We live in a world where anything goes. And yet I’m still surprised at some of the things people wear; jeans and sweatshirts to church, shorts at a fine restaurant on a Saturday night, and flip flops for all occasions. But when it comes to funerals, most of us sense that there are some rules of protocol that should be followed.

A friend recently shared that she attended a funeral and was surprised that a teenage family member wore casual clothing and flip flops. I was surprised myself when attending a funeral at Arlington National Cemetery to see the thirty-year old daughter of the deceased wearing a bright and low cut dress that showed her cleavage. So it’s no wonder that those of us attending funerals might think, what should we wear?

We should dress in a way that shows respect so it’s safe to err on the conservative side and avoid bright colors, bright prints, and anything flashy or glittery. Stay away from the casual and opt for something on the dressier side. You don’t have to stick to black but choose darker or muted colors, such as, grays, dark blues, or browns. Women can wear pants, skirts, blouses, jackets, sweaters, or dresses, opting for a pulled together look. No sneakers, flip flops or too casual shoes. Men can wear slacks, sport jackets, or suits and appropriate footwear. The look you want is non obtrusive.

Funerals are not a time to be conspicuous; it’s a time to blend in with the other mourners.


Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now available in three individual volumes: "Illness & Death," "Suicide" and "Miscarriage." Additional titles are available as e-books: "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle StoreClick here to order.


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Comment by Amy Walker on May 4, 2013 at 12:07pm

This is so funny without being truly funny....  I was looking at the list of topics on funeral etiquette just now, reading a few.  I saw this one...What not to wear at a funeral.  Thinking back to my mother in law's funeral from nine years before, and a well-meaning co-worker who came to visitation in order to take my son with her for a while (he was 9, in order to get him out of the situation for a while...), I blurted out, "flip-flops," as I was clicking the link.  Then howled when I saw the picture.  What are people thinking wearing flip flops to a memorial/visitation/funeral service??  Even if just to stop by briefly?  I will never forget it.  She had on these pink sequined skinny flip flops.  Came walking right up in the front, right past the casket, to us...even pointed out (out loud), as if we hadn't seen, that "oops!" she was wearing flip flops.  <sigh>

Comment by Daci on August 18, 2012 at 11:03am

I am17 and i had to specifically ask, (beg) everyone NO BLACK! we were not their to morn, but to celabrate her life. we were all in bright colors and it was the best decision. everyone now knows not to wear black arund me or anything dark. i felt truly glad we all were there to pull together and honor my mother. her one true rule she told everyone. "Black is for weddings, color is for funerals"

Comment by Sue Martin on December 31, 2011 at 12:58pm

I have been to many funerals in my 54 years and I always appreciate those who are considerate and respectful of the family and their wishes. When my husband passed this year, my daughter felt very strongly that he would have wanted us to wear bright colors and cowboy boots, so that is what we put in the obituary. Not everyone dressed accordingly, which was fine, but it did mean a lot that folks respected our request. I try to remember that the service is not about my comfort, it's about saying good-bye, finding closure and celebrating the life of the deceased. Dressing in a way that draws attention to myself can distract from the purpose and meaning of the service. When it doubt, I wear a dark color, and above all, I dress modestly.

Comment by Amy Albert on October 20, 2011 at 3:38am
Last September when one of guys from work who was also like a brother to me died, his mom had a memorial service. His ex-girlfriend showed up and looked like she just rolled out of bed. I'm talking short short PJ shorts, a tank top, and flip flops. Her hair was thrown up in a messy bun. Of course, me being the person I am, made a comment loud enough for her to hear me about how she could even think about leaving the house like that for Greg's service. She also caused a lot problems for Greg when they were together. So I wasn't fond of her anyways. Now every time we have a funeral or a service to go to, we refer back to her as what NOT to wear. Or when we would see the commercial for "I may be in my pajamas but I'm NOT going to bed..." we would also say, "no you're going to a memorial service." this girl could have been the poster child for that commercial.
Comment by sandy on September 16, 2011 at 1:29am

It really is quite another story, when there's a specific dress theme, worn in honor of their loved one. that's what was done to honor Mr. Schrader's wife (posted 7/1/2010).  Seems perfectly fitting, in that the sentiment overrode protocol, and others in attendance likely knew the story behind it.  But, to dress down for no good reason, conveys that you do not acknowledge the solemnness of the occasion, and the fact that you are in the midst of mourners who do. Even if not intentional, it still sends that message; that is why it is disrespectful. 

At my husband's grandmother's funeral, one of the cousins had a little girlfriend on his arm, wearing a tube top.  (Can never remember her name)  He wound up marrying her.  To this day, years later, we still refer to her as the one who wore the tube top to Grandma's funeral.  True!

Comment by Debra on July 4, 2011 at 4:32pm

My brother was not a shirt and tie, or dark and conservative kind of a guy. He was the most diehard Dallas Cowboy fan I ever knew. When he passed away, we went total Dallas Cowboys. He wore his Roger Staubach Jersey and we including guest wore Cowboy gear as well, as a tribute to him. The flower spray on his casket also had his Cowboy football cards placed in it as part of the arrangement. If he had gone to this kind of funeral, he would have said "this is what I want when I go"!

Comment by Kathy Moore on January 18, 2011 at 2:10am

I went to my Sister Funeral that was at the Fueral Home. My Niece and Cosin came there dress with Pink Jeans with Pink Booths on. I wasn't very Happy with the way they were dress. But I also see other family and friends wearing pants. One person had on black pants. she look ok. I learn really quick that these people dress the way they want to be dress. So now I dress the same way I was brought up to dress. Wear dark colors.

Comment by Shelia Miller on December 31, 2010 at 11:40am

As a caregiver working in Nursing Homes, it is customary here for those who took care of the decedent to wear scrubs.


I remember one funeral I went to, the resident's favorite color was pink.  I wore pink scrubs to her funeral, in her honor.

Comment by Monique Conley on November 21, 2010 at 4:13pm
I agree with the article. Everyone should have a little black dress, black pants, or black skirt and nice top in their wardrobe or at least one dark suit for men. I'm only 31 and I can't count how many funerals I've been to already in my life whether it be family as I come from a large one, or unfortunately a few friends, or friend's relatives. Unless the family of the deceased or the deceased in life stated how they wanted people to dress, then be respectful, dress dark, and modest. Funerals are not a fashion show nor is it a backyard BBQ. It's surprising though how many parents don't make their teens or kids dress nice for a funeral, you can find a nice dark dress or top/pants at Walmart for cheap if money is an issue. It's all about being respectful towards the family and deceased.
Comment by Carol Jackson on November 5, 2010 at 9:12am
I agaree that you should try to look nice and not wear lowcut tops, etc., but sometimes people don't have dark-colored "dress-up" clothes, so I think that they should just wear the nicest thing they have in their closet. Also, as other people have mentioned, it depends on the person and situation. When I die, I'd like people to wear red (my favorite color), or wear their favorite color.

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