What to wear to a funeral - respectful and stress-free outfit solutions

An easy-to-follow guide about what to wear to a funeral to alleviate some of the stress from an already difficult day

what to wear to a funeral
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It can be difficult to know what to wear to a funeral. Attending one is often a daunting prospect in itself, without the added worry of finding an outfit that feels suitably respectful. 

Dressing appropriately is key, but that doesn’t mean you need to buy a whole new outfit to attend a funeral. While it's likely you can pull from your capsule wardrobe for the right look, it is one of several occasions where you don't want a sartorial misstep. Wardrobe essentials like your best blazer, best midi dress and comfortable flats really come into their own here. 

Traditionally attendees wear black, and there is evidence of mourners wearing black as early as Roman times, but it became a more prominent part of western culture during the reign of British monarch Queen Victoria. After her husband Prince Albert died, she wore black for 40 years. If you rarely wear black, and therefore don’t have much appropriate in your wardrobe, you could also consider borrowing parts of your outfit from a friend or using a dress rental service. 

7 outfit ideas for what to wear to a funeral

When it comes to what to wear to a funeral, the general consensus is to stick to dark colors, particularly and most popular is black as this signifies the mourning period. In a similar vein to what to wear to an interview, opting for smarter pieces such as your best shirt dress or a great blazer and tailored trousers offers a mark of respect to the occasion too. 

Not quite as popular tradition, although not unheard of, hats may be required, partic

1. Blazer

what to wear to a funeral black blazer

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Invest in a well-cut black blazer and it will more than earn its keep in your closet. Funerals require a smart outfit, and the tailored shape of a blazer more than fits the brief. Great for days when it’s not too hot, but not cold enough for your best winter coat, a blazer is a smart and stylish layering piece. It is a good way to temper a dress with a little color in it too (like a subtle floral print) making sure your overall look is still overwhelmingly black.

2. Midi dress

what to wear to a funeral black dress

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You want to feel comfortable at a funeral, so separates that have the potential to ride up or down are not always a great idea. A simple black midi dress will feel both smart and modest, not to mention the longer hemline will reduce the chance of a wardrobe malfunction. A dress with three-quarter-length sleeves will work for funerals in all seasons, but if it is a warm day, you could opt for a sleeveless style. Just consider bringing a pashmina or your best sweater to wear with your best dress and drape over your shoulders during the service.

3. Skirt

what to wear to a funeral black skirt

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A skirt has all the benefits of midi or below-the-knee dresses when it comes to dressing for a funeral, with the option to mix and match with different tops. A shirt or wrap-over blazer makes for a smart top half, while a jumper will give a slightly more relaxed feel. There are plenty of choices when it comes to the shape of the skirt you choose too. An A-line will flare out from the waist and skim over hips and midriffs - ideal if you usually like the most stylish dresses to hide a tummy. A pencil skirt shape, however, is more form-fitting, but still just as smart. Just make sure you’re comfortable and can sit and stand with ease.

4. Jumpsuit

what to wear to a funeral - black jumpsuit

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Depending on the kind of service you are attending, a funeral may involve a mixture of standing, sitting, and kneeling. There may also be elderly relatives or children that need assistance. In these scenarios, the all-in-one shape of a flattering jumpsuit has one up on the midi dress, reducing the risk of a hemline mishap. Shirt-style jumpsuits with full-length trousers and long sleeves will create the illusion of a two-piece, without the admin of having to match separates.

5. Tailored trousers

what to wear to a funeral tailored trousers

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Feel more comfortable in trousers than a skirt? No problem. Although there is a dress code for funerals, this isn't what to wear to the races and it's unlikely there will be strict rules to follow, so you can still stay in your comfort zone. While we don't recommend investigating what to wear with black jeans for a funeral, a smartly tailored pair of black trousers - both slim fits and wide legs will work really well for a funeral teamed with a smart jacket or shirt and can be worn again at a later date. Steer clear of fabrics with high linen or cotton counts, as both can crease easily. 

6. Knitwear

what to wear to a funeral black knit

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Funerals often mean moving between at least two different locations during the day, so layers are key to ensure you feel cool and comfortable in all scenarios. Consider taking a lightweight black jumper or cardigan with you. The best knitwear can be used to cover your shoulders during the service or act as an extra layer of warmth if standing outside. If it becomes too warm, you can easily stash it in your handbag. A lightweight knit can be tucked it into your skirt or trousers to keep you warm, without compromising on style, as the tucked-in look will help to highlight your shape.

7. Smart coat

what to wear to a funeral black coat

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When it comes to what to wear to a funeral, we often put a lot of consideration into the main elements of our outfits, only to approach outerwear as an afterthought. While the best parkas, a fun puffer coat or the best waterproof jackets might be practical, for funerals it's a good idea to have a tailored dark-colored coat to hand. A straight fit that ends just below the knee, or mid-calf, is the most timeless shape and is also one of the best slimming coat styles. Detailing like subtle embroidery, wide lapels or a belted waist will add a point of difference. 

What do you wear to a funeral as a guest? 

As we have already established, black is the most respectful hue to wear to a funeral, as it signifies mourning and the somber mood of the occasion. In some instances, the deceased family may request a specific dress code, encouraging guests to wear a particular color to celebrate their life. If you are unsure about whether this is appropriate, stick to black, but consider adding a bright accessory, like a scarf, to an all-black outfit.

Dressing modestly is important for a funeral too. Funerals are not the place for grappling with rising hemlines or sitting uncomfortably with lots of skin on show. If the service is taking place in a church or religious venue, you’ll likely need to cover your shoulders too. Comfort is key at a difficult time, and a midi dress or trousers will offer the simplest styling solutions.

Finally, consider practicality as well. Funerals often require tackling a wide range of terrains, from slippery church floors to damp glass. So to lower your chance of taking a tumble, opt for a pair of flats or a low, block heel you can walk in easily. Boots, like the best Chelsea boots. It is also wise to wear shoes you already own, rather than new, as these will have been already worn in and you won’t have to contend with painful pinching or blisters during the day. On the subject of accessories, having your handbag prepared ahead of time can help to take the edge off of the morning before a funeral. A roomy bag (like one of our best tote bags) will ensure there’s enough space for everything you need. Consider bringing tissues, a compact mirror, a pen, an umbrella, and sunglasses. If you prefer to go hands-free, opt for one of the best crossbody bags instead.

What should you not wear to a funeral? 

Dressing smartly is a sign of respect at a funeral, so avoid anything that could be considered too casual. That means steering clear of things like jeans, joggers, and trainers. Tailoring is the best choice. Of course, there may be times when you are short on time and low on options, and in this instance, you may be able to get away with a pair of black slim-fitting black jeans with a blouse and blazer. Just make sure the jeans are simple, sample and as trouser-like as possible, and free from detailing like frays, rips, or fades.

Unless the family has explicitly requested this, the most disrespectful thing to wear to a funeral is often color. Black is, therefore, the safest bet, but can be mixed with other dark shades like grey and navy if needed.

Jess Beech

Jess Beech is an experienced fashion and beauty editor, with more than eight years experience in the publishing industry. She has written for woman&home, GoodtoKnow, Now, Woman, Woman’s Weekly, Woman’s Own and Chat, and is a former Deputy Fashion & Beauty Editor at Future PLC. A beauty obsessive, Jess has tried everything from cryotherapy to chemical peels (minus the Samantha in Sex and The City-worthy redness) and interviewed experts including Jo Malone and Trinny Woodall.