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The Little Black Dress Doesn’t Do Funerals

I was recently told that I committed an egregious faux pas concerning funeral etiquette. I do not think I did, so I wanted to ask the Dame and E-Hellions.

When I was in high school, I knew “Madonna” through mutual friends. I would define the relationship as acquaintances; we knew each other and traveled in basically the same social circle, seeing each other at school and occasionally seeing each other at parties or get togethers. After high school, I saw her very rarely.

About a year ago, Madonna got a job at my place of employment, in a different department, and we struck up more of a “real” friendship. We have lunch together few times a week and have socialized outside of work, including meeting each others’ families. Her family was invited to my house for a 4th of July grill-out and fireworks this year and we attended a barbeque at her family’s home earlier in the summer. A few other people from work and friends were also invited to both events.

Last Friday night, Madonna’s father died unexpectedly. He was vibrant, funny man (I met him at the barbeque) so it was quite a shock for Madonna and her family. Since we are coworkers and friends, I went to the visitation and service. The service was where the faux pas occurred. Maybe dress code violation is a better description.

I opted for a black, sleeveless, square-neck dress that fell a few inches below my knee. I thought since it is summer and hot, this would be modest enough for a funeral. I have recently begun to occasionally wear hats to more formal events, so I chose to wear a lightweight black hat to the service. The hat had a netting-type veil on it that came down to just below my eyes and the remainder of the netting was tied up in the back, in a sort of fashionable knot. The lady at the department store said it was a good choice for a funeral. Several female relatives of Madonna’s were also wearing hats and a few (not all) of those had veils attached. Madonna’s mother also wore a veil, but it was longer than most and was more like a mesh fabric, edged in lace. I thought the saleslady had been right about the hat being a good choice.

I spoke to Madonna briefly before service and she had a strange expression on her face but I chalked it up to the situation at hand. She gave me the same look several times at the graveside service and again, I chalked it up to shock and grieving. I spoke to Madonna, her Mother and several other members of the family at the Mother’s home after the service, during the funeral luncheon, and all seemed to be fine, considering the situation.

Yesterday, I received an email from Madonna. This is verbatim, including shouty capitals.

Op,

I thought I should tell you that your dress and mourning veil were completely inappropriate to wear to my father’s funeral services.

First, you DO NOT under ANY circumstances wear mourning veils if you are not related to the deceased. It was horribly embarrassing to me, especially in front of my family.

Second, your dress was shameful. You should NEVER wear a sleeveless dress to a funeral. You should have worn a jacket or sweater over the dress or chose something more appropriate, with sleeves.

I understand that you are not of our faith and culture, so I will forgive you this once. I would suggest in the future, you stick to plain, regular clothing when you are attending funerals so that this does not happen again.

Madonna

I’m shocked. I have never seen or heard her use such strong language towards anyone, even people she does not particularly like or have been rude to her. I never imagined that by wearing a hat and veil and sleeveless dress I was violating someone’s faith and culture and being shameful. I immediately sent an apology email because I am mortified that I offended her family. I even offered to write a note to her mother and family apologizing for any unintentional offense, but I have not heard back from her. I texted her earlier today, apologizing again and asking if there was anything I could do, and have yet to hear back.

I am unsure what to do next. Madonna took leave for the entire week and I fear that it is going to be awkward when she returns next week. I am afraid to call her and possibly upset her even further. I’m not sure if I should write her mother a note, apologizing for the mistake or if that would upset Madonna as well.

I asked my other friends about it and they think she is being rude and overly dramatic. I’m not sure if the shock of her dad’s passing is affecting her or if I really did something so bad I should be ashamed.

What does the E-Hell community think? Did I commit a horribly offensive faux pas? Any advice on how to proceed would be much appreciated.    0724-14

(The OP attached two photos of clothing that was similar but not exact of what she wore to the funeral.)

 

While black veils are out of style with current funerals there are still particular cultures and faiths (such as Catholics) where the wearing of a black veil is an option some still choose.   In places where this is still the practice, it is understood that the widow and more immediate female family members don the veil.   So, you fumbled by wearing a piece of funerary attire that would confuse guests as to your status as a grieving family member.

The photo you attached is not of the actual garment you wore BUT if your little black dress looked anything like the ubiquitous “little black dress” women use for evening events, it was not appropriate for a funeral.   If you would wear a dress to a cocktail party, that is not the dress to wear to a funeral.   And there are some religious faiths that consider bare arms and shoulders in the church as a sign of disrespect.

As for Madonna’s eail, I’m of the opinion that I would prefer to know why my friends are peeved at me than to wonder why they have suddenly cooled the friendship with no explanation.   Madonna is actually correct about your faux pas in spite of the vehemence by which she says it.    You have apologized profusely so the ball is now in Madonna’s court to respond graciously.

{ 286 comments }

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  • vanessaga81 August 12, 2014, 8:55 am

    I live in the deep South and come from a family that prides itself on telling everybody when they’ve made a mistake. I’ve never seen a hat worn, but that dress looks just like something someone would wear. When my great grandmother died, I wore a sleeveless flowered dress because I had no black and my mother wore turquoise, also sleeveless because it was the deceased’s favorite color. It was summer in south GA and we were graveside, a sweater would have given us all heatstroke. I think most everyone had on a sleeveless dress. So while I understand that Madonna was upset by the outfit, I think she vastly overeacted and while grief may get her a pass, I hope she doesn’t carry a grudge about it.

  • Margo August 12, 2014, 8:57 am

    I give Madonna a pass for the way she reacted given the circumstances, although it would have been better had she been a little more polite in how she worded her objections.

    While I accept that OP did not intend to offend, I think she was very foolish to have worn what she did, particularly the hat. I didn’t know there was a specific convention about a ‘mourning veil’ but I think that wearing hats of that kind (i.e. purely decorative, rather that a sun hat, rain hat or part of a uniform) is a fashion statement, and a funeral is not really the place to be making a fashion statement. it comes across as attention seeking.

    So far as the dress is concerned, I think in that case, Madonna was slightly off as she says ” You should NEVER wear a sleeveless dress to a funeral.” and I think that is something which varies a good deal depending on the church or denomination, so i am not sure that one can say any longer that it should never be done.

    I would not wear a sleeveless dress if I were attending a funeral unless I knew the family and the church/place of worship well enough to be sure it would be OK, but there are lots of churches where it would be perfectly fine. I think a little thought on OP’s part would have suggested that it might potentially be inappropriate and she could then have worn a jacket or cardigan, or taken a scarf to cover her shoulders and arms.

