Can You Wear White to a Funeral? Funeral Etiquette


White used to be worn at funerals, and in some cultures, it’s still common. Even in Europe, it was common to wear all white or a mixture of white and black while in mourning. We still see many young people, in particular, being buried in white clothes. 

You should not wear white to a funeral if you are attending one in many Western cultures such as the US. However, if you attend an Asian funeral, or those from the Eastern cultures, wearing white to a funeral is accepted.

This article will show you when and where you can wear white to a funeral, and why it’s not accepted in the United States. Let’s get started.

Why Wearing White to a Funeral Might Be Okay

We must first address any cultural-specific funeral where wearing white would be considered appropriate. 

Most nations have adapted to seeing black as an official color of mourning, but that isn’t always the case. Buddhist ceremonies, for instance, may use white as a sign of respect for the dead. It’s always best to ask if you aren’t sure. 

For most Western funerals, wearing white is going to be considered strange. 

Even casual funerals tend to lean more toward sedate tones and colors. If not black, then at least navy blue, forest green, deep red, or royal purple is appropriate. A little white is fine, but more to accentuate. 

Is this a hard and fast rule? No, and the truth is that funerals can look like anything these days. 

Families celebrate their loved ones by moving away from old-fashioned mourning structures and more conservative services. Some are having full parties and encouraging people to wear their most festive or flamboyant clothing. 

The trick is to know what tone the deceased’s family is going for. In most situations, you can assume that traditional aesthetics will be followed unless stated otherwise. No one will hold a celebration of life meant to be cheery and colorful and not inform the guests from the beginning.

It’s a Nice Day for a…White Funeral

Let’s say they are having a more casual affair, and colors are encouraged. Should you wear white? The answer is probably no, not on its own. White is too tightly entwined in our social minds as a color associated with marriage, which would draw too much attention in a mourning setting.

Think of it the same way you would most weddings

Even if the bride chooses to wear a different color when walking down the aisle, anyone wearing white will inevitably draw attention away. Funerals are similar in that you’re standing out when the deceased and those closest to them should be the focus of the event. 

Unless it’s a culture specifically using white, you should always keep it to an embellishing amount on your own clothing. That means mixing it with a darker color that is more appropriate for a funeral. 

How Much White Is Too Much White for a Funeral?

Calculating the amount of white appropriate at a funeral can be difficult. It’s a much easier answer for men because a white dress shirt paired with a darker suit or pair of slacks is considered standard apparel. 

The amount of white that is too much for a funeral might be different for different funerals. However, wearing a white shirt, even a dress shirt, might be considered too much for such an event. Instead, something predominantly black with a bit of white can balance it out better. 

An example is the Amazon Essentials Wrap Dress (available on Amazon.com) that’s primarily black with white polka-dots. Not only is it a great way to break up the solid color without being too flashy, but it’s an excellent way to dress down for the occasion. 

This more business suitable Mikey Store Women Dress Bodycon Blazer Dress (available on Amazon.com) uses a quarter white striped panel to provide more flare. 

The cut might be a little short for a funeral, depending on the family’s wishes, but it could be paired with leggings or a skirt to lengthen it. The color pallet is a great use of white without being overbearing. 

For a more conservative look, you have the Floerns Midi Dress (available on Amazon.com), which uses a white checkerboard design that’s nice and understated. 

The long sleeves make it perfect for colder weather, as well. 

Family in guard of honor at funeral, only torso of people to be seen

What about those who don’t like dresses? Pantsuits are great for funerals, as they use the same color balance that men’s suits do. A white shirt under a black or blue blazer, such as the Marycrafts Business Blazer (available on Amazon.com), is an easy way to dress respectfully without going into full mourning garb. 

If you prefer the checkerboard look, you could always go with the SheIn Blazer (available on Amazon.com). It uses the same design but can be paired with almost any shirt, from dress to casual. 

Even pairing it with a white top wouldn’t be too much. 

How To Wear All White to a Funeral

Now that we have gone over what the norm is for a funeral, what about those families that do ask you to wear white? It isn’t that common, but it happens, and you’ll want to make sure you select the best possible option for such a service. 

As mentioned before, there are cultural issues sometimes at foot here. 

In that case, always ask the family what they’d prefer and dress accordingly. If it’s up to you, you’ll want to choose an outfit that follows other etiquettes for funeral attire. 

The standard rules still apply: 

  • Nothing too tight.
  • Nothing showing too much skin.
  • Nothing too flashy.
  • Nothing too casual.
  • Nothing too formal.

All of that might seem like a lot to keep a handle on, but if you break it down, it’s really saying “business or semi-casual.” If you wouldn’t wear it to a job interview, don’t wear it to a funeral, and vice-versa. 

Finding outfits that fit those guidelines, even if you’re wearing a less common shade, is simple. 

Men can always fall back on a white suit such as the UNINUKOO Wedding Tux (available on Amazon.com) if they want a more familiar style, but it could be considered a little tacky depending on the environment. To lessen that impression, they can choose a darker dress shirt and tie to round out the effect, blunting the overpowering brightness. 

Add dark dress shoes and an accessory like a watch or sunglasses, and it could work. 

Otherwise, it might be best to stick with something less formal. Thanks to the cut and loose fit, a pair of white khakis such as the Dockers Stretch Pants (available on Amazon.com) have a gentler look. Alternatively, they could try a pair of white linen pants, as long as they avoid drawstrings or other signs that they’re lounge-wear. 

