Proper Funeral Attire Etiquette

As etiquette for proper dress has relaxed over the decades for major life events, such as weddings and funerals, many people are confused as to what is considered proper funeral and wake attire. Unless the funeral requires any cultural attire to be worn, there are some general etiquette guidelines for proper funeral wake attire that should be appropriate for just about any funeral situation.

Colors, Patterns and Textures
Proper funeral wake attire used to mean formal all-black clothing. The modern funeral etiquette is not as strict; wearing another subdued color besides black is appropriate and is not a sign of disrespect. However, black is always a suitable color for funeral attire. It has long been associated with mourning in Western culture.

There are many colors and patterns that are considered inappropriate for funeral attire. Funeral attire etiquette suggests not wearing any bold or loud patterns for men or women. Examples of this are red, orange or yellow dresses, boldly patterned suits, large floral pattern dresses, whimsical prints for ties and dresses and metallic cloth. Etiquette guidelines recommend conservative prints, darker colors (purple, green, blue and gray) and subtle textures for fabrics.

Formal or Semi-Formal?
Proper funeral attire is considered to be semi-formal to formal clothing. For men, this means at least a button-down shirt and slacks and more appropriately a suit and tie (preferably a dark color). For women, a conservative pants suit, dress or skirt and top is recommended. Guests should never wear shorts, short sleeves, tank tops, flip-flop shoes or tennis shoes.

Modesty is another part of proper funeral wake attire etiquette. Traditionally, women should not wear revealing clothing, including bare shoulders, plunging necklines or mini skirts. Men should not wear shirts that are open at the chest. Closed-toe shoes are best for funeral footwear.

Special Considerations
Some religions either require or recommend that attendants' heads be covered. Make inquiries if you are unsure of the requirements. For example, some Jewish funeral rituals require head coverings, and a Muslim funeral requires women to wear head scarves in the mosque for the services. When in doubt, take a scarf just in case. Muslim and Buddhist funerals will also require guests to remove their shoes upon entering the mosque or temple.

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