    I think with something such as a funeral there is more of a responsibility on attendees to make sure that they are dressed appropriately and know what the ‘rules’ are, as by definition, those arranging the funeral are likely to be in deep distress – it isn’t like a wedding or formal party where the hosts should ensure that guests are aware of any dress code. You could always contact the church or funeral directors if you need information, so you don’t have to bother the family.

    OP – I would not write to Madonna’s mother at this stage – what I would suggest is that you apologise verbally to Madonna when she returns to work, and simply say that those rules do not apply in your church/culture and that you did not intend to upset anyone, but you understand that you did and are very sorry. Tell her that you would like to write to her mother to aplologise for any distress caused but have not done yet as you do not want to distress her further. That way, if it would make matters worse, Madonna can tell you not to write, but she knows that you were willing to make amends, and if it would help, she knows that this time you thought first and acted second.

  • Shalamar August 12, 2014, 8:58 am

    I completely disagree with Admin. The dress in the photo looks very nice and modest. I think that “Madonna” was being ridiculous, but I’d be willing to cut her slack because of her loss.

    (I recently went to a funeral with my husband, who was wearing a dark blue shirt and tie with dress pants. No jacket, because it was a very hot day. He asked anxiously “Do you think this is all right?” I said “It’s fine – plus, I can almost guarantee that there will be at least a few people in the church wearing much less formal clothes.” I was right – some folks looked like they’d just arrived from the beach. But you know what? Who. Cares. The important thing was that they were there, paying their respects to the deceased and her family.)

    • AnaMaria August 13, 2014, 8:14 pm

      I have never worn all black to a funeral and have never seen anyone else do it, even immediate family members of the deceased. Granted, my religious background is Evangelical and funerals are a slightly less somber occasion, especially for someone who was suffering up until their death- they are finally home in Heaven and will never experience pain or sickness again. I have always worn the same kinds of outfits I would wear to church- dress pants and a blouse or a simple dress.

      I see nothing wrong with the OP’s dress, it’s not embellished with beading or sequins and it provides appropriate coverage. I would give Madonna grace on this one just because, as several posters have stated, she is grieving and might not be her most rational self right now!

  • JennJenn68 August 12, 2014, 8:59 am

    I give Madonna a pass on the strongly-worded email. Like previous posters, I think that grief for her father’s death explains the “shouty” nature of it. (And the very fact that the OP used that particular description of the email makes me lose a fair amount of sympathy for her. Some people use capital letters rather than italics because that’s what they learned to do when printing or writing by hand. I tend to do it myself, and have to proofread carefully to avoid it.)

    The OP made a fashion faux pas. She has done all that she could to apologize, and now has to wait to see how it turns out. There is nothing else that she can do. Madonna is not required to forgive and forget by the OP’s timeline. She is grieving, and possibly still getting flak from older family members about “that person” at the funeral. Reacting the way she has does not mean that she is a “shallow friend”, as some previous posters have implied.

  • Kovi August 12, 2014, 9:17 am

    “I asked my other friends about it and they think she is being rude and overly dramatic. ”

    And I agree with them. The poor woman is in mourning, which is why I would have opted to simply not respond (people tend to act out maybe more than they normally would, when they’re going through such a painful, stressful time). I’d forgive her for her immense rudeness.

    The dress looks perfectly fine to me. As for the Admin saying, “don’t wear it to a funeral if you wouldn’t wear it to a cocktail party,” it’s not like you see “funeral attire” in most department stores. You simply find something and make it work. No, funeral attire should not be skimpy, but a square-line neck, and a hem below the knee? Good gracious, what’s wrong with that?

    As for the hat, maybe in some cultures, it’s only family that wear them (which I didn’t know, btw). In which case, your friend still blew everything completely out of proportion, considering it was nothing more than a simple misunderstanding.

  • Devin August 12, 2014, 9:27 am

    I feel like OP was damned if you do, damned if you don’t in this situation. Depending on the religion/culture a hats on women are considered a covering to show modesty, so she may have thought it appropriate. It also doesn’t seem like she was very familiar with the rest of the family, so she might not have known the exact religious practices they followed (its a work friend, discussing religion is in bad taste). Where I’m from people show up to pay respects and often wear their ‘Sunday Best’, which might be their nicest jeans and a pressed button up. It is never seen as a sign of disrespect, but of consideration that they took the time to attend.
    I think y’all might be getting a little carried away with the ‘is she the mistress?’ topic. That seems like the plot of a day time drama. If she had just recently met the father, I’d assume she’d met the mother and a few of the relatives at the birthday party. I don’t think the family would think that their daughter had recently brought their father’s mistress to meet them at a family birthday party.

  • mark August 12, 2014, 9:30 am

    Honestly from reading the OP’s account Madonna overreacted, and given her grief that probably isn’t unusual. But you’ve apologized quite profusely for what is really a minor faux paux.

    At this point I think it is her turn to apologize to you. Her response to you is quite frankly rude and not conducive to a long term friendship. I would find it difficult to want to continue a friendship after receiving an email like that.

    If you had shown up to a funeral in my culture dressed like that, you might have gotten some side looks, but no one would have been offended. Inside the chapel most would expect you to remove your hat and cover your shoulders. Though again not a huge deal for a woman. (On the other hand it is a much bigger deal for a man. ) The only thing that would get you disliked at a funeral would be your actions. If you were quietly supportive, I don’t see a problem.

  • Callalilly August 12, 2014, 9:50 am

    I simply don’t get why Madonna would care what people wore to the service, unless it had been a clown costume or something sexy and provocative worn simply to gain attention.

    When my parents passed, I was so grateful for anyone to have come that what they were wearing or weren’t wearing simply didn’t register with me. I’ve been to lots of other funerals in all kinds of churches and synagogues, and at no time have I ever noticed anyone from the deceased’s family being anything but gracious and thankful for people’s attendance.

    If Madonna was really going to be concerned with what people wore, it should have been her duty to issue the preferred dress code.

  • Cami August 12, 2014, 9:51 am

    I have to wonder if Madonna sent out fashion police emails to everyone at the funeral who did not meet her sartorial standards. Because if so, based on what I’ve seen worn at funerals for the last 20 years, she’s probably spending the entire bereavement leave dashing out the nastygrams.

    I’ve seen shorts and tee-shirts with flip flops, I’ve seen jeans with holes in them, I’ve seen cocktail-party attire… It’s gotten to the point where I am pleasantly surprised when someone shows up to a funeral in reasonably formal attire, let alone black attire. And I’ve never once heard anyone make a comment about the horrors of bare arms.

    And yes, most of those funerals have been Catholic. Either the “rules” are not universal or they are not universally known, or many of the people attending them do not have the correct attire or many of the people attending them do not care if they wear the correct attire. Which goes to say, that I can easily “forgive” the OP for breaking a rule that is hardly universal or universally known or universally obeyed.

