Advice on What Families Should Wear to a Funeral

family at cemetary

Attending a funeral can be stressful, and your outfit shouldn't be an additional stressor. Most of the time black is most appropriate, given the somber occasion of the matter, however, not all black outfits are created equal.

Women's Funeral Fashions

For a woman, an outfit consists of more than just pants and a top. Women's attire can be complex, and in different ceremony situations, it may be tricky to decide what to wear.

Informal Attire

Informal funerals are still a serious occasion, and your outfit should reflect that. Even though the occasion is informal, if you were close to the person in passing, then it is best to avoid jeans. A black skirt or black pants is the safest way to go. You may wear black jeans if you are a distant relative or an acquaintance; but make sure that they are well-fitting, free of rips, and are very dark black. Faded jeans are not a good look. They should ideally not look like rugged denim, but more like a nice pair of pants. In other words, they should blend in with your outfit, and not stand out as a pair of jeans you just threw on.

As for your top, a modest black blouse or button-down shirt always works, and most women already have these in their closet. If you do not have an appropriate black blouse, a black sweater works as well. Short sleeve is OK, just make sure that it is not sleeveless. A navy sweater or blouse can work in this instance, too. People often think navy and black don't go together, but this is not true. When paired right, the two look extremely chic together.

Informal attire

Dresses for an Informal Funeral

Of course, a classic black dress is always acceptable. This dress shouldn't have any colored embellishments and it shouldn't be revealing. Alternatively, if you have a dark colored dress, this is another great option, especially for friends and acquaintances.

simple black dress

Informal Footwear

It's OK to skip tights if it is a warm month. However, athletic sneakers, even if black, are a definite no. If the funeral is outside, be cautious of your shoe choice. You don't want to wear pumps with a skinny heel. A small wedge or black flats work best. If it's outside and raining, a black rain boot is appropriate.

casual black rain boots


If the funeral is outside and it's chilly, a dark-colored raincoat or peacoat look chic if it's a gloomy day. Think forest green, navy, deep eggplant, etc.

purple peacoat

Formal Attire

When in doubt, always err on the side of elegance. For example, a plain black dress is the ultimate formal funeral piece. Preferably it should be long sleeve, it should have a high neckline, and it should fully cover your knees. Wear this with closed-toe black pumps and black or nude tights.

A black suit ties for first place in formal funeral attire, next to the simple black dress. Either a pant suit or skirt suit works.

At a formal funeral, you can also wear a black hat may also be worn out of respect.

long black dress

Outside for a Formal Funeral

If the funeral is outside and it's very hot, your dress can be sleeveless, however, make sure you throw on a large shawl over your shoulders so that it covers your chest and even your elbows. This will help with the heat and you will still look appropriate.

Don't Wear

Navy and darker colors are not usually worn by women to formal funerals - the appropriate color to wear for a woman attending a formal funeral is always black. You definitely want to heed this rule, and not stick out, especially if you were just a friend of the passed. The less attention brought to you, the better.

Men's Funeral Styles

Although men usually take less time to get dressed and ready, here you will still have to think about your outfit choice. What works for men:

Informal Attire

For men, black jeans are OK if you are not close to the deceased, or if you are an acquaintance. However, make sure they look elegant enough to pass as dress pants. A black sweater or button-down shirt should accompany your black denim, and of course, your button-down should be tucked in. If you can, do wear a black or navy blazer over your denim ensemble.

If you are closer to the deceased, jeans don't show too much effort, so step it up and wear a pair of black of navy dress pants. Pair with matching dress shoes.

If you are wearing navy dress pants, wear with either a black or navy blazer, or a navy/black sweater.

If you feel too informal in pants and a sweater, wear a collared shirt underneath with a dark-colored tie, so that the necktie just peeks out the top.

casual men's attire

Appropriate Shoes

Sneakers are unacceptable, black dress shoes work the best with every outfit. Are yours dirty? Most places offer cheap shoe shines on the spot. If you don't have a pair of dress shoes, invest in these Cole Haan Zeroground wing Oxford shoes. Beyond comfy and stylish, you can wear these to work, on date night, etc.; they will be your new go-to shoes.

