Dressing for a funeral: Black is not the new (funeral) black

by Tammy Dermody

When you’ve lost someone dear to you, the last thing you may want to do is spend time choosing an outfit to wear to the funeral. But unfortunately, we have all had to look in our closets for that appropriate attire to commemorate a life.

When dressing for a funeral, the first qualification that pops into everyone’s mind is typically “something black.” But before you reflexively reach for that black dress or black suit, consider this: wearing something black to a funeral is no longer an obligation.

Black is certainly an option, but not a requirement like it used to be.

So what are some options when trying to beautifully honor a meaningful person in your life through funeral attire choices?

Here are some tips:

  1. Celebrate your relationship.

Consider a funeral a celebration of life, and consider your attire a celebration of your relationship with the person you knew or loved. If black is your favorite hue, it’s appropriate; if not, then feel free to explore other options, like navy or another dark shade. Because you don’t have the chance to take a cue from other attendees, make your attire a personal homage to this relationship.

  1. Focus on the unique.

Was there something about this person that stands out to you in your memory? Pay tribute through a fun but simple fashion choice. If they loved red, for example, red heels with a black dress or a red pocket square with a black suit could be a great way to honor their memory with a twist. If they were passionate about butterflies, dogs, dragonflies or stars, consider accessories that reflect this passion, like a brooch or scarf for women, or a pair of funky socks or a tie for a man.

  1. Shoes are important.

If you’re spending some time graveside, consider the fact that heels sink into grass. You’ll want to make sure your shoes complement your outfit, but you’ll also need to think comfort, as many funerals involve long periods of standing time.

  1. Simplicity is key.

When in doubt, keep it simple and comfortable. There will likely be lots of hugging, and it’s not beyond reason to consider that you may end up being very emotional during a service. When emotions run high, heat can become a factor. And speaking of…

  1. Weather or not?

If you’ll be outdoors, weather is obviously a consideration. As with most situations in life, layers are always a good choice; a shawl or wrap for women and a jacket for men may help you comfortably make the transition from outdoors to indoors.

  1. To hat, or not to hat?

You might find women wearing simple hats or veils at a traditional funeral, but remember that your goal in a funeral setting is probably not to be the center of attention. Unless the person you’re honoring was a hat aficionado and the funeral organizers encourage you to go bold, simplicity and elegance is key.

Overall, remember this: Every life has a story, and a funeral can punctuate that final chapter. Make it a personal, comfortable chapter, and embrace the idea that black is not always the new funeral black.