Author Topic: Funeral Dress Code Seems To Be Changing - "Dress Clothes" Definition  (Read 9677 times)

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faithlessone

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Many years ago, I realized that once I wore something to a funeral, I never wore it again. It wasn't a conscious thought, but I simply never wore those clothes again. Now I own a gray funeral dress and it only comes out for funerals.

I'm so glad other people feel this way.

Before last year, I had only been to one funeral - my grandmother. I had just turned 8 when she died, and I wore the dress she had made me a little while before she died - a beautiful crimson velvet party dress with white lacy cuffs and a net petticoat. It had been made for Christmas, but she passed away at the beginning of December. I never wore it again after the funeral.

Last year, I went to 5 funerals. My best friend's father, my godfather, my brother, my uncle and a close family friend. The day before my best friend's father's funeral, I bought a black dress with a pattern of white butterflies near the hem. I then wore that for the other 4 funerals I had to go to that year.

The idea of wearing that dress to any other occasion makes me feel physically sick, so it's just hanging in my wardrobe, waiting. It's a pity, because it's a beautiful dress and suits me perfectly, but the association with my grief is just far too strong to be ignored.

As for general funeral dress codes - to be honest, I don't really notice what other people are wearing at a funeral, unless it's really over the top. So long as they're present and behave respectfully, I don't think it matters what they wear. 

Outdoor Girl

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Now that you all say that, I realized I did the same thing.  When my Mom died, we had 3 visitations (due to the large number of people we knew would be coming) and then the funeral.  So I needed 4 outfits.  I had 3, including my interview suit which was a dark purple.  It fit the best and looked the most flattering so that's what I wore for the funeral.  I bought one more outfit.  I don't remember wearing any of them again.  And then I lost about 20 pounds and none of them fit anymore so I consigned them.

faithlessone, I agree about not really noticing what other people were wearing.  The granddaughter I mentioned in the too short skirt was only noticeable because she was playing a part in the service.  If she hadn't been, I probably wouldn't have noticed.
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Twik

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I've not been to too many funerals (fortunately) but what I would *expect* people to wear would be:
- Clean, neat clothes
- Reasonably good clothes (not t-shirts and cutoffs)
- Not "look at me, I'm sexy!" clothes

I've never really noticed colour. Expecting everyone to get into black nowadays isn't practical. My own rule is that any clothing that indicates that one didn't make any sort of effort, or that indicates that the main effort was to draw attention to the wearer rather than the event, is inappropriate.

If some people absolutely cannot afford more than jeans and t-shirts, it's understandable, but if it's simply that they have never bothered to buy more than jeans and t-shirts, they need to realize that life as an adult sometimes requires one to wear "serious" clothes, and everyone needs a set of those.
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Army Mom

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Seems like I have been to too many funerals lately. And many times I do see people wearing what I consider inappropriate clothes. After the last one, I explained it to my teen daughter as "if you would wear it to go clubbing or to mow the lawn, don't wear it to a funeral".

VorFemme

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I think that's what got me at the last few funerals where there were people wearing black - prom dresses and "date wear" are black with a distinct aura of "male bait" rather than "formal occasion where I need to look somber".  A red dress that covered their shoulders, any cleavage, and went almost all the way to the knees would have been a more appropriate choice - in some ways. 

I remember seeing something in one of the Miles Vorkosigan saga books about certain cultures with a LOT of rules on what to wear when were a lot easier to sort out what to wear if you HAD to wear a military uniform.  It might not be exactly the right thing by cultural rules - but it was what the person was required to wear, so it wasn't their fault if it wasn't exactly perfect. 

The Navy personnel in dress whites doing the flag ceremony graveside were in the correct outfits, even if they were blindingly white in the Texas sun.  Everyone else had more choice and some of them made choices that were better (in that they were more conventional) than others.  No one was behaving inappropriately - so no comments were made.

Thankfully, no one wearing a really short skirt bent over...
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jaxsue

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Seems like I have been to too many funerals lately. And many times I do see people wearing what I consider inappropriate clothes. After the last one, I explained it to my teen daughter as "if you would wear it to go clubbing or to mow the lawn, don't wear it to a funeral".

That is a great way to put it!

I grew up in a minister's home. That means I went to lots of funerals from the time I was a small child. Of course, we had church clothes which were fine for funerals (dark colors, modest cut). FTR, our church was quite conservative, so you wouldn't find attendees in jeans or mini-skirts.

