proper colors to wear to a funeral

Dressed to Mourn: Choosing Proper Colors to Wear to a Funeral

When attending a funeral, one of the most subtle yet important ways to show respect is through your choice of attire. The proper colors to wear to a funeral often reflect the somber mood of the occasion, signaling your empathy and support for the bereaved. While black remains the quintessential choice, traditions are evolving.

This article delves into the appropriate hues for funeral attire, offering guidance to navigate this delicate aspect of mourning etiquette with grace and respect.

Cultural Significance of Colors and Modern Considerations

Cultural Significance

The attire we don for a funeral serves as an emblem of our respect and sympathy towards the family of the departed. Colors, in particular, carry profound cultural significance, varying from one society to another. In Western traditions, black has long been recognized as the quintessential hue of mourning — a visual expression of loss and solemnity. It’s a color that communicates bereavement without the need for words and is deeply embedded in the funeral customs of many societies.

However, the symbolism of colors at funerals extends beyond black. White, for instance, is often worn in Eastern cultures to represent purity and rebirth, signifying the soul’s departure to a peaceful afterlife. Similarly, in some African cultures, red is a color of mourning, reflecting the life force and the profound connection between the living and the deceased.

In the contemporary landscape, the question arises: “Can I wear colored clothes to a funeral?” Today’s memorial services can be personalized affairs that reflect the unique life of the individual.

More and more, families may request attendees to don specific colors, sometimes even the favorite color of the person being remembered. This shift reflects a growing trend towards celebrating the life lived, rather than only mourning the loss.

When deciding on the proper colors to wear to a funeral, one should first seek guidance from the bereaved family or the funeral invitation, which may specify the preferred attire. It’s also important to consider the tone of the service — is it traditional or more modern? Is it a celebration of life or a solemn commemoration?

The answers to these questions can guide attendees in their choice of attire, allowing them to select colors that not only honor the deceased but also align with the family’s wishes and the cultural context of the service.

Ultimately, the key is sensitivity. Whether adhering to traditional black or embracing more modern expressions of remembrance through color, the aim is to convey respect and support for those who grieve, using the universal language of color to express solidarity and compassion in a time of loss.

Traditional Color Choices and Outfit Ideas

When it comes to traditional funeral attire, the emphasis is on formality and discretion. The longstanding norm is to wear subdued colors, which communicate respect and solemnity. Here are some color choices and outfit ideas that are considered appropriate for a traditional funeral service:

1. Black


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The most traditional and expected color choice for funerals, black symbolizes mourning and respect. It is a universal sign of bereavement in Western cultures.

  • Outfit Idea for Women: A simple black dress paired with a conservative cardigan or blazer. Opt for modest lengths and minimal detailing.
  • Outfit Idea for Men: A well-tailored black suit with a crisp white shirt and a black tie. Ensure the suit is pressed and the overall look is polished.

2. Gray


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Gray is a respectful alternative to black and is often considered just as appropriate for funeral services.

  • Outfit Idea for Women: A charcoal gray knee-length skirt and a subdued blouse, accessorized with a string of pearls for a touch of understated elegance.
  • Outfit Idea for Men: A light to medium gray suit paired with a solid-colored shirt in a muted tone, such as pale blue or white, and a dark, subdued tie.

3. Navy Blue

Navy Blue

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This color is a dignified and respectful choice that is often acceptable at funerals, especially when black is not available.

  • Outfit Idea for Women: A navy dress or a conservative navy skirt with a coordinating blouse. Complete the outfit with simple black or navy heels.
  • Outfit Idea for Men: A navy blue blazer over a white shirt, paired with matching navy dress pants and a subdued tie, perhaps in a darker shade of blue or a conservative pattern.

While these are the traditional colors and outfits generally accepted at funerals, it is always important to consider the specific family and cultural expectations. Some families may have different interpretations of what is appropriate, and it is respectful to adhere to their wishes.

Additionally, the location and climate can influence attire choices; for instance, lighter fabrics may be chosen for services in hot climates, while still keeping to the somber color palette.

No matter the specific outfit chosen, the guiding principle should be to avoid drawing attention to oneself and instead to direct the focus towards the individual being honored and the grieving family.

