Death and taxes are the only two certainties in life. Even so, few of us have a ‘funeral outfit’ in our wardrobes.
Emotions can run high at funerals and the last thing you want to do is cause offence by dressing inappropriately. If you have a funeral to attend and you’re worried about what to wear, here’s a simple guide to help you make the right choices.
- Follow the dress code. If you’re not sure it’s better to clarify with someone than guess and get it wrong.
- Always wear a black or, in a pinch, a dark coloured suit – unless told otherwise.
- Never wear casual clothing like jeans unless explicitly asked to by the family.
- Pay attention to details like a tie, accessories and polished shoes.
- Keep in mind the religious or cultural traditions of the deceased and their family, and be respectful.
Sombre colours for a sombre occasion
Dressing appropriately for a funeral means showing respect to the deceased and their grieving family. Western funerals tend to be sombre occasions and your outfit should reflect this mood.
Since Queen Victoria, black has been the traditional colour of mourning (in the Middle Ages we wore white). But today even Debretts agrees it’s fine to exchange black for another sober, dark colour.
Charcoal, dark brown and navy are all acceptable and you might even get away with a fine pinstripe if that’s all you have in your wardrobe and you can’t get hold of a black suit in time.
Your default outfit for a funeral should be a dark suit. If you don’t own a suit, the next best thing is a dark blazer and a pair of dark trousers.
Wear a plain white shirt with a plain, dark tie. Avoid strong patterns and colours in ties, shirts and socks. Funerals are not the time to express your wacky personality or quirky dress sense (unless you have been specifically requested to do so).
Black Oxfords or brogues are the ideal choice of footwear, but dark brown shoes are a suitable alternative.
Some people plan a ‘celebration of life’ ceremony and specifically ask mourners not to wear black. Instead, the requested dress code will be bright colours or a chosen theme. If you have been asked to dress, say, in yellow for the funeral, you should honour the request as a mark of respect.
Whether you go all out and dress head to toe in saffron or just pick out the colour in your choice of tie or scarf is down to the age and personality of the deceased. If in doubt, ask a (not too close) member of the family for advice.
Whatever you choose to wear, make sure you’ve paid attention to details such as the neatness of your hair, and any facial hair you have. Clean shoes are an absolute must. A funeral is a dignified affair, and being impeccably, yet soberly dressed ensures you’ll be a welcome presence and not an unwelcome distraction.