    I also think it’s quite a stretch for people here to make the implication that the OP was dressed like the deceased mistress and that implication is far more rude than an innocent breaking of a fashion “rule”.

  • JD August 12, 2014, 9:53 am

    Speaking from the deep, deep south, I typically don’t wear sleeveless to churches for any kind of service because they are usually too air conditioned for me and I get chilly, but having said that, I see LOTS of women wearing sleeveless dresses to church, weddings and funerals, and I’m “high church” Anglican. Especially a funeral in summer followed by internment in a grave yard — stand outside for a graveside service today for example, when the “real feel” for this heat and 90% humidity is 102 deg., with no shade, as is usually the case at grave sites (except for the immediate family under the canopy), and try wearing a black dress with sleeves. People have fainted in the heat before at funerals in summer here.
    I see Catholics going in to service at the church down the street from my church, wearing sleeveless dresses, so I’m not sure if Madonna is necessarily Catholic. The saleslady misled the OP about the hat — the veil is not correct for a non-family member — but Madonna was unbelievably harsh and judgmental in her email. I hope that was the grief talking, but I know I never, ever would have talked that way to a friend even in the deepest moments of grief when my parents both died suddenly and together. I hope Madonna ends up apologizing for her rudeness. OP has already done all she needs to do.

  • Kelly August 12, 2014, 10:04 am

    I understand how the hat with the veil can be seen as offensive, due to the history of these hats., and agree that that was a mistake on the part of the OP. However, I see nothing wrong with the dress. Yes, her arms are exposed, but it’s far from being provocative. I wore a very similar style of dress to my grandfather’s funeral, and my parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandmother were not concerned. We had bigger things to worry about.

  • Phoenix August 12, 2014, 10:05 am

    Honestly, the dress seems fine. I usually wear that kind of dress for business occasions. It doesn’t seem “cocktail” to me. The oonly thing inwould say os that th hat and veil were over the top.

    • admin August 12, 2014, 2:55 pm

      Readers need to understand that the photo of the dress in the post is not *exactly* like the one OP wore. It is similar.

      • remi August 12, 2014, 4:38 pm

        The dress pictured is the only clue we have to the cut and style of the dress OP wore, and to be fair it seems like a close approximation given the description of the dress in the letter. I think we are aware that the dress in the picture is not the exact dress she wore, but we are going with the assumption that it is a close enough approximation of the original dress that we can make judgments on the appropriateness of it. Otherwise, what is the point of including the picture?

      • Phoenix August 12, 2014, 11:51 pm

        Then what was the point in including the picture?

        I get the dresses arent exact, but the pic does give me a better idea of what she wore.

        Plus, those dresses usually don’t vary too much — save for length, neckline, and fabric.

        • admin August 13, 2014, 4:52 am

          The pictures were not my choice but what the OP sent in her email with the note that she was “afraid” to take pictures of the actual garments. Perhaps so she isn’t identified by Madonna or her family.

          • imc August 13, 2014, 6:37 pm

            But why should we judge based on your assumption that she wore a cocktail dress and not, rather, something that looks like the picture?? OP is the one who knows what her dress looks like, after all, and the picture doesn’t really scream cocktail to me. It looks exactly like a dress one would wear when required to look modest (black, covered shoulders, no cleavage, under the knee). Unless the actual dress is made of stretch fabric and hugs the body showcasing every curve, I don’t see the problem.
            I’m Catholic and Italian, so probably not on par with Madonna’s culture, but nonetheless rather formal with regards to spiritual functions. The dress in the picture is exactly the kind of dress most women here would wear at a funeral, although a shawl could have been added for extra modesty points.

            On the other hand, I agree that the hat and veil were excessive, for all the reasons already pointed out by others. That was mostly the saleslady’s fault for misleading the OP. I can’t really think in what circumstances that hat would be appropriate for a funeral unless Victoria Beckham is attending Lauren Bacall’s service.

            Madonna was very rude in her email, but I think OP acted well in simply responding “I’m sorry, it wasn’t intentional, please extend my apologies to the rest of the family”. I hope that, after the initial outburst, the dress code breach is not exactly the biggest concern in Madonna’s mind in her time of grief, so more emails, texts, or calls from OP on the topic would probably not be appreciated at this time.
            OP, just give her time to mourn and get back at you in her own time. And if the problem is never mentioned again once she comes back to work, just let it slide.
            If she holds a grudge over it, on the other hand, let the whole of her slide. If she’s willing to give more importance to your wardrobe (not so grave) faux pas than the fact that you cared enough to attend, she’s not worthy of your time or friendship.

  • Princess Buttercup August 12, 2014, 10:06 am

    I would say the veil was too much. It does give the impression that you were extremely close to the deceased and in the case of you being a random adult woman there wearing a veil along with the widow it could lead to whispers of was there an inappropriate relationship there?

    The dress, I think was an over reaction. Most of the time people care very little what you wear and I’ve seen bright colors at a funeral with no problems. Even in strict religions that incurage modesty, if someone is there not conforming it is usually assumed they are not accustomed to the expected wear and people over look it. I think she was so upset by the veil and it’s potential implications that she started looking for more to be angry with. And with the grief I’m sure she was experiencing I can’t really fault her too much for looking for more complaints.

    You have spoken to her, leave her some time to cool and try to move on. I would consider a sympathy card to her mother expressing your sorrow for her loss and include a note that it has since come to your attention that your attire may have been up for missinterpretation at the funeral and if it bothered her or caused any extra stress you are sincerly sorry for that.

  • JWH August 12, 2014, 10:08 am

    Whatever the OP’s etiquette error, I don’t think Madonna had any right to send that email. Yes, she is grieving right now. But that doesn’t give her license to lecture a colleague via email.

  • Laura August 12, 2014, 10:11 am

    First and foremost, I think that attending a funeral and showing your love, support and respect is a great thing and that most people will/should focus on *that* and not any unintentional faux paus you’ve committed by being unfamiliar with their religious customs.

    That said, I think the veil was in very poor taste. Mourning veils are not fashion accessories and should not be treated as such. It seems particularly inappropriate to wear one to a funeral of a man you’ve barely met. It seems at best a little insensitive and at worst a little attention whoring.

    The dress seems demur enough for your average funeral but whenever I’m attending a funeral of a person of a different faith (especially if they’re a more conservative sect) I usually do a quick Google search for funeral customs or check with a friend to make sure I have anything covered that needs to be covered, etc. But I think most people are understanding that you’re not familiar with their customs and hopefully just appreciate that you came, bare arms and all.