The Perry Ellis Linen Pant is a nice option, especially for hotter weather. 

A matching white linen shirt would work with either bottom. There are different styles, ranging from either a long-sleeved shirt such as the Cubavera Linen Shirt (available on Amazon.com) or a short-sleeved dress shirt such as the Cubavera Linen Short Sleeve Shirt or an open collar stitched shirt such as the COOFANDY Linen Shirt (available on Amazon.com). 

Keep in mind that these could also work for women who want something simple to wear to a funeral asking others to wear white. 

You can usually find identical clothing made for female bodies, or just wear your size in men’s.

Many dresses available in white would be perfect for a funeral. The EXLURA Mini Dress (available on Amazon.com) is the ideal length, and the overlapping ruffles make it modest without being too conservative. 

It’s just the correct length for a summer funeral, as well, because it would be nice and cool but doesn’t show much skin. 

For something a bit more whimsical, there’s the ECOWISH Midi Dress (available on Amazon.com). It looks perfect for a celebration of lifestyle ceremony, being just textured enough to overcome all the white, without being too attention-grabbing. 

The pattern is adorable and rustic, giving it a touch of old-fashioned sensibility in a modern form. 

What Not To Wear To a Funeral

How about an example of what not to wear? When dealing with white dresses, you have that bridal impression to overcome. It can be easy to miss something, maybe a design or cut, which starts pushing a white dress into wedding territory. 

The Atnlewhi Lace Swing Dress (available on Amazon.com) is one example, as it follows all the rules, and yet the moment you see it, you’re going to think “wedding.” 

The EXLURA Shoulderless Midi Dress (available on Amazon.com) is another Do Not Wear example. At first glance, it doesn’t have the same attributes as the other one, such as lace embroidery. But you can easily imagine someone standing at the altar wearing it, making it less tasteful when comforting the loved ones of the departed. 

Minor considerations are essential, and the devil is in the details. 

Dresses are more likely to come across as improper attire at a funeral, regardless of color, due to the design itself. Be careful when looking over those little additions, especially when it comes to the fabric, cut, and overall aesthetic. 

What White Clothes Can Kids Wear to Funerals?

Children are easier to dress for most functions because people are often less strict about their attire and understand they have different needs. They’re also more likely to remove articles of clothing when they’re younger, but the older they get, the more is expected of them. 

The white clothes that kids can wear to funerals should match their parents’ clothing. For instance, if you wear white linen pants and a dress shirt, your child can wear the same. If you have on a white dress, you can find a basic one that fits the occasion. 

Similar considerations have to be taken into account when shopping for a white dress for little girls. There can still be a bridal or flower girl motif common in the design, such as the 2Bunnies Peony Dress or the Abaowedding Flower Girl Gown (available on Amazon.com), which you’ll want to avoid. 

Many white or general formal occasion dresses for young girls are similar. 

Solid block dresses, such as the Arshiner Skater Dress (available on Amazon.com) will work better. For summer, you can find short, or cutout sleeve dresses such as the Arshiner Summer Dress (available on Amazon.com) with the same basic design. 

If they prefer something a little fancier, you can go for a tiered skirt or ruffles to give it a bit more flare. This dress uses some off-white sparkles such as the Carter’s Tiered Dress (available on Amazon.com) and black piping to lend some dazzle to an otherwise simplistic dress cut. 

Remember, “simple” doesn’t mean “plain.” 

Little boys will usually find white suits or clothing in the christening or baptism aisle of clothing stores. These can be very fancy, like this suit with bowtie and hat such as the Dressy Daisy White Suit (available on Amazon.com), and might seem a bit much, especially for several hours, which might get uncomfortable for them as the day wears on. 

Finding individual pieces can be better. 

The twill cotton pants such as the Isaac Mizrahi Cotton Pant (available on Amazon.com) are an excellent choice for breathable fabric and comfort while still looking nice. Another alternative is the golf pants such as the PUMA GOLF Pocket Pant (available on Amazon.com), which are made to be moved in. 

Avoid baseball or other sports pants, even if the top will cover the elastic. The cut is tighter, and the materials they use aren’t appropriate for funerals. 

You have more choices for shirts. 

Dress shirts such as the Calvin Klein Dress Shirt (available on Amazon.com) are always workable, but so are either polos such as the Children’s Place Polo or oxfords such as the Amazon Essentials Shirt (available on Amazon.com), both of which can be found in any store. 

You can even find them in school uniform areas or shops, which can be tailored if chosen. 

How To Ask About Dress Codes at Funerals

It might feel a little uncomfortable to ask about the dress code for a funeral. 

In most cases, the funeral home will provide any special instructions in the invite or sometimes the death announcement. This gives everyone the chance to choose the best outfit for the event. 

However, if it’s ever unclear, there is nothing wrong with asking. Contacting the family is always an option, especially if you’re close to the surviving members. You can also contact the funeral director. 

Conclusion

Wearing white to a funeral isn’t a faux pas, depending on how you do it. Including it with another, darker color is acceptable. On the rare occasion, you may have to wear all white, there’s a specific way to do it. If in doubt, ask!

Sources 

Was this post helpful?

Useful? Save information for later by printing or sharing.

Alex Noel

Hi there! I'm Alex Noel and live in Indianapolis, Indiana. I started this website to share my experience. My goal is to provide Americans a more fulfilling goodbye.

Recent Posts

Table of Contents