The Attire Of Empathy: What To Wear To A Funeral? 

By  Emily Konatella

LAST UPDATED - December 11, 2023

Life is a journey filled with joy, laughter, and bittersweet moments. Among these poignant moments, funerals hold a unique place. These occasions are a way to pay tribute to and cherish the memory of a departed loved one while also offering unity and assistance to those who are mourning. Attending a funeral requires careful consideration - in terms of emotional support and how we present ourselves.

In times of loss, navigating what to wear to a funeral or memorial service can be challenging. It's a decision that must balance the need for decorum and respect with the desire for personal expression. Clothing becomes a way to show our support to the bereaved family.

Below, we'll offer guidance and suggestions on what to wear to a funeral, helping you to find solace during a time of grief.

What To Wear To A Funeral Service - Men

When attending a funeral service, it's important to choose funeral attire that reflects respect for the deceased and their family. Here's a comprehensive guide for men on what to wear:

A Dark Suit

A dark suit remains the cornerstone of men's funeral attire. The customary practice is to wear black, a safe and respectful choice. However, for men accustomed to a more flamboyant style, incorporating darker tones like deep brown, navy blue, or dark green is an option. The priority is maintaining a respectful and subdued appearance while avoiding overly flashy or bright clothing.

Dress Pants

Wearing dress pants to a funeral is a customary and respectful choice. Tightly tailored trousers in deep, dark hues convey a feeling of solemnity and respect. They are a symbol of paying homage to the deceased and showing support for grieving family and friends during this somber occasion. Note - black jeans are not the same as black dress pants, and jeans are not considered appropriate attire at most funerals.

Dress Shirt

A pristine white dress shirt is a classic choice, symbolizing purity and deep respect. However, you can choose light shades of gray, blue, or subtle pastels if they are understated and not too vibrant. Pair the white shirt with dark dress pants rather than lighter-colored khakis. Traditional funeral etiquette holds that a long-sleeved shirt is more fitting than a short-sleeved shirt, regardless of the weather.

A Conservative Tie

Select a tie that is conservative in both color and pattern. Dark shades like black, deep gray, or navy are excellent selections. Avoid ties with flashy patterns or bright colors that might divert attention away from the memorial service and onto your funeral attire!

Dark Dress Shoes and Socks

Complement your suit or dark dress pants with black (or dark brown) leather dress shoes. Make the effort to ensure they are clean, impeccably polished, and in excellent shape. Confirm that your socks coordinate with the color of your shoes, and avoid overly vibrant or flashy options. Funeral services are the wrong time to incorporate fun dress socks into your outfit!

Minimal Accessories

Keep accessories minimal and understated when attending funeral services. A watch, wedding ring, or a small religious or sentimental item is appropriate. Avoid wearing excessive jewelry or accessories that might divert attention from the somber nature of the event. Baseball caps are not funeral attire; dress hats may be worn outdoors.

Overcoat or Trench Coat

Depending on the weather, consider bringing a dark overcoat or trench coat to wear over your suit. This serves the dual purpose of providing additional warmth while enhancing the formality of your funeral attire.


Give thought to your personal grooming. Make certain that your hair is tidily styled, as this demonstrates respect for those who are mourning. Funerals are an occasion that necessitates taking the time to look your best. Consider being clean-shaven or maintaining well-groomed facial hair. Maintaining proper personal hygiene is crucial, as it conveys your reverence for the event and the individuals present.

Religious or Cultural Considerations

Funerals are deeply rooted in cultural and religious traditions, and these customs often extend to the attire expected of attendees. It's essential to be aware of and respect any specific dress code requirements that may be dictated by the deceased's religion or cultural background. Here are some considerations:

Religious Dress Codes

Different religions have their own customs regarding funeral attire. For example:

Christianity: Christian funerals typically call for modest and somber clothing. Wearing black or dark-colored suits is a common practice, symbolizing mourning and respect. It's also customary for men to wear subdued ties and dress shoes.

Islam: Islamic funeral customs require modesty and simplicity in attire. Men should opt for clean and unpretentious clothing. A white kameez or traditional shalwar kameez is often appropriate, reflecting the Islamic tradition of purity and simplicity.

Judaism: Jewish funerals have specific customs, including wearing black or, in some cases, a black suit and hat. Orthodox Jewish men may follow more stringent dress codes, including wearing a specific type of black suit and black hat.

Cultural Variations

Cultural norms can also influence funeral attire. For instance:

Asian Cultures: Asian funeral attire can vary widely, with some regions favoring white to symbolize mourning while others prefer red as a symbol of respect. It's essential to inquire about the specific cultural norms in the community.

African Funerals: African funeral etiquette often incorporates traditional clothing that reflects the rich cultural heritage of the deceased family member. This might involve wearing specific fabrics, colors, or garments with cultural significance.

What To Wear To A Funeral Service - Women

Whether the funeral is for an immediate family member or you are supporting a loved one in their grief, it's important to dress appropriately. Below is a thorough guide for women on what to wear to a funeral:

A Dark-Colored Dress

Black has a long history as the traditional color for funerals in Western cultures. When attending a funeral, it's best to select conservative attire in a dark color. At traditional funeral services, women's clothing typically centers around black funeral dresses. Other suitable shades for a funeral dress include darker colors, such as dark grey, deep navy blue, dark green, or dark shades of brown. The goal is to pick a color that mirrors the somber nature of the occasion while also upholding a respectful and modest appearance. Your choice of funeral dress should avoid being overly flashy or revealing to avoid drawing attention away from the memorial service.

