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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.


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.


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.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • NostalgicGal August 12, 2014, 2:42 pm

    Only the close female relatives should wear mourning veil to a funeral IF THEY CHOOSE. This would be mother, grandmother, aunts, sisters, daughters. IF you are the fiancée or common law or life partner/livein (aka serious life sharing relationship) then yes, you may wear a veil if you choose.

    If you must hat it at a funeral, make it small and tasteful. Aka, simple.

    I usually advise that you cover from shoulders to below knees and arms to 4″ above elbows as a minimum… if the dress is strapped or sleeveless, put a shrug or shawl over.

    OP, you did err twice. The clerk should have a tuffet inside the door for telling you it was okay, and not determining that you were a close relation… you DID err on bare shoulders.

    I think you have done what you could and should, it is now ball in M’s court. She is not totally blameless, it would not have taken much to pull you aside and tell you to at least lose the veiled hat.

    When I officiate I do not referee dress code, but those are my general recommendations. Officiating, I have robes that cover me from throat to wrist to ankles. Attending, dark somber tones if not black; and covering at least the parts I mentioned! (I am often slacks and elbow length sleeves)

    • Autumn Rose August 12, 2014, 10:09 pm

      The friend who holds your hand and says the wrong thing is made of dearer stuff than the one who stays away

      • NostalgicGal August 13, 2014, 2:05 pm

        Indeed and very true, Autumn Rose.

        Death and Funerals are a most strange crucible.

  • Mer August 12, 2014, 2:44 pm

    Frankly, I don’t see problem with the dress. If it was similar to the picture, it does cover the shoulders, is over the knee and does not present the “ladies”. However, I can see that the combination of that kind of fitting dress and the hat was the actual problem. I doubt that most would have minded, or noticed, if she only had the dress. After all, it is rather modest. And maybe the hat alone would have passed with only few side-looks, if OP wore black trousers and cardigan.

    But with dress+hat+veil the tone of the combination is totally different. And as admin said, the direction it errs looks like “dad’s young mistress showing of to the widow”. That might be very uncomfortable for relatives.

  • doobiebro August 12, 2014, 2:57 pm

    Since mourning veils are so out of style today (I am in my 50’s and been to dozens and dozens of funerals) I wonder if this particular hat wasn’t more of the sexy kind seen in burlesque-type venues?

    Also, dressing for funerals and weddings is so odd today. I recently went to one of both, and at both I saw everything from jeans to casual to dressy. Sometimes I can’t decide how to dress because it seems like the dress code is so different for things today. At a wedding shower recently, the bride and her family were in jeans. My friends and I were in dresses (simple, summer dresses) and yet WE were the ones getting the looks from others –I’m guessing they thought WE were overdressed –instead of thinking themselves as underdressed.

  • nayberry August 12, 2014, 3:23 pm

    you know what i said to people who attended my grandparents funeral? Thank you for coming.

    i could have cared less what they wore, and this is coming from an Irish RC background. Mostly my main focus was getting through the reading i had without completely breaking down, which i just about managed.

    i have also recently received a nasty message from a friend who lost a parent and took my giving them space to sort out what they had to do as somehow my being a nasty b. they have since calmed down and apologised. i knew the message came from a place of pain so i ignored it and left them to grieve.

    OP you sound as if you wanted to be there for your friend and i can’t see anything wrong with what you wore. Thank you for trying to be there for them.

    • Amy August 17, 2014, 8:23 pm

      I agree. I just said thanks for coming. I can’t remember what anyone wore to my Nanny’s funeral and I had much bigger things to worry about.

      The dress? Doesn’t look bad to me, but then again, I had cousins recently wear JEANS to a funeral. I really think these things are dependant on the family.

      I would have skipped the hat but only because a) a funeral isn’t the place to be dramatic and also b) because I’m not all that fashionable. I wouldn’t have been offended at seeing it at the funeral of a close relative though. Most of my family is Catholic and this is something that’s never been mentioned to be.

  • Robert August 12, 2014, 3:35 pm

    I have to disagree with the Admin on this one. Though some religious traditions dictate particular clothing or headwear for funerals, unless you are a member of that religious tradition or are asked to respect those traditions explicitly, you are under no obligation to do so. Is it polite to do so? Certainly. But, it is far from obligation.

    OP, you did not make a single faux pas. Your hat and dress were both tastefully appropriate for a summer funeral. Madonna is overreacting, probably out of sadness and grief. Give her time, but don’t bring the situation up again. You’ve apologized to her for her offense, and now it is time to move on. If she chooses not to forgive and forget, then you are not losing a friend who values you very highly in the first place.

