What Not to Wear to a Funeral: Fashion Faux Pas to Avoid

Published April 27, 2021
Family at the cemetery

Knowing what not to wear to a funeral can help you avoid an insensitive or embarrassing fashion mistake. As with all other aspects of funerals, what you wear needs to be based on your desire to support the people who are grieving and show respect for the person who has passed away. If you keep the following guidelines in mind, you'll always be dressed appropriately at memorial services and funerals.

Avoid Clothing That Demands Attention

In many situations, attention-grabbing clothing can be a positive thing, but this is not the case at a funeral or memorial service. The point of this gathering is to mourn someone who has died and support the people who love that person. Anything that distracts from this purpose is clothing you should not wear to a funeral. This is not the time to show off that new sequined dress, even if it's black. Here are some specific examples of attention-grabbing clothing you shouldn't wear to a funeral:

  • Bright or neon colors
  • Loud patterns or floral designs
  • Glitter, sequins, and sparkles
  • Coveted handbags or easily-recognizable designer items
  • Strong logos, text, or graphics
  • Dramatic statement pieces

Don't Wear Sexy or Revealing Outfits

Just as you don't want to distract people with the color, pattern, or style of your clothing, funeral etiquette dictates you should also avoid clothing that is overtly sexy or revealing. It's not always easy to tell where the line is for this type of clothing, since what's considered sexy can vary from person to person. However, as a general rule, if it's too sexy for a professional job interview, it's definitely too sexy for a funeral. If you find yourself wondering whether something is too revealing, skip it in favor of a more conservative choice. These are some examples of what not to wear to a funeral because it's too revealing:

  • Very tight pants
  • Skirts that make it difficult to bend over
  • High slits in dresses or skirts
  • Very low-cut tops or blouses
  • Sheer fabrics or mesh

Skip the Casual Clothing or Athletic Wear

A funeral is about showing respect for someone who has passed away, so in general, this is not a casual event. Proper funeral attire is similar to what you would wear to a business event. There may be exceptions for memorial services for people who enjoyed a more casual lifestyle, but this information is usually included in the funeral announcement or invitation. Unless you hear otherwise, assume you should not wear the following casual items:

  • Sneakers, tennis shoes, or flip-flops
  • Shorts
  • Tank tops and t-shirts
  • Yoga pants or leggings
  • Baseball caps or casual hats
  • Sweatpants, joggers, hoodies, and other athleisure wear
  • Jeans, unless you know others will be wearing them

Avoid Controversial Shirts and Other Clothing

A funeral is not the place to proclaim your political or social views, even if you know the person who is being honored would have agreed with you. Keep in mind, people at this event are already distressed. It isn't compassionate to bring up controversial topics at this time, so you should avoid clothing that might do this. Here are a few example of what not to wear a funeral if you want to avoid controversy:

  • Political t-shirts and sweatshirts
  • Caps or hats with social or political messages
  • Clothing promoting a religion or specific belief
  • Shirts with slogans that may upset people
senior man and woman on funeral

Understand What Colors Not to Wear to a Funeral

Although the traditional color for funeral clothing in many countries is black, you don't have to limit yourself to this color. Many dark colors like navy, gray, Burgundy, or brown are acceptable too. You can also wear a white shirt or blouse. But what colors should you not wear to a funeral? Stay away from anything that demands attention because of its brightness, including the following:

  • Red or very bright pink
  • Yellow
  • Vibrant shades of blue
  • All white
  • Metallics like silver or gold
  • Neon colors

Know What Not to Wear to a Funeral if You Identify as Male

If you identify as male, the traditional funeral attire is a black suit, but not everyone has a black suit or even a suit in another somber color. It's natural to wonder what to wear to a funeral if you don't have a suit, but you can pair a dark blazer or sweater with dark pants or khakis. You can't go wrong as long as you are respectful and formal, but you should definitely avoid these pieces:

  • Very bright ties or bow ties
  • Casual shoes like hiking boots
  • Large cowboy hats
  • Suits or jackets in pastel colors or bright shades
  • Shirts with loud prints
  • Strong cologne

Know What Not to Wear to a Funeral if You Identify as Female

If you identify as female, you can't go wrong with a simple dark dress or pantsuit. A skirt and blouse will also work, as will a nice pair of slacks. However, there are a few pieces you should avoid:

  • Stiletto heels that can sink into grass
  • Large hats that may block others' view
  • Jewelry that clinks together or makes noise when you move
  • Bright sundresses
  • Extremely large handbags that can get in others' way
  • Too much perfume

Don't Forget Seasonal Considerations for Clothing

If you are attending a winter funeral, you'll need to consider the type of coat you'll wear. Similarly, if you're going to a summer funeral, you may want sunglasses or a hat. These seasonal clothing items are important, but there are a few things you should try to avoid:

  • Large umbrellas that block the view of others
  • Loud or flashy sunglasses
  • Ski coats or brightly-colored jackets
  • Excessive fur in coats and accessories

Think About Your Outfit for the Visitation Too

Many funerals also include a visitation, and there are some clothing considerations for this event as well. What you wear to the visitation should follow many of the same guidelines as funeral attire. In both cases, you can't go wrong if you make sure your clothing doesn't distract from the purpose of this important event.

What Not to Wear to a Funeral: Fashion Faux Pas to Avoid