How to dress for a funeral

How to Dress for a Funeral

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Shannon Burberry

Shannon Burberry


Dressing for a funeral can be tricky, especially in a time when traditional funerals are evolving to celebrations and when fashion faux pas are ever-changing.

In my time as a funeral director, I’ve seen it all. From brightly coloured frocks to team jerseys, mourners have expressed themselves through their clothing (whether being asked to adhere to a dress code or not).

Though you may want to say your final goodbyes wearing a favourite party dress, it is important to consider a few factors to ensure you remain respectful to the family. In this post, I have included some advice I hope will help you.

Consider Cultural Traditions

Although black is traditionally the colour of mourning, it is not universal. Many cultures around the world celebrate life in different ways. For example, many Eastern cultures, including people following Hinduism and Buddhism, wear white mourning clothes as a symbol of purity and rebirth.

If you are planning on attending a funeral service of a culture different to yours, make sure to learn about cultural traditions to avoid wearing anything offensive. And if you’re ever unsure, I encourage you to reach out to the funeral home and ask the director who can provide guidance.

Respect Dress Wishes

It is becoming increasingly popular for people to plan celebrations of life that include personal touches throughout, such as a favourite food or beverage, nod to a sports team or even a hobby.. It may be the wish of the deceased for mourners to wear bright colours, or the family may request you to wear a specific colour or ribbon in support of a charitable organization..

As a funeral director, I have witnessed a wide variety of customized  funerals, including some with very unique touches. When fashion has been an important part of someone’s life we often see that highlighted during their funeral. Recently, I have seen bow ties, patterned socks, cowboy boots and fedoras. Members of the police or fire department, or those who serve in the military, come dressed in their uniforms.

Think Beyond Black

Though black is a traditional colour of mourning in North America, it is acceptable to wear other colours. That said, unless there is a specific dress code, it is safe to  stay away from bold or loud patterns, and lean toward dark shades or neutrals. Remember, attending a funeral is a time to be modest and focus on the individual who has passed. 

Be Classy

 Although we may want to wear our favourite gala outfit , it’s important to note that funerals are not about standing out to seek attention.  Unless otherwise stated, dress modestly and opt for timeless pieces.

If you will be acting as a pallbearer (carrying the casket) you may wish to consider comfortable clothing and proper footwear. Inclement weather can also be a deciding factor when required to walk to a grave or remain outside for a long period of time.

One thing I like to share with clients  is to think about how they want to be perceived and dress accordingly. This goes beyond clothing and can also extend to hair, makeup and even scent. Again, I recommend opting for a muted look.

Dressing for any occasion can be stressful to some, especially for a somber event.  When deciding what to wear, remember that funerals and memorial services are not about the attendees, but about the individual who has left us.

When in doubt about what to wear, ask someone. If you don’t have a close relationship with the family to ask them, consult a mutual friend or call a funeral home. No matter what you wear, family and friends of the deceased will be happy that you were able to attend.

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