wear to an Eastern Orthodox funeral
Eastern Orthodox contends that life after death is spent with God. A wake may last for up to three days, and given the heavy religious connection to the event, it’s best to dress formally. Likewise, for the funeral, but just remember to try and wear comfy shoes or insoles, as you’ll probably be spending a lot of time on your feet.
What to wear to a Hindu funeral
Hindu beliefs hold that dying is another part of the life cycle as part of the concept of samsara, and a person may be reincarnated after they die. Wakes are common prior to the body being cremated, and you may notice the person who died wearing white. White is a symbol of purity and respect in Hindu, so wear that color to a wake and funeral.
What to wear to a Jewish funeral
Depending on the denomination, Judaism may hold that there is no afterlife, or a person is let into “The World to Come.” If the funeral is for an Orthodox person, then dress formal, and ladies be sure to cover up. Head coverings are preferred too, and for men, a hat is substituted for a Yarmulke.
What to wear to a Lutheran funeral
Lutheran’s believe that the afterlife is determined by the grace of God. Viewings or wakes are sometimes held, and your attire should be based on the setting. Funeral services are almost always held in a church, and should bring out your best formalwear.
What to wear to a Methodist funeral
For Methodists, death is a step closer to eternal life, and a person will be resurrected after the second coming of Jesus Christ. Methodism is a variant of Eastern Orthodoxy, and like most denominations of christianity, funerals are formal events, and are almost always held in a church. This requires your “Sunday best,” and for ladies to cover up.
What to wear to a Muslim funeral
Shi'a and Sunni Muslims hold differing religious views, however, they both believe that the body of the deceased lies in wait for “The Last Day,” as they experience Heaven or Hell depending on the deeds in their life. Much respect is paid to the body, thus funerals will happen right away, without a wake or viewing. Traditionally, only men were allowed to attend funerals, but that has changed. Men should wear a plain shirt and pants, while women must wear a long sleeved shirt and a high neckline. Women should also wear an ankle-length skirt and a headscarf.
What to wear to a Latter-day Saints/Mormon funeral
Latter-day Saints and Mormons commonly believe that after a person dies they lie in wait for the second coming of Jesus Christ, either in spirit paradise, or spirit prison. Viewings are common and are typically held in close proximity to the funeral. Funerals are religious ceremonies, thus requiring formalwear, and covering up for the ladies.
What to wear to a Presbyterian funeral
Presbyterian’s believe that eternal life comes after death, though depending on a person's deeds and relationship with God, this may mean eternity in Heaven or Hell. Wakes or viewings are neither common, nor uncommon. Funerals services are typically held in churches, but a full mass is not done in conjunction. Wear your “Sunday best” for this occasion.
Atticus hopes this guide will help anyone struggling to figure out what to wear to a funeral. Just remember, it’s completely fine that you don’t know, and taking the time to figure out what to wear to a funeral is already a major sign of respect.