I admit that, at the moment, I only own 1 dress (a little black dress) that is not suitable for a funeral. I do, however, have a very nice business suit (with pants not a skirt) that would suffice for a funeral. I think it's important for pretty much anyone over the age of 8 to have something for events like funerals. They can be found at resale shops, so for most people money shouldn't be an issue.

I do admit that I had a dress I gave to Goodwill after my father's funeral. I wore this thing to the 2 memorial services and, TBH, never wanted to see it again. It was perfectly good, nice quality, and someone got a nice dress for probably only a few dollars.

NestHolder

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I'm in the UK, and in the last several years have been to three funerals where attendees were specifically asked *not* to wear black  At my Grandma's, I wore my best hat—which is fuchsia coloured—in the certainty that she would have approved of any and all Proper Hats in the chapel.  I was a bit surprised to find myself the only woman wearing a hat to my father's funeral—my stepmother is a very smart dresser, and I was sure she'd have one.  To me, proper funeral wear is the sub-fusc version of proper wedding wear, but it is nice to go to a funeral where everyone is in bright, celebratory colours.  After all, when the occasion is described as a celebration of [deceased]'s life, we should dress for it.

jaxsue

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I'm in the UK, and in the last several years have been to three funerals where attendees were specifically asked *not* to wear black  At my Grandma's, I wore my best hat—which is fuchsia coloured—in the certainty that she would have approved of any and all Proper Hats in the chapel.  I was a bit surprised to find myself the only woman wearing a hat to my father's funeral—my stepmother is a very smart dresser, and I was sure she'd have one.  To me, proper funeral wear is the sub-fusc version of proper wedding wear, but it is nice to go to a funeral where everyone is in bright, celebratory colours.  After all, when the occasion is described as a celebration of [deceased]'s life, we should dress for it.

I like the idea of cheerful colors at a funeral, especially if it's mine.  :)

Edited to add: I'm fine with people wearing black or hot pink to my funeral. I don't mind either way.
« Last Edit: July 28, 2013, 09:56:35 PM by jaxsue »

Lorelei_Evil

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This.  I wear black because I can't find anything darker, but I'll park my POD here.

I cringed when my niece wore Barbie pink strappy top with a mini skirt to her mother's funeral, but it helped an 11 year old child get though the worst day of her life because her mom bought the outfit.  I'll roll with it.  I don't how she walked in those glitter flip flops in March, though!

My mom won't be having a funeral (her wishes), but if she did, I'd avoid her least favorite color, that's all.


I find it hard to believe that you thought it was appropriate to judge what a child wore to their parent's funeral. My father died when I was 8 and all my siblings and I simply wore our best clothes. For my sister and I did not include black but instead dresses with flowers and lace (in January). I don't know if it was on purpose or if it was because our mother was too overwhelmed to do otherwise. However, I'd hate to think that anybody there was judging us for not wearing traditional mourning.

My jaw dropped at this too.  An 11 year old child is at her _mother's_ funeral and you even spent a moment thinking about the appropriateness of her attire?   That is a whole other level of bad etiquette, IHMO.

Well, there's cringing inwardly on reflex (can you help that? I think it's an automatic reaction) and not saying anything, and there's having that reflex and then verbalizing it. I don't think she said anything. I don't think seeing something and having a reaction to it are cause to accuse her of 'judging'. You've never seen something at either a funeral or a wedding to make you start a bit? I don't think we can start chiding people for their involuntary reactions and thoughts.....

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I do like the idea of a book for teenagers & college students on putting together a better wardrobe by thinking about what they need for where they go and what they do - but I keep checking out a book from the late 1970s or 1980s about a working wardrobe with sketches of "wardrobe capsules".  The pieces of which mostly mix and match for a given purpose, making a "work" capsule, a "casual capsule", even an "evening capsule" quite possible - and if the person picks the same neutral color as a base (navy, black, chocolate brown, gray, etc.) then most of the other capsules can be mined to put together a travel capsule.

I agree. You hear 'it was either jeans or **********', it leads me to think that people just don't plan a wardrobe with multi-purpose pieces any more.

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I grew up with the notion that one needed a day dress/outfit (not a business suit), a cocktail/semi-formal dress/outfit, a real evening dress/outfit, something appropriate for a wedding (one of the above will normally do) and something appropriate for a funeral,

Right. It takes all the guesswork/upset/rushing out of an already stressful situation.

Of course I didn't say anything!  I had only met the child a few times.  I was a little busy trying to help my brother that day.


Twik

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I like the idea of cheerful colors at a funeral, especially if it's mine.  :)

Actually, I think it is as controlling to tell people to wear bright colours as it is to tell them they must wear black.