  • fountainof August 12, 2014, 3:47 pm

    I think the dress looks fine, it is what people here in my province may wear to a funeral. People here really aren’t into hats so someone wearing that hat would look attention seeking. I think you wear a hat when you know over 50% of the female attendees will wear hats (like at the Derby) but if you think you will only be one of a few people you will stand out with the hat and at a funeral attendees are to respectfully blend in. I can see why Madonna thought the hat was inappropriate as it does seem showy and attention seeking. IDK, it seems to me the OP wanted a “look” that people would notice and now she upset that she has been called out on using a funeral to show off her stylish formal look.

  • Goldie August 12, 2014, 4:18 pm

    I just thought of something – some churches (like the Eastern Orthodox churches I used to attend) require that the women wear head covering while in church. Perhaps OP’s church is like that, and/or she assumed Madonna’s church was like that?

  • Dyan August 12, 2014, 4:54 pm

    I have to say I see nothing wrong with the dress or hat, the dress is tasteful, and so is the hat, what if you DO not know other peoples religion (about wearing sleeves) I think that email was rude, and sorry to say I would cut all ties with this woman…she was your friend?
    I was so happy when people came to my brothers service I did not care what they wore just as long as there were there for me and my family..

  • Jays August 12, 2014, 5:09 pm

    I guess I’m puzzled. I do see the problem with the hat. (I’d assume something like that would be worn by an immediate family member.) But the dress? I would have called that absolutely fine for a funeral. I wore something similar to my grandfather’s funeral. So did my mom …

    Different strokes, apparently.

  • Inkcap August 12, 2014, 5:12 pm

    I’m Catholic, and I wear hats and veils to church all the time (as do many of the other ladies of my parish), and hats on a daily basis. The chapel veils worn are in a range of colors, though usually black or white, and are not mourning veils, nor would it strike anyone as odd or even noticeable for such a veil to be worn to a funeral. Neither would a hat, as long as it was not excessively showy.

    However, a hat with an attached face-concealing veil (an actual draped veil of chiffon, organza, or silk, a la Bette Davis in the film ‘Dead Ringer,’ or, more familiarly, Jacqueline Kennedy) would be completely inappropriate outside of immediate family. If the OP were to wear that exact hat up in the picture to the funeral of a friend at my parish, it would *not* be considered offensive by other hat-wearers because it’s really more of a decorative netting than an actual mourning veil. One would never wear a pink hat with a concealing veil anywhere, but one might wear a pink pillbox with some eye-length netting on it to a number of events.

    That being said, there is an unfortunate association among non-hat-wearing people of pillbox hats as flirtatious, with many people familiar with them only as the finishing touch to a “sexy flight attendant” costume or something similar. It could be that the hat-wearing in Madonna’s family arises not from a “religious” custom but from a “secular one” (depending on which region of the country they live in) and thus the modern secular connotations of certain headgear are more likely to hold sway than more traditional ones. That might especially be the case if Madonna and her family were wearing “non-flirtatious” hats with brims, of the sort that are sold as “church hats” on ebay. It could also be that Madonna and her family were wearing the veiled hats not in the traditional way of affording a little privacy for grief, but as Look At Us Grieving pieces, in which case any other hat-wearers would be seen as stealing their thunder. (I’m not saying that was the case, only that it could be.)

    I would definitely ask about dress codes before wearing hats to anyone else’s church or wedding/funeral. In my experience, most congregations would see hat-wearing to a “regular” event such as Sunday service as attention-seeking if such is not the norm. I also know of families who would wear hats to weddings and funerals, but it was the one time in their lives that they would ever be caught dead in a hat and, for various reasons, seem to want to reserve the stylistic choice as a mark of immediate family.

    If you mean the head-covering as a sign of respect, make sure that it will be taken as such; if it is a stylistic choice, make sure that it will not be construed as disrespect. In a culture where hat-wearing is sadly no longer mainstream, you might find yourself offending even when adhering perfectly to hat etiquette.

  • kingsrings August 12, 2014, 5:26 pm

    I’m going to attribute Madonna’s reaction to lashing out in anger and grieving over her father. I do hope that is the case, because I can’t imagine why anyone would care that much about what others wore to their family member’s funeral. I would think their priorities would lie with the funeral and process itself, not what everyone else wore. Like others have said here, they don’t even remember what others wore to their family member’s funeral because their priorities were rightfully with the situation at hand!

    I do find it odd that a non-family member would wear a hat with a veil, but along with everything else regarding this, it’s not a big deal. Hopefully, Madonna will realize the errors of her ways and apologize for her behavior. But if not, you’ll just have to understand that clothing choices take priority with her over everything else, sadly.