Modern Shifts in Funeral Attire with Outfit Suggestions

As societal norms evolve, so too do the expectations surrounding funeral attire. While the traditional palette of black, gray, and navy persists, modern funerals may embrace a broader spectrum of colors, reflecting the personality of the departed and the wishes of their loved ones. This shift recognizes the life and legacy of the individual, with color serving as a celebration of their memories.

1. Dark Green and Burgundy


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These colors are considered modern yet respectful, offering a touch of warmth and depth to the traditional funeral attire.

  • Outfit Idea for Women: A dark green cashmere sweater paired with a high-waisted black pencil skirt can convey both respect and composure. Accessories should be kept minimal, perhaps a pair of stud earrings or a simple bracelet.
  • Outfit Idea for Men: A burgundy-colored button-down shirt underneath a dark suit can add a subtle hint of color without straying from the somber mood. The shirt should not be too bright or saturated, maintaining a muted tone.

2. Earth Tones

Earth Tones

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Shades such as taupe, olive, and other subdued earth tones can be appropriate for funerals, especially those held outdoors or in more casual settings.

  • Outfit Idea for Women: An earth-toned wrap dress made of a modest fabric can be a comfortable and fitting choice. Paired with a dark scarf or a structured blazer, it maintains an appropriate balance.
  • Outfit Idea for Men: A taupe or olive dress shirt paired with dark slacks offers a harmonious blend of modernity and respect. A tie may be optional, depending on the formality of the service.

3. Deep Blues and Purples

Deep Blue

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These colors are often associated with dignity and spirituality, making them suitable for services that are both reflective and contemporary.

  • Outfit Idea for Women: A deep blue shift dress with black opaque tights and a pair of classic pumps. The ensemble is both modern and demure.
  • Outfit Idea for Men: A dark purple sweater vest over a light-colored dress shirt, combined with a black or dark grey trouser, bridges the gap between traditional and contemporary.

While embracing these modern shifts, it’s important to remain attuned to the tone of the funeral service. If in doubt, it’s wise to lean towards more conservative choices.

The ultimate goal of funeral attire should always be to offer comfort and support through one’s presence, allowing the focus to remain on the individual being remembered and the family in mourning.

It’s also respectful to confirm with the bereaved family, as they may have specific requests that honor the wishes or the spirit of their loved one.

Choosing the Right Outfit

Right Outfit

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Selecting the right outfit to wear to a funeral is more than adhering to color norms — it’s about conveying respect and empathy for the grieving family. Here are factors to consider when choosing an appropriate ensemble:

1. Relationship to the Deceased

Your connection to the person who has passed can guide your attire. Immediate family members often dress more formally, while friends and acquaintances may opt for slightly less formal attire, though still within the realm of respectability.

2. Formality of the Service

The nature of the funeral service itself should dictate your outfit choice. A traditional service at a place of worship might call for more formal, conservative attire, while a memorial service at a family home may allow for slightly more relaxed clothing, though still appropriate.

3. Location and Climate

Consider the venue and weather when selecting your outfit. Outdoor services or those in warmer climates may necessitate lighter fabrics and colors, such as lighter shades of grey or navy, while indoor services or those in colder climates may require heavier fabrics in darker colors.

4. Personal Comfort and Appropriateness

While it’s important to show respect through your attire, it’s equally important to choose an outfit that allows you to be present and supportive without personal discomfort. Clothing should be modest, not too tight or revealing, and shoes should be comfortable enough to stand or walk in for extended periods.

5. Final Considerations

Avoid flashy or distracting attire. It’s best to steer clear of loud patterns, excessive jewelry, and overly casual items like jeans, sneakers, or t-shirts. Your aim is to blend in respectfully, not stand out. Remember, the focus is on the family and the departed, and your attire should reflect the solemnity and dignity of the occasion.

When in doubt, it’s entirely appropriate to ask the family or the funeral organizer about the expected dress code. They may have specific wishes or cultural customs that they would like attendees to respect, and inquiring shows forethought and consideration.

Ultimately, choosing the right outfit means finding a balance between respect for the occasion, adherence to cultural norms, and personal comfort, allowing you to offer support fully and respectfully.

