Do You Wear Shoes in a Casket or Coffin? Yes or No


Much of the information about funerals comes from experience and word of mouth. So, there can be many unanswered questions when it comes time to say goodbye to a close loved one. It can be difficult to know how to prepare for a funeral, and we’re here to help answer some commonly unknown questions.

Typically, the deceased don’t wear shoes in a casket or coffin unless otherwise specified by the family. The mortician or funeral director will dress the deceased in whatever clothing the family provides. If the family is unable to provide clothing, morticians will choose something.

Let’s talk more about wearing shoes in a casket and why it’s uncommon.

Why Do You Typically Not Wear Shoes in a Casket or Coffin?

The deceased will typically not wear shoes in a casket or coffin because the family didn’t provide them or the funeral director can’t put them on. Due to the half-couch casket design, the deceased normally doesn’t need to wear shoes for open casket services.

If you aren’t familiar with the process of embalming and dressing the deceased for a funeral, it may seem odd that the deceased doesn’t usually wear shoes. However, there are many reasons that this happens.

Family Doesn’t Provide Shoes

The funeral director will dress the deceased in the clothing provided by the deceased’s family. In some cases, the family may not provide shoes for the deceased to wear. This can happen for many different reasons.

Sometimes the family just doesn’t consider selecting shoes when choosing the outfit for the deceased. In such a difficult time of grief, the family may honestly not even consider choosing shoes for their loved one, focusing instead on the clothing.

Funeral directors have become used to not including shoes during the funeral process. So, they may not ask families for shoes since it’s so common to leave them off. Funeral directors are there to help support the family during this difficult time by preserving their loved one and dressing them as requested. So, if the family doesn’t provide shoes, the funeral director will assume that the family doesn’t want them.

Half-Couch Caskets

Whether it is movies, television, or just everyday life in the United States, half-couch caskets have become a popular choice for funeral services. In fact, they’re currently the most common type of casket. Half-couch caskets are identifiable by the lid. The lid of a half-couch casket splits in the center. When opened, it exposes only the upper body of the deceased.

Because of this design, most people don’t bother putting shoes on the deceased, as their lower body isn’t visible during the funeral service. With the extra time and effort it takes to make sure the deceased can wear shoes, it’s no surprise that families are opting to leave them off.

Allowing the Deceased To Rest

A very common belief among people who lose close family members is that their casket is their final resting place. Some people choose to leave shoes out of the equation to let their loved one rest comfortably. You wouldn’t wear shoes to bed. So, why wear them in your final resting place?

In fact, this idea has gone even further in modern days. It’s becoming more common to see deceased loved ones being buried in comfortable clothing instead of dressed up. The family may choose to bury their loved one in their favorite pajama set or even clothing representing their favorite hobby.

The requirements of a suit and tie or a fancy dress are slowly beginning to disappear as families move toward a more comfortable and personal funeral experience. So, it’s no surprise that families often choose to forego shoes for the funeral process and instead focus on personality and comfort.

Significant Weight Loss

One reason that the deceased often aren’t wearing shoes during the funeral and burial process is that they may no longer fit properly. It’s common for people to lose weight before they pass away, and this study shows exactly how common it can be.

The study shows how weight loss can begin years before death and can rapidly accelerate based on the potential cause of death. No matter what caused the death of your loved one, there’s a significant chance that they will lose weight. This can make finding appropriate clothing and shoes for the funeral difficult.

When it comes to significant weight loss, finding fitting clothing can be challenging. This is no exception for the deceased. In fact, weight loss can ruin plans of chosen funeral outfits altogether. Shoes can be difficult to fit when your loved one has lost weight as they may be too large and fall off. In this case, funeral directors will recommend leaving them off.

Rigor Mortis

The body goes through significant changes when it dies. One of these changes is called rigor mortis. This is the process of the body stiffening due to chemical changes after death. The process starts immediately after death and can make dealing with a dead body challenging for morticians and funeral directors.

Because of rigor mortis, the ankles and feet of the deceased will stiffen and be challenging to move. Putting on shoes becomes a lot more challenging without the usual flexibility of the feet and ankles. Unless the family requests shoes specifically, morticians usually avoid putting them on because it’s challenging.

There are ways that morticians can still manipulate the body and muscles of the deceased even when rigor mortis occurs. Massaging muscles can help loosen them enough for shoes. This doesn’t always work and can be difficult to accomplish. However, overworking the muscles of the deceased can also lead to breakage. So, morticians often choose to leave shoes off.

A hearse outside a funeral home on a bright sunny day.

How Does the Funeral Director Dress a Body?