    • Kate August 12, 2014, 9:00 pm

      Actually, not all veils are “mourning veils”. Veils are quite popular on hats, and have been for decades. Advice books between the 1910’s and the 1950’s reccommended veils if you wanted to look mysterious and aloof. I have to check but I think there is a certain kind of veil meant for mourning specifically, and different lengths for the different stages of mourning. However I haven’t heard of that being in the common American “clothing language”, since the Victorian era. In that time there were special stages of color, special styles of dress, different types of stationary and accessories even (!) which were supposed to be worn when you were in mourning.

  • ALM August 12, 2014, 10:14 am

    Criticizing the clothing choices of funeral attendants is a very common coping mechanism for the grieving. They are often in shock, experiencing emotional pain, and even if the death is expected, are likely exhausted physically and emotionally and may feel guilty at being relieved the death part is over. They are desperately in need of an outlet for their emotions and cultivating outrage at a friend who showed up without a jacket or a female cousin who dared to wear slacks is often the first valve they open to relieve the pressure. (If you’re lucky, they won’t fixate so much that the real or imagined slip up defines your relationship forever). The OP was just the person who happened to make a mistake that Madonna could fixate on.

    That being said, there are a couple issues here:

    1. Religious customs and expectations. If Madonna and her family wanted the mourners to conform to their religious customs, it’s unreasonable for them to expect people to know them without them being communicated, particularly to mourners that aren’t of the same faith. With weddings this is usually communicated in the invitation (ie. wear sleeves in the church, the synagogue has a box of yarmulkes for men to borrow, you can’t enter the Mormon temple if you aren’t Mormon, etc). With funerals this is more difficult because there aren’t usually invitations and people are often getting the details third or fourth hand, and because frankly the mourners have more important matters to attend to. I imagine that many clergy would probably be more tolerant of this sort of mistake in a funeral than they would in a wedding since weddings are more choreographed, but I could be wrong. If the family is (pardon the term) hell-bent on having a perfectly conforming religious funeral with no chance of a mistake, they have the option of having a private funeral service and a more public viewing in a funeral home, where religious dress codes are not required. Of course, then they lose that opportunity for disproportionate outrage to get them through the service without crying.

    2. The OPs funeral wear was totally inappropriate. The OP wore a costume to a funeral, not funeral wear. Funerals are for the living, but unless the family specifically stated it was to be a fancy party style celebration of life (it does happen, though usually not at the service itself), funeral clothes should tend toward sober, neat, clean and not flashy, fancy or attention-getting. Do not use soap opera funerals as a guide for what is appropriate. If you would not wear it to court or for a formal office meeting, do not wear it to a funeral, unless asked by the family. The LBD is not appropriate because a LBD is meant to be attention getting, it’s a dress to wear to social parties, a dress to show off one’s glamour, to say ‘this is me and don’t I look great among all these happy people having cocktails?’ Could the dress have been dressed down with a blazer or a nice cardigan or a more formal top over the sleeveless cut? Sure. But the OP didn’t do that. Instead, the OP wore a costume hat on top of this ensemble, taking inappropriate straight into tacky. The OP was led astray by someone working for a commission, so we’ll give her the benefit of the doubt, but going forward, remember you are not at a funeral to attract attention to yourself, so wearing a cocktail dress and draping yourself in mourning costume for the funeral of an acquaintance’s father was never going to be appropriate. You are going to a funeral to express your grief and to comfort and support those closer to the deceased than you are. Understated is the best fashion policy.

    3. The OP had only good intentions and is not the same faith as Madonna. Essentially, Madonna needs to get over herself. The OP and Madonna might well forgive each other (for the tackiness of the former and the over the top outrage of the latter), but if Madonna ends the friendship over this, she either wasn’t a friend worth having or has bigger emotional problems to worry about. Kudos to the OP for the apology rather than getting defensive, and escalating the situation. Personally, I think showing up to show your support is the most important act here, but don’t think I didn’t notice a family cousin in her fifties who showed up at a funeral in a beaded, sequined black cocktail dress, stilletos, and a Brazilian blowout. It speaks more of her own emotional issues than of intentional disrespect, but it is disrespectful nonetheless. I was very happy to see her, but a lot of people at and after the funeral had a moment of shock and something else to talk about.

    • hakayama August 12, 2014, 8:44 pm

      Thank you ALM for doing the hard work for me. 😉 Fearing that my memory was beginning to fail me, I Googled both “mourning” and “widow’s” veils and, of course wound up with a motley array of images that showed everything and anything that included a veil.
      However, there were pictures of Jackie and Coretta, just to use names that perhaps the parents of most readers/posters might be familiar with. Those were SERIOUS veils, meant to hide the swollen and reddened eyes, the blotchy skin, the pain contorted faces of the widows.
      What the OP sported looks like a lovely cocktail hat of the 40s through 60s. Flirty veil and all…
      The dress, deemed not too sexy by some posters, also could date from the same era, and is the typical afternoon into evening “cocktaily” number. Back then, “fetching”, or what now is called “sexy”, did not mean half-naked or a size (two?) too small *as many females (of all ages and shapes) currently like to wear EVERYTHING..
      For full imagery of cocktail outfits, check out some elegant scenes of vintage/classic movies.
      * A cute and humorous site shows pets squeezed into boxes, jars, etc., with the caption “If I fits, I sits.” Hardly the guide for proper human behavior.

      • hakayama August 12, 2014, 8:48 pm

        P.S.: As I see it, if it’s not OK for a job* interview, it’s not OK for a funeral.
        *I mean “serious, grown up” job.

    • Nemesis August 12, 2014, 10:19 pm

      LIKE.

      I do feel that the email was an overreaction as well.

      But attending a funeral is not an occasion to play dress up. The family of the deceased might be grieving so badly that they barely can stand. And having an attendee show up in a dressy, form-fitting funeral attire complete with hat and mourning veil might be a huge trigger for people who are grieving. It can easily come across to a grieving widow and family that you are using the occasion of their loved one’s death to be fashionable. I am sure the OP did not intend this, but people suffering from loss are in a sensitive state.

      If I attend a funeral, I tend to remember that while I am there to show my support, someone has truly suffered a loss and might have a really hard time dealing with it. I always wear something bland like a dark sweater and loose trousers. I also use little to no makeup. I try not to draw any attention to myself. A funeral is not normally a happy occasion and therefore, a sombre attire befits the event.

  • lnelson1218 August 12, 2014, 10:15 am

    Like many of the other posters here I have no idea on veil etiquette.

    However, I have seen enough reality shows that many faiths do not want sleeveless in their church/temple. A sweater or sense this happened in summer a shawl to cover one’s shoulders might have been a good call.

