What to Wear to a Funeral

Dead men do wear plaid. Sometimes they wear polo shirts and even sports jerseys.

According to funeral directors, what people wear to funerals has changed over the years. And that includes the deceased. Historically, both the deceased and funeral attendees were dressed in formal attire for memorial services, typically dark suits for men and formal dresses for women. But times and fashions have changed.

“It’s changed a lot,” said Cy Hume, funeral director at A.S. Turner and Sons Funeral Home. “There is a lot less formality in the fashions people choose to bury their loved ones in.”

More People Are Dressing Down For FuneralsInstead of traditional dark clothing, men are increasingly being buried in sports coats and slacks, a polo or golf shirt, a team jersey, or even a favorite plaid shirt. Women are buried in slacks as well as in skirts and dresses. Jeffrey S. Wages, president of Wages & Sons Funeral Homes & Crematories, noted some women are buried in their wedding gowns. A young child might be buried in a favorite outfit, a costume or a very light-colored or white outfit.

While there are no funeral home restrictions on the deceased’s apparel, Wages said, several religions do have dress requirements for the dead. For example, he said, many Buddhists will be buried in clothes from which the buttons or zippers have been removed. According to Jewish tradition, a deceased’s body is dressed in plain white linen or a muslin shroud. In the Islamic tradition, a deceased’s body is shrouded using simple white sheets.

Whatever is chosen, said Marie Goolsby, funeral director of Goolsby Mortuary, the important thing is that the clothing reflects the deceased’s personality and life. Loved ones may be buried wearing their favorite hat, sneakers or sports jersey of a favorite team. Increasingly, she said, families are choosing sporting and other themes for funeral services. This prompts some families to ask funeral service attendees to dress the part, wearing specific colors or clothes to honor the deceased. Some have customized T-shirts printed for friends and family to wear to the funeral home or church.

Goolsby said she had a relative who loved hats. After the relative had passed away, her family decided to use hat displays instead of flower sprays at the funeral service. Funeral attendees were asked to wear hats in honor of the deceased.

Although it is best not to be too informal when considering what to wear to a funeral service, it is always important to consider what would be appropriate based on the deceased or family’s religion or wishes. And while there are no restrictions on what you can wear to a funeral home, Goolsby cautions that people dressed inappropriately for funeral services being held at a church maybe stopped at the door. Understand the church’s dress policy before you leave for the service.

If you’re still confused about what to wear to a funeral home or church service, a good rule of thumb is to dress conservatively.

The following guidelines can help:

  • For men, wear a dark suit with a shirt and tie will always work.
  • For women, wear a dark or neutral dress paired with a pair of short high heels or a shirt and skirt or slacks that fall below the knee.

Goolsby added that many memorial services mourners are often coming to the funeral home from work. She said it should be easy to dress down your work attire for any more informal services.

“If you are a man, you can take off your jacket,” she said. “If you are a woman, you can change out of heels into sandals.”

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