Do You Have To Wear Black to a Funeral? The Dresscode

Funerals are often associated with the color black, but is black attire required at funeral services in the United States? Is it simply a social convention or is there something more pressing behind it?

You don’t have to wear black to a funeral. Black mourning attire is a tradition in western cultures, but it’s common for people to wear other dark colors to funerals as well. In the United States, it’s more important to dress respectfully than to wear all black to the service. 

In this article, I’ll tell you why we wear black to funerals. I’ll also tell you want to wear and what not to wear when attending a funeral service. I’ll even give a few examples of proper funeral attire for the entire family, so be sure to read until the very end!

Dress Code at a Funeral

In Western cultures, black is still considered an appropriate mourning color and is popular at funeral services. In the United States, funeral attendees generally wear conservative, dark-colored clothes to show respect to the deceased and their loved ones.

It would be best to keep in mind a few things when preparing to attend a funeral.

Clothes To Wear at a Funeral

The most important thing to remember when dressing for a funeral is that you don’t want to draw attention to yourself. The attention of all at the service should be on the deceased’s loved ones.

In the United States, funeral attendees should wear business casual attire. These outfits are typically dark-colored and are more conservative by nature.

While black clothing is a popular choice, it’s not the only color permitted. Gray and navy are also popular choices and any other soft, subtle color.

It’s essential to wear clothes that are comfortable but not too casual. You want your clothes to fit well and not be too tight or form-fitting. For women, it’s important to wear skirts and dresses that aren’t too short. Knee-length skirts or longer skirts are most appropriate.

Because you’ll likely be on your feet for long periods, comfortable shoes are essential funeral attire. The shoes you wear must be business-appropriate. Women should wear muted flats or heels, and men should wear dress shoes.

Clothes To Avoid at a Funeral

If you’re attending a funeral in the United States, you’ll generally want to avoid any outfits that are brightly colored or too casual.

Wearing clothes that are brightly colored can be seen as disrespectful. Bright colors are typically associated with happiness in American culture and are therefore not appropriate in times of mourning. White, Beige, and other neutral colors can also be seen as disrespectful in the United States and shouldn’t be worn.

Casual clothing can also be seen as disrespectful. It’s best to avoid the following items:

  • Tight-fitting clothes such as bodycon dresses or leggings
  • Low cut blouses and dresses
  • Short skirts and dresses
  • Athletic wear such as basketball shorts, running clothes, or tank tops
  • Flip flops and sneakers
  • Jeans and t-shirts

Wearing Accessories to a Funeral

While it’s acceptable to wear accessories at a funeral, it’s best to keep them muted. For example, it would be better to wear small and simple jewelry than flashy jewelry or statement pieces. It’s also best to keep bags to a small size.

Men should also consider their accessories when dressing for a funeral. Ties should be traditional and conservative. Avoid bright colors and intricate patterns and keep tie clips and cufflinks muted.

Other Dress Code Considerations at a Funeral

There are a few other things to consider when preparing an outfit for a funeral:

  • Fragrances: Fragrance etiquette is often overlooked in the funeral outfit. If you choose to wear cologne or perfume, you should have a muted scent that isn’t too strong.
  • Weather: Weather is also an important consideration when selecting funeral attire, especially if there’ll be a graveside service. Be sure to check the weather before the event and dress appropriately. Depending on the season, you may also want to bring extra accessories such as an umbrella, coat, or hat.
  • Items for Children: It’s also important to consider bringing things to keep children quiet and entertained. You’ll want to pack soft toys and comfort items such as stuffed animals, coloring books, or blankets. Having extra supplies such as diapers, bibs, and formula are also good things to have on hand.  

Outfit Examples for the Entire Family

Dressing for a funeral can be particularly stressful if you have an entire family to dress. Not only do you have to make sure you have dressed appropriately, but your partner and children must dress appropriately as well. Luckily, you can easily find funeral attire for the entire family online.

Women’s Funeral Attire

Women typically wear dark-colored skirts, dresses, or pantsuits, with black flats or heels. Here are some examples of women’s funeral attire available on

  • JASAMBAC Vintage Dress for Women: Though it’s listed as a cocktail dress, this vintage lace midi is perfect for a funeral because of the knee-length skirt, lace sleeves, and black color.
  • Happy Sailed Belted Romper: This simple belted romper is the ideal alternative to a funeral dress. It can be dressed up with short heels and will be comfortable to wear for the entire service.
  • Dream Pairs Ballet Flats: These cute ballet flats will dress up any funeral outfit in a muted way. The black bow on top will blend in with the rest of your ensemble while giving the outfit a little accessory.