    Hopefully Madonna will realize that OP did not have any malicious intentions with her outfit and forgive the faux pas, we have all made one at some point in our lives.

  • JWH August 12, 2014, 10:15 am

    Tangentially … why is it that women’s clothing rules are far more complicated than a man’s in this situation? For a male, funeral attire is “black suit or blazer with neutral tie,” and that’s the end of it.

    • hakayama August 12, 2014, 9:46 pm

      They are really NOT. You can just wear the EQUIVALENT of “black suit or blazer…” In other words, nice, neutral business attire, right?
      The OP’s outfit was hardly that.

  • Lady Anne August 12, 2014, 10:34 am

    At the age of 72, I have attended more funerals than I can possibly count, including one period where, beginning with our eldest grandson’s military death, we went to twenty-five services in two years. I cannot tell you what one person wore. (Well, The Squire burned all of his neckties when he retired, so he wears a suit or sports coat with a white or cream turtle neck and one of his vast collection of crosses; I do know what HE wore, at any rate.) I’m sitting here trying to remember what I wore to my own father’s service.

    It wasn’t important! People came. Some we knew; others were strangers to us, but were friends of the deceased. They hugged us and told us how much they loved us or how sorry they were for our loss. They handed us tissues for runny noses, and told funny stories about “Do you remember the time…” They were a great comfort, and it was important.

    OP took the time and effort to attend the funeral for her friend’s father. That should be the only thing that matters. “Thank you SO much for coming today. It means a lot.”

  • Stacey Frith-Smith August 12, 2014, 10:48 am

    Funerals are an occasion of jarring, shocking emotional overload in the case of those who are close to the deceased (and given that the loss was sudden and unexpected). Granted that the dress is a touch less than ideal and that the hat/veil thingy were just wrong no matter what the saleslady said. But really? If you can be so specific and exacting in your expectations of the dress of others, can you not apply a bit of that exactitude to your reaction? As in, don’t gossip about someone with family. (If that even happened.) Don’t send a serious complaint to a friend via email. And don’t decline to accept a sincerely offered apology. If you are still so enraged by the magnitude of someone else’s error that you cannot be civil, perhaps it would be wiser to wait until you can speak about the concern in more moderate tones. Grief isn’t an excuse to set aside the standards of acceptable social intercourse. If that dictum holds true for the choices of clothing for an occasion, how much more does it hold true for the conduct of those attending, even those grieving a loss?

  • JO August 12, 2014, 10:53 am

    As a Catholic, I would be incredibly offended if someone showed up at a family member’s funeral dressed this way. That said, I’m sure the OP did not realize this. She may not have much experience with funerals. As she has apologized and offered to make amends, I think it is now up to Madonna to try to understand that and forgive. This may take some time; she is grieving after all. But the ball is in her court at this point.

    • JO August 12, 2014, 11:18 am

      Oh, and while we are on the subject, I have seen at least three people this summer wearing short, black, strapless dresses to weddings. Nobody else in my circle seems to see that as innapropriate. I don’t think it’s a generational thing, I’m only 30. But I would never consider wearing anything strapless, let alone black, to a wedding.

      • ALM August 12, 2014, 4:00 pm

        I could see strapless for a black tie evening event (ever try to find a bridesmaid dress that had sleeves, or a bridal gown that wasn’t strapless?) but for that kind of formal event, it would have to be long. Maybe you could get away with below the knees or tea length. For a funeral, heck no. The deceased doesn’t want to see your cleavage from Heaven. 😉

        • JO August 12, 2014, 4:51 pm

          Oh yes, I see brides/bridesmaids dresses being sleeveless as fine. And for guests, as long as we’re talking cocktail hour or later. The trend I’ve seen lately is black, strapless, mini-skirt length, on guests, for daytime weddings. And I just don’t get it.

  • Harley Granny August 12, 2014, 10:58 am

    I was just so pleased that the OP didn’t show up in jean and flipflops that I’m suprised that her attire offended anyone.

    Madonna could have shown a little more class than that hurtful email.

    Anyway OP you’ve apologized now the ball in in her court. If it’s ever discussed again, it would only be to find out what exactly her family’s custom is and exactly what was wrong with your attire.

    • JO August 12, 2014, 4:51 pm

      You make good point. At least she tried!

  • S August 12, 2014, 11:03 am

    I don’t see a problem with the dress either. Those are very wide straps that cover most or all of the shoulders.

    You live and learn, OP. I hope this isn’t the end of your friendship with Madonna.

  • Renee August 12, 2014, 11:13 am

    I live in the Midwest and I am Baptist. The dress is the photo is appropriate for Sunday Church, Weddings and Funerals. I see absolutely nothing wrong with the dress. I own a dress cut in a similar pattern. As far as the hat, I see nothing wrong. IMO adding the veil was not attention seeking. The OP was being fashionable. Birdcage veils are popular and very common in the “Mod” culture.

    Vintage has made a comeback and that is the vibe I am getting from the dress and hat. Again, nothing wrong with being fashion forward. Why should the OP wear a black burlap sack just because it’s a funeral?

    If she walked in with a spandex red dress or hot pants, I would understand the email. However if she wore what was in the photo, Madonna was wrong for the email. It was rude and there is no excuse for ever being rude.

    If the church/culture has specific instructions on what is appropriate attire, it was Madonna’s responsibility to notify everyone she invited to the funeral.

  • Athena August 12, 2014, 11:17 am

    To everyone who says Madonna should have pulled her aside at the funeral, I don’t think Madonna had time. Madonna and her mother and siblings (if she had any) were the “hosts” of the event. As hosts, they had the obligation to not mention anything to make their guests uncomfortable. Added to that is Madonna needed to focus on her mother. Making sure the refreshments were arranged, greeting everyone who was entering, arranging seating…

    Hosting a funeral is very hard, even with the help of a fantastic funeral director.

    What I think happened is that Madonna was willing to let it go because this was her friend. But then after the burial, her family kept snipping and picking at this “show-off”, very “who does she think she is?” And casting shadow in Madonna’s mother’s mind. So Madonna probably overreacted, but I can imagine how constantly hearing about a father’s maybe infidelity would rub many, many nerves raw.

    Ooooh, I’m flashing back to my father’s funeral. Yeah. Issues.

    • JennJenn68 August 12, 2014, 6:22 pm

      Absolutely. That was what I wanted to say before. I’m a little tired of everyone telling the OP what a rude, hurtful person Madonna is. They don’t know what kind of snippy comments that her relatives were making at her; she probably felt very picked-on because this was “her” friend that was behaving in a way they thought was “inappropriate”. The trouble with email is that once you hit “send” that’s it. It’s as bad as saying something cutting while you’re angry; you can’t un-say it.

