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In addition to being one of the most emotionally fraught experiences in life, attending a funeral can be a minefield of etiquette and tradition. Not surprisingly, what to wear is a question at the forefront of many people's minds. Too formal or not formal enough? Traditional or modern? To wear black or not? A day so difficult shouldn't be made harder due to clothing dilemmas, so read this guide and you'll have one less trouble to shoulder.
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Whether you're attending the funeral of a family member, friend or neighbour, a few universal rules can make this somber occasion easier to navigate. Firstly, remember that the main reasons people attend funerals are to honor the person who has passed on and offer sympathy and support to the family. This covers all funeral etiquette, whether you are attending a formal or informal affair or simply a celebration of life.
Here are our fail-safe funeral attire tips.
Ask a close aquaintance beforehand about dress code and follow suit if there's a special request to wear something specific, say, something red in a nod to the deceased.
"My mother loved knitting and knitted beautiful kilt socks for lots of family and friends. They were Aran cream, with cables and diamonds and she happily produced them whenever she was asked. At her funeral, we counted 15 guys in kilts and wearing Gran's socks."
If the family have not shared their wishes on what guests should wear, assume dark colours, such a black, navy or grey, especially if you think it will be a more formal or traditional funeral. Black clothing is common but not always required.
"I've got a funeral dress: it is navy blue with silver buttons and a high collar. It seems to fit in with any funeral."
Certain religions might expect you to cover certain areas of your body, so be considerate and don't make a big statement about going against the grain on the day if it's not in line with your beliefs.
If you are aware that the family comes from a different culture or practices a religion that you are not familiar with, be sure to ask about appropriate funeral attire.
"Tomorrow I'll be attending the funeral of my daughter's friend. 'S' was a pagan, and loved all nature. The funeral will definitely be a celebration of her life. I will wear something light and cheerful. Like she was."
You might need an extra layer if it's freezing or you may need to wear cool, sun-resistant materials if it's hotter. Plan ahead to ensure your outfit is apropriate no matter the weather.
Try to stick to longer hemlines and sleeves, and steer away from deep v-necks and plunging necklines.
Avoid bold prints and bright colours unless otherwise specified. Remember this is a time to honor the deseased and show support for the family, not bring attention to yourself.
"There were quite a few people at my mother's funeral who I did not know but I was touched by their attendance and obvious regard for her."
Wear comfortable shoes because after the funeral service you might be might be expected to walk some length in a procession, to a burial ceremony or to the wake.
Shun gaudy makeup, keep it subtle and refined.
If you must wear sunglasses, stick to a plain, unassuming design.
If you wear prescription glasses, remember to pop them in your bag before you go. You're very likely to need them during the funeral service or for travelling.
Have you looked through your wardrobe and realised that you have nothing appropriate to wear? If you find yourself needing a dress, a black suit ora mid-length skirt, whatever you deem appropriate for the funeral, take inspiration from our selection of outfits.
When it comes to this type of occasion, the simpler the better. Choose a funeral dress that flatters your body shape while being longer in length. Pair with low heels, a pashmina or a jacket if the weather is chilly.
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If comfort is your main concern when it comes to your funeral outfits, or dresses simply aren't your thing, opt for slim-line trousers instead. Couple with a detailed blouse and a suit jacket if you'd like to look really smart.
Keep it conservative - depending on the wishes of the deceased, of course - with a mid-length skirt (pencil is best), a smart tucked-in blouse, and a cropped jacket on top. Again, choose a low heel for maximum comfort.