  • Angel August 12, 2014, 5:39 pm

    I think I would have been taken aback if a friend wore a veiled hat to my relative’s funeral–but to me that is nothing to write an angry email about. I would personally be grateful that my friend showed up to offer condolences and show their support. The dress I may have put a shawl over because in some churches/religious ceremonies you need to cover the shoulders. But if I am mourning the death of a family member personally the last thing I am worried about is what the guests are wearing!

    You have apologized I don’t know what else you can do. The ball is in her court. Personally I think that if she chooses to end/let the friendship cool off because of this, she’s got her priorities all screwed up. Be grateful to have supportive, loving friends.

  • Marie August 12, 2014, 5:47 pm

    As far as I’m aware, there is no “official funeral etiquette” written out in any religious text. If the family wanted a particular dress code followed, they should have advertised it in the obituary. You didn’t show up in anything skimpy or wildly inappropriate.

    Your friend was rude. Give her the benefit of the doubt because of her situation, but if she still holds a grudge after she has passed her mourning period, then say good riddance.

  • MPW August 12, 2014, 5:55 pm

    As another Catholic, I see no issue about the dress or hat with veil, in a church or at graveside. The dress is at/below the knee, and the dress covers the shoulders. Bare arms are OK – bare shoulders or a low neckline are not – and those general guidelines only apply to being inside a church. Women are (I believe) permitted to wear hats indoors, I believe, and especially in all Christian churches, and this was an appropriately demure hat – not festive colors, no excessive size, and the veil was not drawn down over the face.

    In Europe, where both Catholic and Orthodox churches attract tourist visitors of all denominations, you’ll find a helpful guide for what clothing is appropriate in those churches. As the bulletin in my parish read, “what is appropriate for the beach, is not appropriate for church”. This does not imply any kind of universal prudishness, but rather, that attire is respectful and appropriate for the occasion.

    What surprises me about this, is that I have seen many, many weddings where both bride and bridesmaids are wearing strapless dresses, or with thin straps. (Not to mention a few weddings where the bridesmaids had very short dresses.) At least that was common for summer weddings in Canada. Some of those were in a Catholic church too, so I’d bet that etiquette for weddings (a “festive” occasion) is different for a somber funeral.

    Consider a couple of issues here – weather being one of them. If it’s hot, then it’s not out of place for bare arms or short sleeves, bare legs (i.e. no stockings or hosiery), no jackets and open collars. That’s a seasonal and geographic issue, rather than a cultural issue.

  • Rusty August 12, 2014, 6:37 pm

    The dress by itself would be deemed passable, as long as it wasn’t too short. The problem lies in the combination of the dress and the hat. You are not a family member and therefore it almost comes across as ingratiating, by that I mean you have taken on the role of a grieving family member, rather than that of a concerned friend.
    I have been to a couple of funerals this year and no one dressed like this, except in one case, the wife of the deceased alone.
    It was an unfortunate mistake on your part, but at least now you perhaps know to check before the next funeral. I’m sure your friend will forgive you when you apologise in person eventually.

    • Rayner August 13, 2014, 9:04 am

      But how did the OP take on that role? By choosing to wear a hat? Unless she sat at the front with the family, followed them around shaking hands and thanking people for coming, and acting like the host of the funeral, I fail to see how she took on a role that wasn’t hers.

      • Rusty August 14, 2014, 1:57 am

        Because, in my opinion, only a close family member would dress the way the OP did. I also said “it comes across as”. I feel that the OP, somewhat unwittingly, has dressed in a manner that is now not the normally accepted attire “except in the movies”. My opinion.

      • Emmy August 15, 2014, 5:19 am

        The hat is an obvious “grieving widow” hat when combined with the dress. I’m wondering if people are young and haven’t seen a lot of depictions of vintage widows/funerals? I’m only in my 20’s and to me that connection seems pretty obvious.

  • cheyne August 12, 2014, 6:39 pm

    At one funeral I attended a friend of the deceased show-up in bib overalls and cow manure on his boots. The widow didn’t bat an eye, gave him a hug and thanked him for coming.

    I am in my 50’s and only wear sleeveless dresses and tops. I do have a few sweaters/jackets for covering-up but I wouldn’t think to bring one to a summer funeral. How are bare arms (not bare shoulders) immodest unless the funeral was in a temple or mosque? Since the OP is friends with Madonna, I would think she’d notice if Madonna wore hijab or a tichel.

    I think the OP’s dress is modest and appropriate for a funeral (especially if it is below the knee). The hat does not have a mourning veil-it’s a fashion veil-so appropriate for non-family members. I see nothing wrong with the outfit.