      • Athena August 13, 2014, 9:35 am

        You’ve got it. The email was totally a reaction, not a response, and it can’t be taken back. When my father died, one of my mother’s sisters said to her, literally the day after, “Oh, honey. I always thought (her husband) would die first.” Because everything, everything, *everything* is a contest to that particular aunt, and she was actually put out she wasn’t the first widow.

        And my mom went, “(Sister), this is a contest I would have been happy to let you win.” Because she reacted, but it still conveyed the incredible inappropriateness of my aunt’s comment. And we’ve never forgotten it.

  • Nikki August 12, 2014, 11:20 am

    I think what bothers me about some posters is the idea that the OP didn’t put any thought into her dress. She DID put thought into it, was misdirected, and she fumbled. No reason to make her feel worse about it than she already does.

    That being said, the idea that black is for funerals is not something commonly observed in my little corner of the world, which is in a highly-concentrated mass of Protestant churches in the Deep South. As for hats, I don’t know anyone who wears one, so it would certainly never occur to me that there are actual “rules” behind it. As for the dress, I give OP a complete pass on that. I see nothing wrong with it. Shoulders, IMHO, are not immodest. Strapless might be pushing it, sure, but I can understand sleeveless.

    So, the way I see it, both fumbled – the OP unintentionally, Madonna intentionally. Grieving or no, it is never appropriate to send such a mean-sounding e-mail to someone who was obviously present to give you support and show you kindness in a moment of difficulty. I’ve lost people very close to me in my life, and though everyone grieves differently, there are still expectations about controlling certain bits of one’s behavior that should be followed.
    OP, I think, has done enough, and should just chalk the whole thing up to Lessons Learned and let it go.

    P.S. I think the gracious thing for OP to do is give Madonna a pass, which is what Madonna SHOULD have done for OP.

  • Amara August 12, 2014, 11:32 am

    I am both puzzled and appalled at many of the responses to the OP. I wear hats too and love them, and wouldn’t have thought this out of place. It’s lovely and while definitely a glamour hat is also, in my obviously minority opinion, suitable for a funeral. If it had been a wide picture hat that would be different, but this is modest. I had no idea that others think a veil is meant for mourning only. And now knowing that I still would disagree. Like many things it can span a range of events from happy to sad.

    The dress seems very modest to me. Again, I would never think twice about sleeveless as this particular dress is a modest sleeveless model. (Look how wide the should straps are and how (again) modest the neckline. I really disagree with you here, Admin. I think it would work perfectly for a party (with flashy jewelry), or work (with subdued jewelry) or a funeral (with no jewelry or other accessories than perhaps a watch).

    I have to say that while I admire the OP’s after-funeral apologies and I would do the same I would now also cut this friendship off. I would feel that having wanted to support my friend in her time of shock and grief and then get tongue-blasted than frozen out would make me completely disinclined to have anything whatever to do with her. Yes, I could forgive her, knowing she was likely in shock. But … I would not be having anything more to do with anyone who couldn’t see or understand that even if it was a mistake–and I do not agree it was–that she felt it necessary to abuse me. Understanding a shock and/or cultural differences is one thing; hateful actions are another.

    • Kate August 12, 2014, 9:08 pm

      I agree with you. History and etiquette agree with you also. Veils have never been worn solely for funereals. They are a traditional part of funereal garb, but they have been worn frequently to all kinds of occasions, as I have replied above to another poster.

    • jac August 13, 2014, 9:37 am

      This.

      “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” ? Maya Angelou

  • Phitius August 12, 2014, 11:38 am

    I don’t find that dress sexy or attention seeking at all. It’s not even in the realm of ‘sexy secretary’ for me. Assuming it wasn’t clinging to the OP like a bandage dress its a pretty conservative outfit.

  • Michelle August 12, 2014, 11:39 am

    I think the OP made a mistake with the hat, but if it was that big of an offense, Madonna should have quietly said something at the time. I’m sure the OP would have taken it off.

    As for the dress, I think where the OP went wrong was not adding a sweater or jacket. My FIL (European Catholic) died recently and I wore a similar dress, but paired with black sweater, so my arms were covered and the dress went to my knees. My MIL is incredibly picky, but didn’t have any problems with my outfit.

    I think Madonna’s e-mail was a little harsh and i think this is one of those things that would have gone off better if she’d just asked the OP to remove her hat at the time. I know that e-mails like that often leave me feeling attacked and self-concious, so i can feel for the OP.

  • Elizabeth August 12, 2014, 11:47 am

    I think Madonna went overboard here as self-appointed fashion police. Her mind was clearly not distracted by the sadness as hand but more focused on others’ clothing choices as some relection of herself. Your mistaken choice of clothing isn’t an embarassment to her, though – more, just an off choice you made for yourself.

    Note: My husband owns a funeral home, so I see what people wear to funerals today (see it alot).

    From what I have observed: Just because it is black, doesn’t make it appropriate for a funeral. Cocktail dress? Nope – and no, it doesn’t matter just because it is black. Sleeveless? No, I don’t think so. Showing skin really isn’t appropriate. And the veil was a bit dramatic for an attendee (and not immediate family). I think it is important to not in anyway draw attention to yourself when attending a funeral (along the lines of not wearing white to a wedding – that is for someone else that day). So stilletto heels, excess skin, dramatic make-up, while fun for a night out on the town, are not appropriate. While it sounds like OP wasn’t at an extreme with her choices, Madonna certainly didn’t have the right to comment (via email????).

    OP, you apologized – leave it at that. But remember, you’ve learned something about Madonna here – we might want to give her a pass for stress but really, what someone wore really shouldn’t be that important to her.

  • Ashley August 12, 2014, 11:51 am

    I’m confused as to why the dress would be an issue, but I’m also willing to admit there are things I don’t know about various faiths and funerals within those faiths. I just know that it certainly fits the standards of modesty for any funeral I have ever attended, so I can see how OP would think it would be okay.

    However, I do know enough about hats that I didn’t even have to see the picture of the hat, I just read the description and went “oh…that hat is probably going to be part of any issues here”. Any time I have ever seen a hat with a veil at a funeral, it was worn by a relative. And I don’t know how often it happens in real life but in the movies sometimes it’s the young mistress that shows up wearing a hat with a veil. Not saying that anyone thought OP was the mistress or anything but movies might give that impression to some people somewhere, who knows.