A Modest Blouse or Top

If you decide to wear separates, pair your dark-coloured skirt or pants with a modest blouse or top. Choosing a top that does not expose too much cleavage or show too much skin is important. Spaghetti straps should also be avoided. Aim for a conservative and understated style that complements your outfit. Modesty is important in funeral attire.

Knee-Length or Longer Hemlines

Dresses and skirts you intend to wear to a funeral should have a hemline that falls knee-length or longer. This length is considered appropriate and respectful for such occasions. Avoid miniskirts or anything that might be deemed overly revealing.

Tasteful Accessories

Opt for understated and minimal accessories. Consider simple jewelry such as a delicate necklace, stud earrings, and a timeless wristwatch. The goal is to avoid wearing flashy or extravagant jewelry that may distract from the event's solemnity.

Closed-Toe Shoes

Select closed-toe shoes in a dark, neutral color, such as black or dark brown. Flats or low heels are practical choices for comfort while maintaining a respectful appearance. You may be on your feet for quite a while, so choose comfortable shoes that are still polished and refined. Open-toed shoes or sandals are best avoided unless they are very understated. Flip-flops are inappropriate attire for a funeral and should be avoided.

Tights or Hosiery

If you opt for a dress or skirt, consider wearing tights or hosiery, especially in cooler weather. Neutral or dark shades are suitable choices. This adds a layer of formality to your funeral attire.

Conservative Outerwear

Depending on the weather during the memorial service, bring a dark, conservative coat or jacket to wear over your outfit. This provides warmth and contributes to the overall formality of your appearance.

Subdued Makeup and Hairstyle

Regarding makeup, maintain a natural and understated appearance. Avoid bold or dramatic makeup looks that might draw attention to yourself. As a general rule, your hairstyle should also be neat and understated, reflecting a respectful and somber demeanor.

Religious or Cultural Considerations

Be mindful of any specific dress code requirements dictated by the deceased's religion or cultural background. Some traditions may have unique clothing expectations, so honoring these customs is essential. If you are unsure what to wear to a funeral service, asking a family member for advice is perfectly acceptable. 

Here's a closer look at how to navigate these considerations:

Religious Dress Codes for Women

Many faiths have established dress codes for funerals, each carrying its own symbolism and reverence. You can pay respects to the grief of the other mourners by inquiring as to this dress code ahead of time:

Christianity: Christian funerals often call for women to wear modest and understated clothing. The tradition typically includes dark-colored dresses or suits that reflect the somberness of the occasion. Jewelry and makeup should be kept minimal.

Islam: Islamic funerals prioritize modesty in attire for women. Opt for simple, loose-fitting garments that cover the body appropriately. Bright colors and flashy jewelry should be avoided, as the focus is on humility and respect.

Judaism: Jewish funerals usually involve the wearing of black clothing for women. Orthodox Jewish women may also be expected to cover their heads with a modest hat or scarf as a sign of respect and reverence.

Cultural Variations

Cultural backgrounds greatly influence funeral attire expectations, and respecting these customs is a way of showing reverence for the deceased and their heritage:

Asian Cultures: Funeral customs in Asia can differ widely. Some regions favor white to symbolize mourning, while others prefer red as a sign of respect. Understanding the specific cultural norms within the community is crucial.

African Funerals: African funeral attire frequently includes traditional garments that mirror the vibrant cultural heritage of the departed individual. This can involve wearing specific fabrics, colors, or garments with cultural significance.

Funeral Attire Dos and Don'ts


Dress Conservatively and Dark-Colored Clothing: Opt for dark and muted colors like black, charcoal gray, deep navy, or dark brown. Choose to wear black clothing if at all possible. This color symbolizes mourning and respect.

Choose Modest and Formal Attire: Ensure your hair is neatly styled and maintain a clean and well-groomed appearance.

Dress in Layers: Depending on the weather, it's wise to wear layers to adjust your clothing for comfort while maintaining a respectful appearance.

Respect Religious and Cultural Customs: If you know specific religious or cultural dress codes, honor them. Inquire with family members or religious leaders if you are uncertain.

Wear Closed-Toe Shoes: Choose closed-toe, dark-colored shoes that complement your outfit. Avoid open-toed shoes or sandals unless they are very understated.

Keep Accessories Minimal: Keep jewelry and accessories understated and simple. Avoid items that may distract or appear too flashy.

Maintain Good Grooming: Pay attention to personal hygiene and grooming. Neatly style your hair and maintain a clean and well-groomed appearance.

Express Condolences: Offer condolences to the bereaved family and show empathy and support during the event. Your presence and words can provide comfort.


Don't Wear Bright Colors: Avoid bright, vibrant colors, flashy patterns, or loud prints, as they can be seen as disrespectful to wear to a funeral. Wear black to a funeral if possible.

Avoid Casual or Inappropriate Attire: Steer clear of casual clothing, such as jeans, T-shirts, or sportswear. Beachwear, shorts, and overly casual attire are inappropriate.

Don't Overdo Makeup and Perfume: Keep makeup subtle and perfume light. Strong scents or heavy makeup may be distracting and inappropriate.

Stay Away from Excessive Jewelry: Avoid wearing excessive jewelry or accessories that draw attention away from the occasion's solemnity.

Respect Religious and Cultural Customs: Don't disregard or disrespect any religious or cultural dress code expectations. Ignoring these customs can be considered insensitive.

Don't Draw Attention to Yourself: The primary focus should be on showing respect for the departed and providing comfort to the mourning family. Avoid clothing or behavior that draws attention to yourself.

About the author

Emily is a fashion consultant, designer and creative director with more than 15 years experience creating, designing and developing clothing & jewelry. From managing pageant shows to turning concepts into actual designs, she has experience with almost all fabric types and jewelry designs and is in touch with the latest fashion trends.