Style + Ask The Edit

Ask Belle: Funeral Blues

Hi Belle,

I’m sorry to write to you with a rather morbid question, but do you have any advice for appropriate attire to wear when attending a funeral?  I think I’ll have to attend one soon and I’ve been thinking about what I’ll wear.  Is anything other than all black or all gray straying from the solemnity of the occasion?  Any advice would be greatly appreciated!


I’m sorry if the funeral you may have to attend is for someone close to you.  As for style advice, it strikes me as a bit morbid, but I can understand why you would want to be appropriately attired for a funeral.  Here are some tips:

Back in Black.  In my opinion, black is your only option.  Unless, of course, you belong to a culture that doesn’t wear black to funerals or the family has asked you to wear something else.  For example, my Mother has already expressed her preference that no one be permitted to wear black to her funeral and that we “have a party” celebrating her life not a wake. 

So if there is a special circumstance, you can wear another color.  Otherwise, it’s all black all the time.

Wear It and Toss It.  Never wear something to a funeral that you may want to wear again. 

In 2001, I bought a black dress with adorable little pleats all over it.  Being my only black dress, I made the mistake of wearing it to my Great Grandmother’s funeral.  I could never wear it again without being sad.

So either have a dress/suit just for funerals (which you probably don’t need), or buy a cheapie at H&M and then donate to Goodwill.

The Eyes Have It.  Since most people cry at funerals, do yourself a favor and don’t wear eye makeup.  Just cover the dark circles, throw on one coat of waterproof mascara, toss your Benefit EyeBright in your purse for touch ups and call it good. Whatever you put on is just coming off anyway.

Also, I’m kind of a private person, so I always wear sunglasses to funerals.  But this is a personal preference, and they are by no means required.

In closing, funerals pretty much suck (profound I know) and there’s usually so much happening that you don’t care what you look like.  This is perfectly acceptable.  Not even I care what you wear to the funeral. 

Unless, of course, you pull a Corey Feldman and show up dressed like the decedent.  In which case, you deserve to be mocked mercilessly.  This is a somber occasion not a Halloween costume contest.


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  1. E says:

    Great call on the “wear it and toss it…” Sad, but true.

    October 19, 2010/Reply
  2. Allie says:

    I also agree on the wear it and toss it – I am actually glad I couldn't find the dress I wished to wear to my father in law's funeral – in the rush to get there I didn't see it somehow in my closet and wore a different dress. A dress I didn't like, and never wore again. Maybe it was my father in law looking out for me that day – he knew I loved clothes…

    October 19, 2010/Reply
  3. Stephanie says:

    One of my friends was killed by a drunk driver shortly after we all graduated from college. I still remember that one of our friends showed up to the funeral in jeans (dark wash, but still) and a BRIGHT TURQUOISE sweater. I still can't believe people could be that clueless about what's appropriate to wear to a funeral and what's not.

    October 19, 2010/Reply
  4. K says:

    I've never been to a funeral where people wore all black. I honestly thought that was just something people did in movies. Maybe it's a regional thing, but the last funeral I was at was a formal military funeral but everybody who wasn't in uniform just wore conservative professional clothing (suits, skirts, slacks, etc) in whatever color they wanted. There was plenty of blue, red, green, etc, but no one was trying to look fancy or draw attention to themselves.

    October 19, 2010/Reply
  5. VA says:

    I also have never been to a funeral where every mourner was in solid black. I think erring on the side of somber and conservative (black, navy, gray, a dark suit with a white or light blue blouse) with understated accessories is sufficient. At least where I'm from.

    October 19, 2010/Reply
  6. a says:

    Every funeral I've been to people wore black or dark colors, nothing that said 'look at me'. And this is in a variety of locations, and decedents young and old.

    I've reworn things I've worn to funerals, but I can see how some might not be able to.

    October 19, 2010/Reply
  7. Sarah says:

    The most important thing is not to dress slutty. No low-cut shorts, hooker boots or above the knee skirts. You would think that this is common sense, but apparently to some in my family, it isn't.

    October 19, 2010/Reply
  8. Belle says:

    I agree with VA that it does not have to be solid black, but I believe it should be black. Black suit, white shirt. Black dress, gray cardigan. All fine.

    And a is also correct, funerals are not about “look at me” style. This is why many families cover the mirrors during the period of mourning, you're not really supposed to care.

    October 19, 2010/Reply
  9. gingerr says:

    If the deceased is your spouse black is OK but I think all black is overdone and can look costumey. The Queen Victoria/Italian Myster Woman look is kind of “look at me” in it's own way.

    I think that conservative business dress will do just fine. Show respect for the departed by dressing up and looking your best. My own rule is never anything new for a funeral. A well organized wardrobe should have a dress or pants outfit for each season that can attend a formal respectful occassion like a funeral without requiring on-the-spot shopping.

    If you are going to the graveside service skip the killer heels and wear low shoes that will allow you to navigate the earth which may be wet or soft.

    October 19, 2010/Reply
  10. Liz says:

    What a great point about shoes! You don't want ones that will be ruined if they get muddy — either cheapies you can toss, or if you can find some, dignified waterproof boots you can wipe down later (you can even change in the car between the church and the burial.) Not that anyone will be looking at your shoes, anyway.

    October 20, 2010/Reply
  11. Suburban Sweetheart says:

    I agree with a previous commenter that black isn't a necessity, nor is looking super-formal & morbid. To my ex's funeral, I wore a black suit with a teal blouse underneath. The teal wasn't some crazy statement piece & wasn't terribly offensive, as another commenter wrote about, but it was a reminder, to me, that there is still life & color & love. He was gone, & we mourned that – terribly, in depth – & long past the funeral – but I wasn't going to go down in a sea of black depression with it. Clothes were the easiest reminder.

    October 22, 2010/Reply
  12. Belle says:

    I never said it had to be all black. But there needs to be some black.

    October 22, 2010/Reply