    In any case, I do think Madonna could have handled it better. I realize she was grieving but since a funeral situation has never occurred within their friendship before, she might have cut OP a little slack. Maybe politely pulled her aside and explained the issues with the hat and asked the OP to get a jacket from her car if she had one. The ball is in Madonna’s court now. OP has apologized and hopefully some of Madonna’s grief will subside soon and she can see how OP truly meant no harm.

  • Hannah August 12, 2014, 12:10 pm

    Honestly, that outfit strikes me more as a fashion statement than anything else–which is not the point of any funeral. The vintage pillbox hat is cute–but no longer common. I would not be surprised if some people there felt like you were seeking attention. But I’m assuming you haven’t been to many funerals before in this case, OP. I think Madonna has a right to be embarrassed, but I don’t particularly think she handled it well. It seems to be that it would have been more proper to pull you aside at the funeral and say something like “you may not know this, but its very improper to wear a veil if you are not a family member to a funeral in our culture. Would you mind taking it off? It’s sending a bad message.” But then again, I don’t think conversations like this should ever happen via the internet. It gives people an excuse to not respond, which I find pretty rude. Anyway, I guess you’ve done all you can OP. The ball is no longer in your court.

  • Nannerdoman August 12, 2014, 12:29 pm

    Honestly, I find no huge etiquette fails at all in this situation. The OP made a conscious effort to dress appropriately for the funeral, and any offenses she committed against Madonna’s culture were completely inadvertent. Under ordinary circumstances, Madonna’s EM would be inexcusably rude, but I believe you have to cut a LOT of slack for someone in the first throes of grief. (I’ve lost my father myself, and know what it’s like.) Finally, once she was aware that she had offended, OP did the courteous thing and apologized.

    With luck, any ill-will between these two will be short-lived.

  • cali.in.uk August 12, 2014, 12:30 pm

    The first funeral I went to was when I was 20 years old and I wore bright lipstick and heavy makeup (I don’t know why I thought it was appropriate; I was just completely clueless) and I cringe when I think of it now.
    OP – hopefully she will cool down. I agree with a PP who suggested that Madonna is focusing on this small issue as a subconscious distraction from the bigger one she is going through. I think she will understand it was an honest mistake.

  • Lisa August 12, 2014, 12:41 pm

    Personally I think the dress is fine. It’s the hat that’s the faux pas. Really? A veil? It’s so over-the-top that one could easily think OP was trying to draw attention to herself at a very inappropriate time.

    • Manoomin August 12, 2014, 7:01 pm

      That was my reaction as well. The dress seems fine (if it’s similar to the one pictured) but the veil struck me as being a costume-y fashion statement. A funeral isn’t the time or place for that.

  • Surianne August 12, 2014, 12:56 pm

    A few people have mentioned that Madonna should have taken her aside at the service and asked her to remove the hat. I think it’s very reasonable that she didn’t do this, actually. It was her father’s funeral — she was likely grieving quite heavily, and not able to handle the conversation at that time. It also could have led to drawing even more attention to the OP–particularly if people were assuming she was a mistress or estranged family member.

  • smarlo August 12, 2014, 1:03 pm

    My dear FIL passed away this past March. Believe me when I say I couldn’t have cared less what anyone wore, I was just glad they were there during our time of need.

  • Tex Carol August 12, 2014, 1:06 pm

    Texas summers. Temps get to 100 plus. I recently attended a beloved brother-in-law’s Catholic funeral. No one in the packed church wore a hat. Very few people wore black, not even the widow and his children. No suits for the men, and few ties. Women wore light fabrics and colors, and yes, there were some sundresses. Customs are different everywhere. It would never have occurred to me to check on funeral customs before attending to support the family. I hope I haven’t offended anyone. Of course, people react to grief differently, so I would cut the friend some slack.

  • SamiHami August 12, 2014, 1:10 pm

    The only thing inappropriate here was the way Madonna treated the OP. The OP was kind enough to come to the service to pay her respects to the family of the deceased, and what she gets in return is a harsh criticism of her attire.

    If Madonna were so concerned about the hat, as others have said, she could have taken her aside and politely asked her to remove it. As for the dress; if it really is similar to the one pictured, there is nothing at all inappropriate about it. There is sleeveless and then there is sleeveless. This wasn’t a spaghetti strap sundress. It is summertime and it is very hot. This is a modest sleeveless dress, not a “little black dress.”

    I think Madonna owes the OP an apology for her appalling behavior and that the OP should stop apologizing to her. She’s done that enough.

  • Anon August 12, 2014, 1:21 pm

    After reading this post and many of the comments, I did some googling to see what information I could find on the etiquette of mourning veils. What I found was that there is precious little information out there. Assuming Madonna’s family is Catholic, I found just one article that stated that the widow (and maybe the daughters) should wear a mourning veil, but this rule only was in force until 1983 when the church’s Code of Canon Law changed with respect to head coverings. (They used to be required, but no longer, for women.) But even Catholicism is not monolithic, and styles and customs change from country to country. I also read in another article that traditionally in Jewish weddings, all married women were to wear mourning veils. (I am Jewish and have been to many funerals, never to have seen a mourning veil.)

    All of this is to say – even if the OP had done some research she still would have found not that much information, and conflicting information at that. So, I disagree that she is “shallow stupid” – these are not universal customs that anyone not in a particular culture could be expected to know. If her friend felt so strongly, she should have pulled the OP aside and said something in the moment. I am a firm believer in Hanlon’s razor – never attribute to malice what could more easily be attributed to ignorance. Clearly the OP didn’t know the custom. She could easily have been informed of it by either the friend, a priest, or another parishioner. To say that she cause the family “shame” is totally over the top.

    OP – you did the right thing by apologizing. The ball is in your friend’s court, and if she wants to hold a grudge, that’s on her.

    PS. There was absolutely nothing wrong with that dress. There is nothing “look at me” about it.

  • Miss Raven August 12, 2014, 1:23 pm

    I’m shocked that people are taking issue with OP’s dress. A black, square-necked, below-the-knee dress would have been appropriate at every funeral I’ve ever been to, save that of my Orthodox cousin in her Orthodox synagogue. Sleeveless, or not, ESPECIALLY in the summer. Unless the funeral was in a very conservative place of worship, I don’t understand the issue.

    Sure, the veil was a little much, but I didn’t know until now that veils are reserved only for the widow. It sounds like I’m not alone.

    It does sound like Madonna flipped out way more than the situation required, which can certainly be chalked up to grief. OP, I would give her space. If, when the dust settles, she is still cool towards you, I would move on, because I honestly wouldn’t want to keep her as a friend. It is possible though, that in time, she will apologize for her overreaction.

  • Jay August 12, 2014, 1:29 pm

    You committed an accidental faux pas. You apologized. She’s grieving, so you need to cut her some slack for a while, but it’s on her now to politely accept your apology (when she’s ready).

