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It’s an age-old dilemma made harder (or easier) by today’s more casual dress codes and social mores. Back in Victorian times the decision was easy – formal dark mourning clothes were the only acceptable clothing. Nowadays, however, things have changed when it comes to deciding what to wear to a funeral.

General guidelines

The consensus seems to be that you should always choose funeral clothes appropriate to the deceased. If in any doubt, darker, more subdued and formal clothing is a safe bet, particularly for an older person. Many sources suggest wearing something that you would wear to the office.

On the other hand, a funeral for a young biker or someone who followed a particularly flamboyant or alternative lifestyle might seem strange without the trappings of their particular passion. If in any doubt, mourners should ask the family for guidance about the ceremony’s funeral dress code.

What to wear to a funeral – funeral attire for men and women

Funeral etiquette has traditionally dictated that men wear a black or dark suit, a plain white shirt and a restrained tie to a funeral. However, all sorts of variations are acceptable nowadays, with acceptable funeral attire ranging from the traditional suit through to dark turtlenecks or even smart T-shirts under jackets.

Sartorial guidelines have changed for women too when it comes to deciding what to wear at a funeral. No longer is a black suit obligatory. Even a black or dark coloured cocktail dress isn’t necessarily out of place, particularly at a summer funeral. Hats still make a nice finishing touch although, as for all aspects of a woman’s dress, anything too ostentatious should be avoided unless there is a very good reason for wearing it.

The most important thing is ‘just being there’

Provided that reasonable efforts are made to show appropriate respect and meet the deceased’s wishes, there’s a strong argument for saying that being present is more important than being dressed ‘to the nines’ and following the letter of the ‘what to wear at a funeral’ dress code.

And if the deceased or their family has asked for mourners to come in particular funeral wear, you’ve got free-rein to go along with their wishes. Maybe they wanted everyone to attend in bright colours, didn’t want anyone to wear black, or wanted something even more unusual. In one case, a young lady with Goth interests asked specifically for black and purple funeral attire. One online forum even reported a Star Trek themed funeral…

You can record your preferences for funeral dress in advance

Planning your own funeral arrangements is the perfect opportunity to guide the way you would like mourners to dress. Perhaps you feel strongly about keeping things ‘light and bright’, or maybe you’d like men to wear bright ties and the women to wear striking hats.

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