To dress for a funeral, you are generally expected to wear clothes that conform to accepted funeral etiquette and follow the family’s wishes. Most of the time, family members close to the deceased just want to see that you’ve made the effort.

That being said, choose clothes you will be comfortable in as the funeral will last several hours. If you don’t own anything suitable see if you can borrow an outfit from a friend who is a similar size, or you could rent a funeral outfit.

For a traditional funeral, you should wear:

  • Formal clothes in black or muted colours, unless the family has asked for more colourful funeral dress
  • Black shoes
  • Formal coat
  • Clothes should be clean, comfortable and un-creased
  • Think about what you might wear for a job interview – keep it smart and respectful

funeral wear

Black funeral dress is the most common symbol of mourning, but other dark colours, like navy blue or maroon are also acceptable, as long as the clothing is kept conservative. The family may request a certain dress code, for example some families actively discourage black to make the funeral a less sombre event.

Churches and crematoriums can be cold, and you may be waiting outside before being admitted in, so unless it is the height of summer it’s best to take a coat.

You may not have a choice over what to wear if you are appointed as pallbearer. Usually around six pallbearers are appointed to carry the coffin into the funeral service. Due to the fact pallbearers are on display during the funeral, the family may specify what kind of suit they’d like you to wear, or purchase a suit for you, so all the pallbearers are dressed the same.

For women, traditional funeral wear is:

  • A smart dress or skirt and blouse, with a cardigan or blazer
  • A warm coat
  • Clothes in tasteful colours – no bright colours or loud patterns
  • Respectful attire – skirts and dress should be knee length and not too revealing

For women, clothing options vary. You could pair a knee-length skirt with a nice blouse, or a dress with a vest underneath, so that there is no cleavage on display. Layer-up with a cardigan and don’t forget to wear a coat – many funeral service venues can be chilly! Smart trousers are just as acceptable, and more practical in winter. If you’re not keen on wearing all black, you could wear a light coloured scarf to subtly add another colour to the outfit, or choose a black dress with a pattern. Keep jewellery minimal and understated.

For men, traditional funeral wear is:

  • A standard black suit (grey or navy blue can also be acceptable)
  • A clean, white shirt
  • Plain black tie
  • Smart dress shoes in black
  • Avoid jeans and trainers

For men, the standard clean white shirt, complemented by a plain black tie, is a classic look that works well at every funeral. It’s worth noting that a suit is not compulsory unless the family request it. and a pair of smart trousers and a nice sweater will suffice. Don’t dress too casually – it’s important to show you understand the solemnity of the situation and have made an effort to look smart. If you have no appropriate clothes in your wardrobe, you could consider renting a suit.

What not to wear to a funeral

Avoid anything too short, revealing or suggestive – the focus should be on the deceased and the grieving family. Unless expressly stated, do not wear bright colours or anything festive and avoid busy patterns. If you aren’t keen to wear black, keep the colours subdued. Modest heels can help dress up an outfit, but go for flats if you are attending a burial ceremony, as you may need to walk over grass.

Deciding on a funeral dress code

Many families will request mourners to attend in a certain dress code, which is useful as it helps people navigate funeral etiquette. If the funeral is traditional in style, it follows that the dress code will be traditional too, in which case you could ask people to come dressed smartly. However, most people will assume the dress code is smart black attire if no specific guidance is given. Colourful funeral dress often reflects the deceased’s energy, lust for life and attitude to death. For children’s funerals, many parents ask people to come wearing their child’s favourite colour.  It’s advisable to not be too vague with what people should wear. Giving a dress code like, ‘smart casual’ can often cause more confusion.

You can announce details of the funeral dress code when you place a death notice in the local newspaper, or mention it when inviting people to the funeral.

If you’re advance planning for your own funeral be sure to leave dress code instructions within your funeral plan.

If you’d like the funeral to reflect the personality of the deceased, your chosen funeral director will be able to help you to arrange a fitting ceremony. Simply get started with your postcode, select some options (which can always be changed later) and look at the profiles of the funeral directors near you until you find one who you trust to preside over a non-traditional service for your loved one. Start your search for a funeral director here.