  • A different Tracy August 12, 2014, 1:31 pm

    OP, it sounds like you did your best (the dress would be completely appropriate in the summer in my area, and even without the veil, the hat would be considered over-the-top but it sounds like customs are different in your area), and you have apologized for your unintentional faux pas. As others have said, Madonna is most likely in a bad place right now, and will hopefully find herself able to accept your apology.

  • Paige August 12, 2014, 1:43 pm

    This was very petty and shallow. It sounds like she was taking a lot of stress from the unexpected death out on an easy target. I see nothing wrong with what she wore and would have worn the same.
    The only way I could see this being a real faux pas is if she knew ahead of time the specific cultural standards of her friend and her friends family and then chose to go against that anyways.

  • Rob aka Mediancat August 12, 2014, 1:54 pm

    It seems like the OP made an innocent, if genuine mistake, but the veil rule is certainly never one I’ve heard — and it’s certainly something that could have been handled quietly at the funeral itself, by having Madonna explain things and ask her to remove the hat.

    The dress looks unexceptionable. It may not have been so by the standards of the church in question, but to me at least the more important thing would have been that my friend showed up, not that she showed up wearing “the wrong thing.”

    So this is a case of minor sin, possibly grief-fueled overreaction. I’d try one more apology, as someone suggested above, and then if Madonna refuses to accept it, let it go. You made an innocent mistake and you will have done all that you’re required to do, and if those offended choose to remain offended, that’s on them, not you.

  • ChicaLola August 12, 2014, 2:10 pm

    I’ve seen people come to funerals and visitations in jeans. I wouldn’t have given the dress a second glance. Since the veils are not common to me, I would have paid more attention….but unless you tell someone ahead of time what they should or shouldn’t wear, you should just be grateful they came and they were showing their support of you.

  • BagLady August 12, 2014, 2:23 pm

    @Mary: I was raised Catholic and have lived on the East Coast all my life, and I have never even heard the term “mourning veil,” but I can picture one: It covers the whole face and is made of sheer-ish fabric, not netting like the one in the photo, which just looks like decoration. I’ve been to many Catholic funerals in my 55 years, and have never seen anyone wear such a thing except in old movies.

    Of course, we’re assuming that Madonna is Catholic (perhaps because of the name OP gave her?), but she might be of a more capital-or-small-O orthodox faith.

    OP is guilty of nothing but ignorance, and that should not cancel out the fact that she went to some trouble, spending time and money to attend the funeral and support her friend. Madonna’s reaction was over the top and uncalled for, but because her judgment was most likely addled by grief, I would sentence her to E-Purgatory rather than E-Hell.

  • Calibrate August 12, 2014, 2:25 pm

    I’ve been to a few funerals and it never ceases to amaze me what people wear. Jeans, t-shirts, brightly colored Hawaiian shirts, etc …. none offends though like the one or two women who show up in the shiny, tight cocktail dresses with stiletto heels. This seems to happen no matter what age, religion, sex the deceased is. One thing for sure, all the funerals were for people who were dearly loved. I would only hope I am lucky enough to get the eclectic crowd of personalities at my funeral. If they want to wear a veil, I hope it’s not black, but maybe a bright pink!

  • AnaLuisa August 12, 2014, 2:31 pm

    Wow.

    My heart goes out to you, OP.

    I do not see anything you did wrong. The dress seems very appropriate to me, and as for the hat and veil, you expressly asked a professional and were told it was OK.

    I cannot imagine how you could have done more.

    I think “Madonna´s” letter to be offensive, rude, and in my younger years I would have been mortified. However, now, with more experience, self-confidence (and perhaps more spine), I’d say you did not do ANYTHING wrong AT ALL.

    Your intentions were good. You did your best to select a dress suitable for the occasion AND for the weather. You even asked a pro, and were assured everything was OK. Despite all that, you profusely apologized. I cannot see anything more you could do.

    I would give Madonna some slack due to the circumstances, but I agree with everyone who said that the ball is now in her court and it is up to her to apologize. If she does not, I would do what Cherry91 recommends and let the relationship die.

    I think a reasonable person should have realised that your attire was well within the generally accepted standards, and that, if there were some variations specific to her culture , she cannot expect everyone will be aware of them.

    If you have the opportunity to talk to her about it again in a non-hostile manner (eg. if she does apologize, what I think she absolutely should, along with explaining WHAT she thought was wrong, mainly the veil thing), I would say something along the lines “I am sorry you felt offended as I did my best to dress appropriately, was told that the hat was OK and assumed a black dress with short sleeves in summer was fine. I had no idea that a veil had a special meaning, I just wanted to be there for you and did what I thought was appropriate.”

    If she is unable to understand that, she apparently does not deserve your friendship nor your support.

  • Mags August 12, 2014, 2:34 pm

    I’m Catholic and I’ve been to dozens of funerals, and I think the dress was a lovely choice, assuming it wasn’t some kind of glittery fabric. It’s pretty rare for anyone to wear a formal hat around here, so although I think it was nice too, I didn’t know that about the mourning veil, and if I had known that about the mourning veil, I probably would have thought of that netting as a decoration, not a veil. Live and learn, I guess.

    As for the friend’s angry email, I would have been more offended by her nasty tone than mortified by her fashion dictates, especially since the friend is incorrect. Specifically, you certainly may wear a sleeveless dress to a funeral in my culture, faith and area if it is as tasteful as the one OP wore, and I can’t imagine the hat causing any comment beyond, “Look, someone is wearing an actual hat.” Kind of rich for the friend to be offended that the OP was unaware of the fashion rules in friend’s family while at the same time being completely unaware that other places might have different standards (note that she also presumed to dictate what clothing OP may wear to any funeral anywhere ever).

    As for this idea that the OP looked like a mistress — well, I guess if that’s what they thought when they saw her, then it explains the anger, but my father also died unexpectedly, and I can’t imagine that it would have crossed anyone’s mind that he could possibly have been an adulterer regardless of anything anyone wore to the funeral. But then, I know what my dad’s character and reputation were.

    • Mer August 12, 2014, 2:57 pm

      You know, and your close relatives know your dad’s character in this hypothetical case. But often funerals have coworkers, more distant relatives and family friends who do know the deceased to some degree but might not be that close in reality. It’s not fun to be target for gossip after losing someone close. Especially as we are living in a world where headlines shout that 1/3 of all people cheat in relationship. And that it is not rare at all to everything seem perfect when there are huge marital problems underneath. So while the widow and children might know perfectly well that there was not mistress of any kind ever, it would be very uncomfortable to overhear someone even mentioning the possibility.