    I would cut Madonna some slack with the email. If she apologizes I would forgive her, but I wouldn’t be chasing her around apologizing any more and certainly wouldn’t send Madonna’s mother an apology.

  • Tara August 12, 2014, 7:21 pm

    I have never heard any “rules” about what is appropriate to wear to a funeral, other than at minimum business casual, and not being dressed like you’re going out clubbing. This stuff about sleeveless dresses and black veils is completely mystifying. I’ve never heard anything like that.

    I guess it’s a good thing I consider a black veil to be too cliche to ever actually wear to a funeral.

  • MM August 12, 2014, 7:48 pm

    I think some of the PPs are being a little harsh on the OP. I don’t know anything about the rules for funeral attire (as a male, it’s much simpler). However, after receiving an email like that I would cut off the friendship. Grieving or nor, there’s no reason why anyone should send out such a hurtful and holier than thou email. There is also no excuse for Madonna not to respond. She should have said sorry immediately after OP responded.

    • Goldie August 13, 2014, 8:38 am

      Yes, sadly, after the email AND her not responding, this friendship isn’t likely to recover. Even if both parties try to keep in touch like nothing happened, this incident will always be in the back of their minds. I’ve lost friends over lesser incidents – not in terms of cutting ties, but we’d just drift apart, because, after the incident, it would suddenly feel too awkward to be friends as before.

  • Allie August 12, 2014, 9:03 pm

    The hat was a little over the top, but hardly a capital offence, and arms should probably be covered for a funeral. That said, it’s not like you wore a miniskirt and bare midriff (both of which I have seen at funerals). You have apologized. I would leave it at that. I suspect your friend’s behavior is at least in part due to the stress and strain of losing her father. Grief makes people do funny things. Hopefully, it will all blow over and she may even apologize to you for overreacting. If not, there’s not much you can do about it other than what you have already done. I wouldn’t write any letters unless she asks you to. It could make matters worse. Forgive yourself and move on. You made a mistake. It happens.

  • NostalgicGal August 12, 2014, 9:06 pm

    Adding comment:

    If you are not of the faith, it is easy enough to find out if head covered or head bare or what is required. And if they frown on those not of that faith either NOT following OR following, what they do. At least it used to be that most women over the age of puberty owned a little round lacy headpiece that was in a neutral color and could be hairpinned on over the center top (it was NOT a skullcap but worn in a similar position) of the head to have a ‘covered head’. My paternal grandmother kept one in her ‘good purse’ for if she needed it and could add it in a moment.

    Also, some faiths, the women always wear skirts or dresses; make sure if you are a lady to not offend in this way. I have attended a few of these and wore long skirt as a sign of respect. If in doubt you can always ring an office of that faith and ask!

  • Michele August 12, 2014, 9:11 pm

    Call me old fashioned, but I agree with the Admin on this one. That dress and that hat are both inappropriate for a funeral.

    The LBD would be okay with a cardigan or light jacket over it. It might have been borderline acceptable for a summer funeral without the hat added. However, add the hat to the LBD and you have a fashion statement instead of an outfit appropriate for a funeral. Also, many churches do not approve of sleeveless attire for solemn church services like a funeral. Even if the funeral was in a church that had no issues with such attire, I find a LBD and a fashionable hat inappropriate for a funeral.

    The OP indicates she likes to wear hats to formal occasions these days. A funeral is not a social event like a cocktail party. It is not a time to be fashion forward or wearing something to grab attention. While I have not seen many family members wearing veils to funerals these days, I was always taught that a veil at a funeral was for close family members only. A mother or a wife is most likely to wear one. It is certainly not appropriate for a friend of the deceased’s daughter to wear one.

    Now, all that said. I would chalk Madonna’s reaction up to the grief and chaos of an unexpected death. She likely latched on to it and overreacted. The OP should apologize to her again and let things fall as they may.

  • David August 12, 2014, 9:43 pm

    This discussion has been interesting reading as I didn’t find the dress or the hat inappropriate at all. But I’m not very well – versed in funeral etiquette, veils, or women’s hats.

    If I saw that hat on someone at a funeral, if I thought about it at all, I would at the most assume the woman was from a faith that expected women to cover their heads inside of a church. I would have never thought it implied they were looking for attention, anything about the relationship they had with the deceased or that they were putting on a costume.

    I feel bad for the OP. She asked for professional advice because she wanted to be respectful and supportive for her friend and instead inadvertently created stress for a grieving family because of the way she dressed.