Men’s Funeral Attire

Men will typically wear a dark suit or jacket and dress shoes. Here are some examples of men’s attire available on

  • MY’S Men’s 3 Piece Suit: Men can’t go wrong with a suit. This solid black 3-piece suit is the perfect funeral attire. This suit also comes with a tie that gives it a pop of color without being too flashy.
  • Beninos One-Button Blazer: If you don’t have a suit, a jacket or a blazer will do fine. This blazer is a slim fit and comes together with just one button. The dark-colored options are an excellent choice for a funeral, and the blazer is a staple piece that you can wear to other events as well.
  • Bruno Marc Lace-Up Oxfords: Men should choose dress shoes to go with their suit or coat. These classic formal dress shoes are a great choice and come in various dark colors to match whatever suit you choose.

Children’s Funeral Attire

The most crucial factor to consider with children’s clothes is comfort. You’ll want to dress your child in something that they can be comfortable wearing for long periods. Try to choose fabrics that aren’t itchy and clothes that are easy to move in.

Check out this page on our website that covers clothing for babies.

While the dress code is a little more relaxed for children, especially young ones, you’ll still want to dress them in darker colors.

Here are some examples of children’s attire that are available on

  • Simplee Kids Ribbed Knit Sweater Dress: This little sweater dress is perfect for a young one to wear at a funeral. Your child will also be able to wear this again on many occasions.
  • ARTMINE Boys 3-Piece Vest Suits: This cute little 3-piece suit is perfect for the child who wants to look a little more formal. This outfit comes with a long sleeve shirt, vest, pants, and a tie.
  • LONSOEN Slip-on Loafers: Proper shoes for your little one is important too. These slip-on loafers will look classy on your toddler and will be comfortable for them to wear.

Dress Code Exceptions

The dress code described in this article is the attire that’s generally appropriate at funerals in the United States. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule:

  • Funerals for other cultures: America is a melting pot of different cultures, and it’s important to note that not all cultures wear black in mourning. For example, it’s common in Chinese, Indian, and Japanese cultures to wear white when grieving.
  • Special requests: Sometimes, the family will make special requests for attire. In this instance, the family’s wishes should always be honored over the traditional funeral dress code.
  • Themed funerals: There are times when the deceased’s family will have requested a themed funeral. For example, they may ask you to wear apparel from their loved one’s favorite sports team or clothing that includes their favorite color. Again, these requests should always be honored.
  • Items with meaning: It’s also appropriate to wear clothing items or accessories given to you by your lost loved one or clothing they particularly loved. For example, if your grandmother loved a funny onesie your child has or if she gave you a specific dress you love, those are also appropriate to wear.
Blurred people in black suits on funeral

History of Black Funeral Attire

It’s a long-standing tradition to wear black to a funeral. The act of wearing black mourning attire dates back to the Roman Empire, where mourners would wear a dark toga known as a toga pulla after losing a loved one.

In medieval times, this tradition of wearing black in mourning persisted in much of Europe. Women wore black veils and black caps while mourning their late husbands.

Queen Victoria and Black Mourning Attire

Black mourning attire gained popularity in the west during the reign of Queen Victoria. After the death of her husband, Prince Albert, the Queen entered into a deep state of mourning.

After her husband died, she wore black clothes for the last 40 years of her life. This example set the standard for mourning attire and led to women following many complex rules related to apparel during the grieving process. After her example, it was common to wear black between three months and two and a half years while grieving the loss of a loved one.

Fashionable mourning attire became widespread during this period, and similar to wedding shops today, stores dedicated to mourning wear were popular. Those who couldn’t afford mourning attire went as far as to dye their existing clothes black to honor the deceased.

Women during this time often wore mourning dresses for years after losing a husband. Meanwhile, men only wore mourning attire for a few months after the loss of a wife.

Victorian Era Deep Mourning Attire

At the beginning of the grieving process, loved ones of the deceased are in the deep or full mourning stage. This stage may last for a year after losing a loved one.

During this stage, it was common for mourners to wear black head-to-toe. They wore mourning crape fabric during this stage, which has a distinctive crinkled texture and is starched. Women also wore veils over their faces during this time made out of the same material.

Victorian Era Mourning in Year Two

During the second year of mourning, black fabric with a shine was permissible. Women in this stage of mourning wore a solid black gown but removed their mourning veil during this stage. 

The removal of the morning veil and the fabric change was a sign of transition from deep mourning to half-mourning.

Victorian Era Half Mourning Attire

After the second year of mourning, there were six months of half-mourning. During this time, women were allowed to wear hints of white or color and primarily black attire. There wasn’t a required fabric during this stage, and women could dress less conservatively by showing their arms and wearing fitted dresses.

To learn more about the Victorian fashions for mourning, check out this YouTube video from CBS Sunday Morning that shows an exhibit dedicated to the subject at New York City’sCity’s Metropolitan Museum of Art:

Final Thoughts

While black attire is the traditional color of mourning attire in the United States, it’s more important to be dignified, nicely dressed, and respect the deceased than to wear black.

It’s good to stick to darker, conservative clothing unless otherwise requested by the family. Black is always a safe choice for a funeral, but it’s not required for most funeral services today


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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.

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