What to wear to a funeral? 11 tips and appropriate outfits from fashion and etiquette experts

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  • What to wear to a funeral is a question no one wants to ask but is a situation many of us find ourselves in.

    It’s a difficult enough task trying to decide what to write in a sympathy card and what to say when someone dies. And during such an upsetting occurrence the last thing you want to think about is your wardrobe. We want to make it as easy as possible for you during this sad time so we’ve consulted both fashion and etiquette experts, who’ve shared tips and respectful outfit options to help ease some of the stress away.

    “Attending a funeral is an emotional experience, so the last thing you want to do is compound your stress by worrying about what to wear. Funerals, especially in western cultures, have traditionally been associated with the wearing of black attire, although that is no longer a pre-requisite. The key is to dress appropriately; when you are comfortable in your clothing, so you can better manage the challenges of the day,” explains etiquette expert Lucy Challenger.

    What to wear to a funeral:

    1. If in doubt, wear black

    Black is a fail-safe colour if you’re unsure on what to wear to a funeral. Much like what to wear to a wedding, some families will state dress codes but if no dress code has been stated, black is the go-to. “Black has been the long accepted colour of choice for funerals,” says Fashion editor and stylist Hannah Eichler.

    Founder of Polo & Tweed Lucy agrees but adds that other muted tones can work too. “Black is always the safe choice. Subtle colours like grey, navy or dark brown are also acceptable.”

    What to wear a funeral - Zara black dress

    Credit: Zara

    Zara Knit High Neck Dress | Price: £29.99 | Sizes: S-L

    This simple staple has a flattering silhouette and will keep you warm on even the coldest of days. Elegant and sophisticated, the flowing hem will mean that you aren’t restricted and it will ensure that you’re comfortable sitting down for long periods of time.

    VIEW NOW – £29.99 | ZARA

    2. Always opt for comfort

    Hannah explains that whilst a black dress is a go-to, you really want to make sure you keep it comfortable too. “You don’t want to be readjusting something that’s too tight or short,” says Hannah. Easy to dress up or down, a cosy but stylish jumper dress is perfect for this. 

    Next black belted midi dress

    Credit: Next

    Next Belted Long Sleeve Dress | Price: £42.00 | Sizes: XS-XXL

    The belt detail means that this style can be adjusted for a customised fit which you could relax a little when you’re sitting down or eating. The material is soft and cosy and it’s super easy to slip on if you don’t have the inclination or energy to squish yourself into something super tight-fitting. 

    VIEW NOW – £42 | NEXT

    3. Simplicity is key

    Avoid materials that may rustle or make a noise as you walk such as sequins and embellishments and keep it pared-back in a minimalist dress.

    “A safe choice is a simple short or long sleeve dress, on or below the knee in a block colour, and worn with tights,” says etiquette expert Lucy Challenger. If dresses aren’t your thing, a tailored two-piece is just as smart and easy to wear.

    “A smart suit works well too, paired with a light coloured or subtly patterned shirt,” adds Lucy.

    What to wear a funeral - Mango blazer

    Credit: Mango

    Mango Fitted Essentials Suit Jacket | Price: £49.99 | Sizes: 6-16

    A well-made piece of tailoring at a high-street price, this blazer is simple but stylish and teamed with cigarette trousers, it’s an easy outfit to put together. Lots of shoes sit well with a suit but we suggest opting for comfort with a luxe loafer.

    VIEW NOW – £49.99 | MANGO

    4. Look to styles that keep their shape

    Hannah advises looking to flowing styles and pleated detailing that won’t crease from lots of sitting down and standing up. “Lace and pleats keep their shape and won’t crease, meaning your look will remain smart all day,” says Hannah. A lace dress is a versatile wardrobe piece so you’re bound to get plenty of wear out of it for other occasions too.

    Black short lace embellished dress on model from La Redoute

    Credit: La Redoute

    La Redoute Cotton Guipure Lace Dress | Price: £32.50 | Sizes: 8-18

    The shift dress shape of this style makes it pretty versatile, meaning you can wear it loose and oversized or choose to cinch it in with a belt – which might work well if you wear it for a more celebratory occasion. 

    VIEW NOW – £32.50 | LA REDOUTE

    5. Bring a coat

    If you’re attending a funeral in colder months, remember most churches and crematoriums can be chilly so Lucy reminds us that it’s also a good idea to bring a jacket or coat, even in summer. Much like the rest of your outfit, avoid bright colours and prints and stick to darker hues. Belted styles and double breasted silhouettes will keep it smart.

    Boohoo black belted short coat

    Credit: Debenhams

    Boohoo Belted Wool Look Robe Coat – Black | Price: £30.00 | Sizes: 8-16

    Boasting a tie waist and pockets, this Boohoo number is smart enough for a funeral but thanks to the more casual material it’ll also look great in your everyday wardrobe too.

    VIEW NOW – £30 | DEBENHAMS

    6. Try smart separates

    If you’d rather not wear a dress then sleek separates work just as well and will give you plenty of outfit options too. Look for layering pieces such as a fitted roll neck that you can team with tailored trousers or a pleated midi skirt. A wardrobe staple, you can also layer it under a dress for extra warmth or wear under a blazer for a modern take on tailoring.

