What to Wear to a Memorial Service (Formal and Casual Ideas) 

Updated June 12, 2022
woman in black dress at memorial service

Unlike a traditional funeral, not every memorial service is held in the same fashion or at the same type of location, leaving you and your family wondering what to wear to a memorial service. You may be pondering this question when the memorial is scheduled mere days away. Thankfully, there are a few universal, fashionable apparel items you can opt for and wear to pay your respects.

Formal Memorial Service Outfit Ideas

While memorials are less formal than funerals, they're still a dressier occasion than a backyard barbeque. If the outfit would be considered appropriate for a religious service or business casual, it's usually okay to wear to a formal memorial service. You should also use the location to help you decide what specific pieces in your wardrobe you want to wear. If the memorial is at a church or fancy restaurant, you'll want to dress for those locations, following the location's dress codes as well.

Formal Outfits for Women

woman in black coat for formal memorial service

Women have a wide range of options for formal memorial services, depending on the time of year. While you don't have to only wear black, sticking with darker colors or jewel tones is a good idea for dressing business casual, particularly if you have to leave right after, or in the middle of the work day to attend. Similarly, you want to stray away from clothing that's too tight fitting or revealing, but you don't have to be buttoned up from neck to ankle. A few pieces you can mix and match include:

  • Dress slacks in brown, black, or navy
  • Button-down shirt or sweater
  • Seasonal dressy pantsuit
  • Camel, pea, or trench coats
  • Pencil skirts
  • Solid colored blouses
  • Closed-toe shoes

Formal Outfits for Men

man in dark suit going to memorial service

As many men are expected to wear some degree of business attire to their job, they can also wear their smart business causal attire to a formal memorial event. You should look for something that could go from the office to the service, and a few of these go to pieces include:

  • Dark-colored blazers or sports coats
  • Solid colored button-downs
  • Navy, burgundy, dark green, black, or gray trousers
  • Lightweight suits in gray, tan or brown
  • Dress shoes

Formal Outfits for Gender Nonconforming Folks

gender neutral outfit for memorial service

Of course, people who don't identify within the gender binary also want to wear proper attire to the memorial services they're attending. Don't feel like you have to stick with a specifically femme or masc look just to appease someone in the crowd; mix and match form and function for a great look. Pair muted tones with outfits that have sharp or soft lines. Blazers, both fitted and loose, are a great way to dress up a plain sweater, t-shirt, or tank top if you find yourself in a pinch. Some examples of these outfits include:

  • Oversized neutral colored blazers
  • Soft printed trousers (window pane, plaid, checkered, and so on)
  • Cashmere sweaters
  • Unique shoes like Dr. Martens, Mary Janes, mules, and so on
  • Solid colored dresses with tights

Formal Outfits for Kids and Youngsters

father and son in suits getting ready for memorial service

Given their age, kids get some leniency when it comes to formal events. When they're attending a memorial service, you can dress them in a broader color palette, as long as they stick to muted tones. Similarly, they can wear just about any combination of pieces (sweaters, slacks, skirts, dresses, pinafores, and so on), as long as they're not too bold, bright, stained, or too casual. If they'd look right at home at a ball game, they probably shouldn't be wearing it to the memorial.

What to Wear to a Casual Memorial Service

Like more formal events, you'll want to take your cue from the location and season. For example, a summer backyard or beachside memorial service would call for garden party attire, while a fall memorial in a barn means corduroy pants and a sweater. That being said, there's a lot more leniency for casual memorial events, and you shouldn't be afraid to incorporate more personality into your outfit for these situations.

Casual Outfits for Women

woman in long casual print dress for memorial service

While casual services offer quite a bit of leeway in terms of attire, you still want to follow some general guidelines. Skip gaudy or flashy tops, including ones with bold prints and noisy attachments (such as fringe and sequins) and select a few sophisticated, classy accessories. For example, some specific pieces that you can wear for a range of seasons and locations include:

  • Neutral-toned dress pants and trousers
  • Solid colored sweaters
  • Maxi dresses in solid colors or muted florals or prints
  • Garden party dresses/tea dresses in cool-toned prints or solid colors
  • Knit shirts or polos
  • Boyfriend blazers
  • Sandals or heels
  • Boots or loafers

Casual Outfits for Men

man in casual outfit for memorial service

At a casual event, men don't need to dress quite as formally as say, wearing a three-piece suit. While their pants should still be ironed and crisp, they don't need to be cuffed or formal dress slacks, and they can broaden to showing a bit more skin (particularly in the summer months). A few ideas for these casual outfits include:

  • Polo shirts in solid colors
  • Sports coats or blazers
  • Neutral colored trousers
  • Linen pants
  • Short or long-sleeved button downs in standard patterns (checkered, striped, plaid, etc.)
  • High water dress pants
  • Loafers and dress sneakers

Some men may be tempted to wear dark jeans and a blazer to a casual memorial service. If you want to wear jeans, you should make sure the venue calls for them and that you dress them up appropriately. In other words, wear a button-down shirt with loafers, consider adding a blazer, and skip the t-shirt and sneakers.

Casual Outfits for Gender Nonconforming Folks

gender neutral casual outfit

For memorial services that are more casual, folks of all gender identities can express their sense of style much more easily than at formal events. Since you should still limit yourself to only dark colors and fewer logos or prints than in your everyday life, it's a great idea for you to start playing around with texture and proportions. Pairing an oversized blazer with a form fitting button down and a wide-leg trouser can be super fashionable and yet respectful. Similarly, chunky boots or even Converse can dress down your fancier dresses for a more casual vibe. Here are a few ideas for these stylish outfits:

  • Bold blazers or coats
  • Turtle neck sweaters in solid colors
  • High-waisted or paper bag trousers
  • Statement tops in solid colors
  • Layering sweaters, dresses, and sleeveless tops for texture
  • Printed dresses and skirts

Casual Outfits for Kids and Youngsters

casual outfit for children at memorial service

At a casual service, kids have a few more options to choose from when getting dressed. In addition to knit dresses, cardigans, and pants, they can also select khakis and polo shirts, as well as things like a dressy tunic or a dress over nice leggings. Depending on the location, dark jeans might also be appropriate. For kids, shoes are an important thing to consider, and if the event's going to be outside at all, you'll want to make sure that you put them in a comfortable pair of flats or dress shoes, such as loafers, mules, or ballet slippers.

Clothing Tips to Stay Fashionable and Respectful

When picking out what to wear to a memorial service, there are a few standard guidelines for the things you should and shouldn't wear, no matter the location or time of day. A few of the main items you should stray away from include:

  • Skip flip-flops, light-up shoes, or grungy boots.
  • Jeans unless the event calls for them
  • Faded, ripped, and otherwise worn-out clothing
  • Athleisure outfits or sports gear
  • Evening wear
  • Beach or poolside attire
  • Graphic tees

Always Select Appropriate Memorial Service Attire

Picking out the right memorial service outfit starts with taking your cue from the venue and service information provided to you. When it comes to these things, it's better to be slightly overdressed than underdressed, but you should always check with the people hosting if you're unsure about what to wear. Most importantly, make sure you wear pieces that are going to be comfortable, and one way to do so is to start by checking your own closet for foundational items and incorporating additional pieces to complement them.

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