The funeral director dresses a body by washing the body, drying it, and applying undergarments and clothing. The funeral director cuts the clothing (usually in the back) before applying it to work around stiff limbs caused by rigor mortis.

Above, we discussed rigor mortis and how it can make it a lot more difficult for funeral directors to apply shoes to the deceased. The same goes for clothing. The main difference is that clothing is much easier to manipulate and work with than shoes. Shoes are not able to be cut to fit the foot better. So, they are often left behind.

Embalming the Body

Before the funeral director dresses the body, they embalm it first. While the law does not require embalming for every dead body, some state laws require it before an open casket service can occur.

For example, in Pennsylvania, a body must be embalmed within 36 hours of dying, or the public can’t view it. So, embalming must happen fast in states like this, or the body will not be available for an open casket funeral. Of course, this is only one example. You’d need to check your local state regulations before committing to a decision.

This process must occur before dressing the body because it tends to be messy. The mortician drains the blood of the deceased, replacing it with embalming fluid. After this process, they’ll thoroughly wash the body to clean any remaining blood or fluid from it.

The mortician will then completely dry the body, ensuring that any stains or fluids are gone. This process requires thorough concentration to ensure that the body is clean enough to show to family and friends at the funeral service. It’s also crucial that the body is clean so that any remaining fluids do not stain the clothes chosen for the funeral and burial.

Applying Clothing

Once the body is clean, dry, and ready for dressing, the funeral director will dress the body according to what the family has chosen. The funeral director will work with the family to decide what clothing is best for the deceased, given their stiffness and any weight loss that has occurred.

The funeral director will then begin by applying undergarments to the deceased. It’s common for funeral directors to ask for these items specifically to protect the outer clothing and help provide modesty for the deceased. Funeral directors tend to have little trouble putting on undergarments the traditional way because they are flexible and easy to manipulate around the body.

Once the undergarments are in place, the funeral director will then begin the process of applying the chosen clothing. They typically start this process by cutting the back of the clothing before they put it on. This is to help the clothing fit on the deceased easily without needing to manipulate stiff muscles and ligaments to apply the clothing traditionally.

Cutting the deceased’s clothing can help the funeral director apply it easier and allows them to tailor the clothes to the body. Above, we discussed the likelihood of losing weight just before death, and this is a great way to help clothing to still fit the deceased. This can also help prevent the family from buying new clothes or settling for a different, unwanted outfit.

Accessories

Next, the funeral director will place any extra accessories on the deceased as requested by the family. This is also when they will attempt to put on shoes if the family provides them. During this step, morticians typically add things like jewelry or wedding rings to the deceased as requested.

If the funeral director can’t add shoes or the family doesn’t include them in the provided clothing, it’s common for the mortician to ask for socks, tights, or even slippers to replace traditional shoes. If the chosen shoes do not fit, funeral directors typically still place them in the casket with the deceased.

Hair and Makeup

The next step in the dressing process is hair and makeup. Contrary to what some may believe, morticians apply makeup to both men and women to make them appear as normal and peaceful as possible.

The body goes through many changes after death, including major skin discoloration. Without the consistent flow of blood running through the veins, a dead body appears pale and often looks colorless. So, morticians will cover the skin with makeup to give it a more natural look. This can help family and friends to view the body without being shocked by the off-putting color.

Funeral directors also style the hair of the deceased to look as presentable as possible. Typically this means that they brush through the hair, ensuring there’s no knotting. However, some families choose to have a professional hairstylist style their loved one’s hair for the funeral and burial.

The family may choose to consult a hairstylist if they want to ensure the deceased looks as put together as possible for the service. This is also common for people who prefer to have their hair styled a certain way. Some families want to respect that even after death and will consult with a hairstylist to ensure their loved one looks like they normally would.

Arranging in the Casket

Once the above steps are complete, the funeral director will place the deceased in their casket in preparation for the funeral service. While a machine typically transports the body, the funeral director is responsible for arranging the body and clothing to look as presentable as possible for the service.

They’ll make any necessary final adjustments to the body before and even during the funeral if necessary. The typical funeral pose is not something that just happens naturally. The funeral director arranges the body this way and ensures that they remain this way throughout the service.

The family isn’t responsible for moving the body during the service as this can be difficult and traumatizing for them. So, the funeral director will be there to step in if needed.

Final Thoughts

While it’s uncommon, some people still prefer the deceased to wear shoes. If you want your loved one to wear shoes in their casket, make sure you provide them to the funeral director along with the chosen clothing.

While the choice is up to you, it’s not always possible to accommodate your wishes. If the funeral director can’t put shoes on the deceased, they’ll either return them to the family or place them in the casket beside the deceased.

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