Formal Men's Attire

When it comes to formal funerals men have it kind of easy. A black suit is necessary if you were close to or an immediate family member of the deceased. Otherwise, you can wear a dark charcoal or navy suit. Wear either a solid white, charcoal, navy or black dress shirt depending on your suit; no other colors will do here. Choose a solid black tie to complete the outfit if you were close to the deceased. Otherwise, you can wear a charcoal or navy tie.

man in dark suit

Footwear for a Formal Funeral

Socks should be solid in color and the same goes for shoes. Your shoes should be clean, shiny, and as formal as it gets.

What Not to Wear

Pocket squares and bow ties should not be worn.

Kid's Funeral Dress Codes

Kids are more likely to get a pass when it comes to funeral attire. However, there are still some key elements that remain the same.

Girls at an Informal Funeral

In this case, girls can wear jeans to a casual funeral. However, these should be dark blue denim or black denim and the jeans should be without rips or fading. Sneakers are OK, as long as they are dark colored. Have your girl wear black or navy socks with these sneakers.

Any type of dark-colored top, except for a tee shirt or sweatshirt, is fine. Again, think navy, eggplant, hunter green or maroon. Your girl's top can be a sweater if she's cold, or a sleeveless option if it's outdoors and the weather is warm.

informal girl

Girls at a Formal Funeral

An all-black ensemble is necessary in this instance if your child was close to the deceased. If not, a dark-colored dress or matching top and bottom set is appropriate. If the funeral is in the winter, velvet is a great option for material. If it's chilly, wear either black or navy tights.

For footwear, she can wear black or dark dress shoes. Sneakers are not appropriate.

formal girl

Boys at an Informal Funeral

Boys can also wear dark colored or black jeans. Light blue, gray, or any other colors should be avoided. Sneakers are OK, as long as they are new looking and darker colored. It's still not considered polite etiquette for boys to wear bright colored athletic sneakers to any sort of funeral. All black or navy sneakers are best.

As for his top, no tees and no hoodies. Although a T-shirt is unacceptable, a collared dark-colored polo shirt is a very nice option. This polo can be either long or short sleeved.

Tucking in his shirt and adding a nice dark colored belt is a polished finishing touch for your little one.

Boys at a Formal Funeral

Depending on how close your boy was to the deceased, he should be wearing a suit of some kind. All black if he is an immediate family member, and navy or charcoal if he was not as close with the deceased. A navy, black or charcoal tie is the most appropriate option.

If your child is a friend or acquaintance, a tie is not necessary, especially if he keeps his jacket buttoned.

Your son should wear dark dress shoes with dark colored dress socks.

young boy in suit

Additional Styling Tips

There are certain things that can make or break your funeral outfit.

  • Ladies should never wear anything too short, too low, or too revealing. A funeral calls for modesty.
  • Keep everything simple. Your makeup should be minimal and natural and your hair and accessories should be subdued.
  • If your child has a ton of dresses but you don't find them formal enough, put a collared shirt underneath the dress to make it more appropriate for the occasion.
  • If you are going to wear tights, make sure that they do not have rips or patterns. Plain black tights are the most appropriate.
  • If you don't love your blouse or sweater, add a nice shawl. A black shawl with subtle embellishments is a nice touch to any funeral outfit.
  • Never wear leggings or shorts.
  • Make sure that your heels are not too high or flashy.
  • Men shouldn't wear flashy or colored cuff links. The more boring, the better.
  • If there are any special requests, you should abide by them. Now is not the time to break the rules and stand out from the crowd.

Making the Best of a Somber Event

Even though funerals are sad, you want to feel like you participated in the greater good. It's important to show up and pay your respects, and how you arrive matters. You want to present yourself appropriately and make sure your outfit shows some effort. No matter how informal the affair, or whether you are a family member or an acquaintance, you should always look polished at a funeral. Whether you know the deceased or not, it is best to dress up out of consideration.

Advice on What Families Should Wear to a Funeral