    “You could layer a cosy polo neck under a shift dress or team with high waisted trousers. This season leather and leather-look fabrics have been reinvented in smart shapes – an A-line skirt will look elegant with a tucked-in knit or shirt – just add sleek heels,” says Hannah.

    What to wear a funeral - Joe Browns roll neck

    Credit: Joe Browns

    Joe Browns Essential Roll Neck | Price: £25.00 | Sizes: 8-18

    The decorative buttons make this roll neck a little more fashion-forward and it comes in a variety of colours if you find yourself liking the style. 

    VIEW NOW – £25 | JOE BROWNS

    7. Keep trousers cropped

    For those opting for trousers, you want to make sure they’re practical too, so avoid flared cuts and lengthy styles that might drag on the floor – or worse, trip you up!

    “A cropped style that won’t get caught in heels is a stylish and practical choice,” advises Hannah. Look for tapered leg trousers that finish at the ankle or a floaty pair of culottes in the summer months.

    H&M smart cropped black trousers

    Credit: H&M

    H&M Tailored Trousers – Black | Price: £24.99 | Sizes: 4-20

    Chic and sleek, you’ll be able to wear these trousers again for work, interviews or even drinks with the girls paired with a dressy blouse and heels. They come in a variety of different colours and the pleat will make them less likely to crease. 

    VIEW NOW – £24.99 | H&M

    8. Consider your accessories

    When choosing accessories, Hannah recommends ditching fussy styles such as jangly jewellery and bags that can make unwanted noise. “Simple jewellery and a cross-body or shoulder bag will add just the right touch, and you can always introduce colour here if you want,” adds Hannah.

    M&S black cross body bag

    Credit: M&S

    M&S Faux Leather Cross Body Camera Bag | Price: £25 | Sizes: One size only

    A practical-sized bag that will fit all your essentials from tissues to a sympathy card. It doesn’t have any chains or added extras that are likely to make too much fuss or get caught on your outfit.

    VIEW NOW – £25 | M&S

    9. Be headwear conscious

    If you’re undecided on headwear, Lucy says that a headband is perfectly acceptable. “Hair accessories can be worn, but make sure they are not so large they obstruct the view during the service.” To be on the safe side, we’d recommend something simple that doesn’t draw too much attention.

    What to wear a funeral - Oliver Bonas black hairband

    Credit: Oliver Bonas

    Neve Polka Dot Knot Headband | Price: £19.50 | Sizes: One size only

    A stylish headband can be a smart Funeral choice to add a bit of personality and flair to an otherwise plain black outfit. We’re fans of this particular one from Oliver Bonas that has a cute grey and black polka dot print. It won’t look out of place on the day and is likely to get a lot of everyday use too. Hello value for money.

    VIEW NOW – £19.50 | OLIVER BONAS

    10. Wear comfortable shoes

    When it comes to shoes and accessories, avoid stiletto styles which will be hard to walk in on grass and cobbles. Hannah says, “Instead opt for block heels, which will be comfier if you’re stood up for a long time.”

    New Look black court shoe sandals

    Credit: New Look

    New Look Black Suedette 2-part Block Heel | Price: £25.99 | Sizes: 4-7

    We recommend opting for something cheap and cheerful like this pair of heeled pumps just incase your footwear is ruined by the grass or mud. Registered by the Vegan Society this product is completely animal free. 

    VIEW NOW – £25.99 | NEW LOOK

    11. Choose something you can wear again

    It can be frustrating (and pretty unsustainable) having to buy something solely for a funeral so if you do need to invest in something new then pick pieces you can wear again for other occasions.  Hannah says “A sharp blazer deserves a place in every woman’s wardrobe. Double breasted blazers with tailored waists will give your figure structure – perfect to team with a smart skirt or trousers. Plus it’s a look you will wear again and again, whatever the occasion.”

    River Island black buttoned tailored blazer

    Credit: River Island

    River Island Black Tailored Blazer | Price: £75.00 | Sizes: 6-18

    This blazer boasts a tailored fit so it’s smart enough to wear to a funeral. But it can also easily be re-worn on a night out paired with skinny jeans and stilettos. You’ll wear it time and time again and it’ll never go out of style – trust us.

    VIEW NOW – £75 | RIVER ISLAND

    What other colours are appropriate for a funeral?

    If you’re struggling to find something in black Lucy says that subtle colours like grey, navy or dark brown are also acceptable. Still keep accessories minimal and avoid loud or garish prints, the darker the better really.

    If you do want to go a bit brighter whilst still staying respectful of the occasion then maybe consider purple. Lucy says: “Purple can show dignity and elegance so it can be another good option.”  

    Again, dark aubergine shades are best – probably not a good idea to show up in lilac or anything too bright.

    What is disrespectful to wear to a funeral?

    According to Lucy, the colour you should never wear is red. “In some countries this can be seen as a sign of celebration,” she tells us. It therefore might be quite an embarrassing blunder – so best to steer clear altogether. 

    Lucy also suggests avoiding primary colours like bright yellow or blue and we’d probably throw pastels in their too – unless it’s a subtle pop under a jacket or dress. 

    Aside from colours, Lucy says the number one rule when dressing for a funeral is to not attract attention. “So that means no short skirts, low cut tops, ripped jeans or over the top accessories.” 

    It’s always good to look smart when considering what to wear to a funeral. So avoid things like muddy shoes and make sure you check your clothes for rips and stains.

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