Colors to Avoid and Why

When dressing for a funeral, certain colors are traditionally avoided due to their associations with different emotions or social events that are incongruent with the somber nature of a funeral. Here’s a look at colors that are generally considered inappropriate for funerals and the reasons why:

1. Bright Colors

Bright Color

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Vivid colors like hot pink, electric blue, or neon are typically associated with celebrations and festive occasions. Wearing these colors to a funeral can be seen as a lack of awareness of the event’s gravity and can be perceived as disrespectful.

2. Flashy Metallics


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Gold, silver, or other metallic colors can come across as ostentatious. They are attention-grabbing and may seem out of place at a function where the focus should be on reflection and remembrance.

3. Loud Patterns

Loud Patterns

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Bold patterns, whether geometric, floral, or animal print, can be distracting in a setting that calls for subdued simplicity. Such patterns may draw attention away from the purpose of gathering, which is to honor the deceased.

4. Red


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In some cultures, red is a color of celebration, often worn at weddings or parties. In the context of a funeral, red can be seen as an assertion of vibrancy and life, which can be considered insensitive during a time of mourning.

5. White


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While white is acceptable and even customary in some cultures, in many Western societies, white is traditionally reserved for the immediate family, especially the widow or widower. Wearing white when it is not culturally appropriate or when not a member of the immediate family could be misinterpreted.

The underlying principle when choosing what colors to avoid is respect for the deceased and their family. It is about offering support through one’s presence, and thus, it’s essential to choose colors that are unobtrusive and reflect the solemnity of the event.

If the family has specified a particular dress code or color scheme, it’s important to adhere to their wishes. The aim should always be to express solidarity with the bereaved in a manner that is considerate and supportive.

Accessories and Accent Colors


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While the primary attire for a funeral is expected to be conservative and subdued, accessories offer a means to introduce personal touches or small expressions of remembrance without detracting from the solemnity of the occasion. Here’s how to thoughtfully incorporate accessories and accent colors into your funeral attire:

1. Subtle Jewelry

Simple and understated jewelry can be appropriate for a funeral. For women, a pair of modest stud earrings or a delicate chain necklace can add a touch of refinement. Men might choose a discreet watch or a tie clip. The key is to ensure that the jewelry does not distract or draw attention.

2. Accent Colors

If you wish to introduce color into your outfit, it should be done sparingly. Accent colors can be introduced through ties, scarves, or pocket squares. A dark purple or maroon can be suitable and can add depth to a black suit or dress without being overtly conspicuous.

3. Belts and Shoes

These should be chosen to complement the outfit rather than stand out. A black or dark brown belt and matching shoes are typically safe choices. Ensure that shoes are polished and in good repair; for women, closed-toe flats or low heels are practical and respectful options.

4. Hats and Hair Accessories

In some cultures, hats may be part of traditional mourning attire. If you choose to wear a hat, it should be conservative in shape and color, such as a black fedora or a simple fascinator for women. Hair accessories should also be understated, like a black hairpin or a small, simple hairband.

5. Memorial Pins or Ribbons

Sometimes, families may provide ribbons or pins to signify mourning or to celebrate the life of the deceased. These should be worn as directed and can serve as a unifying symbol for all attendees.

6. Bags and Handkerchiefs

A small, plain handbag or clutch in a dark color is appropriate for women. Both men and women might carry a handkerchief, which is not only practical but can be a discreet way to introduce an accent color, like white or grey.

When incorporating accessories or accent colors, the overarching consideration should always be appropriateness and respect for the event. These items should not be overly flashy or elaborate. The goal with funeral attire is to honor the occasion with dignity, allowing the focus to remain on the service and the memory of the deceased.


Choosing the proper colors to wear to a funeral is a meaningful way to express your condolences. While black is the traditional standard, modern services often allow for a wider palette. Always prioritize respect and thoughtfulness in your selection, as the right choice shows support and consideration for those in mourning.

AboutCorinne Switzer

Corinne is an avid reader and takes a keen interest in conspiracy theories. When not busy with her day job, she likes to indulge the writer in her and pens columns on a wide range of topics that cover everything from entertainment, healthy living to healthcare and more.