When my best friend passed away, I did not feel like celebrating. Not even her wonderful life. Afterwards, yes, but not at the time, and I would have felt worse to have people chivvying me to "look happy! It's a party for Friend!"
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camlan

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I think that's what got me at the last few funerals where there were people wearing black - prom dresses and "date wear" are black with a distinct aura of "male bait" rather than "formal occasion where I need to look somber".  A red dress that covered their shoulders, any cleavage, and went almost all the way to the knees would have been a more appropriate choice - in some ways. 

I think for a lot of people it comes down to choosing the best possible outfit from what they already own. There's usually not a lot of time between hearing of the death and attending the funeral to go shopping. If you have to travel any distance, there's even less time.

While most men can get away with a sports coat or blazer or suit and tie in a somber color, it's a bit tougher with the average woman's wardrobe. You might have a black dress that is the right color but a skimpy, revealing cut and a red dress that is more covered up but to many people not an appropriate color for a funeral. Which do you choose? It's a toss-up as to which would be more fitting for a funeral.

Or you have a hot pink skirt suit and a black pants suit. The skirt suit is more formal, but the pants suit is the more appropriate color. Whichever one you choose, someone will find fault with it.

I give people points for being there and points for trying to wear appropriate clothes.

My cousin showed up at my father's funeral in a button-down shirt and khaki shorts. Also a full leg cast and crutches. I was incredibly touched that he'd made the 4 hour (one way) drive, given the circumstances.
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jaxsue

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I like the idea of cheerful colors at a funeral, especially if it's mine.  :)

Actually, I think it is as controlling to tell people to wear bright colours as it is to tell them they must wear black.

When my best friend passed away, I did not feel like celebrating. Not even her wonderful life. Afterwards, yes, but not at the time, and I would have felt worse to have people chivvying me to "look happy! It's a party for Friend!"

You misunderstood my post. I said nothing about telling people what they had to wear. I was just saying that I'm fine with cheerful colors if it were my funeral. Of course we're all sad when we lose people we love! I've been there, more than a few times.

hannahmollysmom

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My mother passed away suddenly when my youngest was 2 years old. I had hardly anything that fit at that time! I ended up wearing a royal blue skirt, and a white sweater. Last thing on my mind was shopping for a dress. We had to travel too, and I spent all my time helping my dad with the arrangements.

I have seen a more casual dress at funerals lately. It doesn't bother me, as long as the clothes aren't ripped, dirty, or skimpy. In today's busy world, just the fact that people take the time to show their respect, is what is important.

TootsNYC

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Nutraxfornerves is talking about her own mother's funeral, not her mother's cousin's funeral, so no assumption there, she really does know what her mother preferred. It was an assumption on the part of the priest (the mother's cousin) who didn't really know the deceased as well as her own daughter did.
This.

The priest "knew" that my mother would have wanted everyone in bright colors. I knew she would have wanted what to her were "funeral clothes." Not necessarily black, but somber, respectful, and not casual.

Nowadays, I would choose the kind of outfit I'd wear to a formal business meeting, but not in a bright color. (I just might wear a bright red suit to a business meeting.)

When my mother passed away, my 18yo DD had very few dressy clothes. She had a black skirt w/ colorful splashes that my mom had bought for her; she had a red shirt that she wore with it. DD said "I can't wear this, it isn't black."

Knowing my mom, I said, "She would be so pleased that you love and wear the skirt she bought you. And she'd want you to dress up, but I know that she doesn't think black is required at a funeral. Esp. not in the Protestant Midwest that she inhabited." (Mom had said something like that to me at my grandmother's funeral.)

I knew my mom. I knew what she'd want.

but I also think that dressing in certain ways is really NOT about the dead person and is about the people you are around. So dressing respectfully and somewhat somberly is really appropriate in any situation in which you aren't perfectly sure what the reaction will be of the people around you.


jaxsue

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My mother passed away suddenly when my youngest was 2 years old. I had hardly anything that fit at that time! I ended up wearing a royal blue skirt, and a white sweater. Last thing on my mind was shopping for a dress. We had to travel too, and I spent all my time helping my dad with the arrangements.

I have seen a more casual dress at funerals lately. It doesn't bother me, as long as the clothes aren't ripped, dirty, or skimpy. In today's busy world, just the fact that people take the time to show their respect, is what is important.

I see nothing wrong with what you wore. I have also seen a relaxation of funeral attire. So far I haven't seen anything that is OTT.