Funeral Attire For Women: Simple Guide To Female Funeral Attire

funeral attire for women
Funeral attire for women need not be black anymore, but the styling should be conservative. While it can be stylish, the clothing should not draw attention away from the purpose of the day which is to send off a loved one.

Formal attire, especially in black, used to be the norm for funerals for both men and women. Now, the conventions have changed somewhat. The attire you choose for the event can vary greatly depending on whether you are attending a wake, funeral, or celebration of life. Keep that in mind.

Guests should also consider the venue for the event. A celebration of life held at a very relaxed venue will be more casual than a funeral at a church. Modify your dress accordingly.

If you are looking for appropriate outfit ideas for women, we have some for you.

woman in hat

What Should A Woman Wear To A Funeral?

Are you wondering what to wear to a funeral? Tradition has many women assuming that you have to wear black. However, when attending a funeral service today, you do not necessarily have to be donning a somber black suit or other traditional funeral dress.

When you go to pay your condolences, funeral etiquette says that the dress code can be more relaxed than traditional expectations. If you don’t need to automatically reach for your black dress and heels, what should you wear?

Family members might want to stick to dark colors as a rule of thumb. Muted colors such as black, navy blue, gray, and brown are seen as appropriate. If you are going to wear a dress, stick to a class cut with a modest neckline. Skirts should be at or below knee length.

Women can wear long sleeves or short ones, but you should stay away from sleeveless. If your favorite dress is sleeveless, you can pair it with a nice blazer to dress it up a bit. Live in a hot climate? You can throw on a cardigan for church services but shed it afterward. Strapless sundresses or those with spaghetti straps are not appropriate funeral wear.

Make sure also to check our video below, in which Funeral Fundamentals’ expert Jeff Lemley talks about the general dos and don’ts of funeral attire.

Is Wearing Black To A Funeral Necessary For Guests?

Black is not always necessary. First off, there are many colors deemed to be funeral appropriate. Dark colors such as navy and brown are excellent choices. You can also wear other neutral colors such as gray or tan.

Women can add a splash of color to a dark or black outfit; just don’t add anything too bright. A bit of pale pink, light blue, or a nice coral can give just a bit of color to your business casual outfit. You can put a jacket or cardigan over the shirt to finish the outfit off.

Having said that, you should never assume. Some cultures would not want you to wear black to a funeral. In some Asian cultures, people wear white to funerals, and there are African cultures where funeralgoers can wear red. If you are in doubt about the cultural norms of the grieving immediate family members, be sure to ask someone.
To learn more about the death rituals in various cultures, click here.

Stylish but not overdresses

What Is Stylish Vs Over-The-Top Funeral Attire For Women?

We all know women who are genuinely fashionistas and are always on the cutting edge of new fashion. But, a funeral is not the time to bring out that new fashion style or trend. Appropriate funeral attire is typically conservative and traditional.

No matter how cute your black jeans or casual dresses are, please don’t wear them to a funeral unless someone in the family specifically requests casual attire.

Things to leave at home:

  • Little Black Dress: No matter how cute, the “little black dress” is a cocktail dress. Save it for a night on the town and toss it aside for a funeral.
  • Flip Flops or Sandals: Don’t wear them unless it is a memorial service or at a beach. Dressy sandals might fly in some summer funerals, but it is best to select something else. Some more conservative churches frown on open-toed shoes, so it is best to ask about wearing sandals.
  • T-shirts: In certain situations, you might wear a t-shirt to a visitation. For example, the family might request the friends of an avid runner wear their favorite race shirt. However, this is the exception, not the rule.
  • Jeans: Jeans are much like T-shirts. Unless you know that the family is expecting everyone to be very casual based on a request they made, don’t wear jeans. Dark or black jeans can be considered business casual, but whether they are appropriate for the funeral you are attending depends on the family.
  • Short Skirts: Skirts should always be of modest length for funerals. Short skirts may be in style, but you should pull out a longer one for funeral events.
  • Leggings: If you are a fan of leggings outside of workout attire, you don’t want to hear my thoughts. Never funeral appropriate.
Funeral options for women

What Are The Rules For Funeral Attire For Women?

Looking for funeral outfit ideas? We have some for you!

  • Midi Dress: A midi dress lands mid-calf. That is a very appropriate length dress or skirt for a funeral.
  • Business Casual: If you don’t work in an office, we can help you navigate the definition of business casual. This might be a pair of nice dress slacks with a tailored sweater, a knee-length skirt with a pretty blouse, or a pantsuit. Business casual dress is always finished off with dress shoes. Leave the flip-flops or sandals at home.
  • Suits: You can’t go wrong with a solid suit; some are quite fashionable. Women can wear slacks, or you can choose a suit with a skirt. Put a nice dress shirt or shell on top, one with a modest cut. If it is cold out, you can put a turtleneck on instead. Add a jacket if you are going for a suit look. For a more casual look, bring out the cardigan instead.
  • Bright Colors: Leave these at home unless you are requested to wear them for a memorial service. Sometimes the family asks explicitly people to wear their loved one’s favorite color. If this happens, leave the black clothing at home and honor the family’s request!
  • Dress to Blend: It might be wise to consider what others might wear and craft your outfit to fit these styles. A funeral, visitation, wake, or celebration of life isn’t your time to stand out.

Are Pants Acceptable Funeral Wear For Women?

In most parts of the world, especially in Western culture, women can wear pants to the funeral and wake. Be sure to ask about customs and traditions if you have lost someone from another culture before you make assumptions.

Also, if the funeral will be held in a more conservative church, pants may not be appropriate.

What Accessories Are Appropriate For Funerals?

When choosing accessories for a funeral, you should keep the same rule of thumb in mind: tasteful and understated. Your jewelry should be minimal. Do not wear anything gaudy. You should also refrain from wearing anything that might clank and make distracting noises, like a bunch of chunky bracelets.

Wear the simple basics: a wedding ring, an elegant pearl necklace or simple chain necklace, and relatively small earrings. If you are carrying a handbag, go for something traditional. Leave the pink Coach bag at home.

One exception to all of these rules.

If the deceased has gifted you with something in the past, whether small like a piece of clothing or meaningful like a family heirloom, it may be a great way to honor them.

A broach, necklace, ring, earrings, shall, etc… are all fantastic items that may bring joy for the deceased family to see you wear.


Pam Berg is a former English teacher with a passion for writing. She has written for many years on a variety of topics and considers herself to be somewhat of a jack of all trades when it comes to writing. Although most of us tend to want to avoid the topic of death, whether it is us or a loved one, it is inevitable. Pam is dedicated to ensuring that as people are funeral planning they have access to a no-nonsense, straightforward laying out of the facts. However, she also recognizes that this is a topic that needs to be approached in a sensitive manner.

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