    Hopefully, Madonna will realize that OP didn’t mean to cause offense.

  • Rebecca August 12, 2014, 9:56 pm

    Whatever dress code faux pas may have been committed (and I personally thought the dress was perfectly fine, though the hat with the veil may have been a little too much for a non-family member) there was NO need for the dirty looks and nasty follow up email. You came to show your support, and that is all that matters.

  • crella August 12, 2014, 9:58 pm

    ‘I wore that’, ‘I see it all the time’, ‘It’s that way around here’, unfortunately doesn’t change the rules. Clothes speak…they generate atmosphere, and indicate mood, which is why there are different parameters for different occasions. This is why shorts and flip-flops at a funeral are jarring…you react to what the clothes are saying, and they don’t jibe with the atmosphere of the occasion. Taking care in dressing shows that you value the event you are attending and share the feelings of those you are with. Every culture has certain outfits for brides, widows etc. Wearing the ‘costume’ prescribed in a certain culture to an event when you do not qualify to wear it (wearing white to a wedding for instance) is seen (felt instinctively?) as declaring something like ‘So what?’, that the bride doesn’t deserve her special designatory outfit, or that the funeral is not that sad, if you wear pink (without being asked to). You can say that ‘It’s important that they came’ and yes, it is, but even though you are grateful, it’s still kind of dissonant when people show up to a funeral in full hiking regalia or a cocktail dress and stilettos. I was told by cousins at my father’s funeral ‘I can’t be bothered to change later’ . At my mother’s funeral a girl came with her bosom overflowing from a black strapless mini dress (pouffy, with ruffling and embellishment on a full skirt). It’s just strange. You wonder if you’re keeping them from something.

    Rules of etiquette are to *help* , not exclude, nor to stamp out one’s individuality. By having rules for dress, one can safely attend any occasion, knowing what to do. I feel sorry for the OP. We’ve all done something sometime like this, and can imagine how she feels.

    • Meegs August 13, 2014, 12:27 pm

      Then I think we disagree on what the rules actually are. IMO that dress was the pefect choice for a funeral. It looks modest to me, not too short or revealing. The OP DID take care in dressing and chose a dress that was, to many of us, perfectly appropriate.
      The hat is questionable, but I still don’t think the OP broke any actual rules.

    • Amber August 13, 2014, 1:40 pm

      Yes, but look at the actual dress that the OP sent as an example. That’s not a Faux Pas – level dress. That’s just a modest, strapless dress, something I think a lot of us agree would be tasteful at a funeral.

    • Anon August 15, 2014, 10:21 am

      Actually, “I’ve never seen it” and “Things aren’t like that around here” are great reasons to step back and pause before reacting to a perceived misstep. The rules of etiquette are not universal (not the same in every place) nor are they unchanging (they are not the same across time). This case is a perfect example of an item that has become almost anachronistic (the mourning veil) and highlights the absence of any agreement of the rules surrounding them. When more than 85% of people have never encountered an item or a situation (this could be a garment, an old-fashioned piece of cutlery, etc), it doesn’t really make sense to take grave offense to a perceived misuse of that thing.

  • Ann August 12, 2014, 10:12 pm

    The picture that comes to my mind is Jackie Kennedy (obviously Catholic) at JFK’s wedding, in that veil. The hat in the OP isn’t that dramatic, and with my rather mixed religious background, I’d probably not notice it, especially in my grief. Maybe what happened is that Madonna’s family gave her grief for OP’s mistake, and knew very well who she was after asking Madonna.

    When my father died, some of his former co-workers came in business suits with jacket and tie, and some female coworkers came in business casual in a muted, basic color. I don’t remember a lot of black except on me, and that was a black pantsuit. Many women had small hats without the veil. Like my wedding day, it went by in a blur and people’s clothes just swam before me without registering.

    OP, as for Madonna and the email, I’d just let her approach you at work. As one previous poster said, work may be her refuge from grief, so let her set the tone.

  • Noodle August 12, 2014, 11:13 pm

    I know that wasn’t a picture of the actual dress but that is not a cocktail dress at all. In fact, it reminds me very much of the dress my mother wore to my dad’s funeral. I have actually never seen a funeral veil in person but I am in my very early thirties and have not been to many funerals at all.

    It occurs to me now that I probably made fashion errors at my parents’ funerals. My dad died when I was 24 (almost 25) and I wore a strapless black dress with a wide red sash. It was not a religious service and it was outdoors in Oklahoma in the dead middle of June. No one said a word to me. My mother died just after I turned 27 and I wore a halter-style sundress (still black) that she had bought me and loved. My shoulders were exposed and there was a pastor present, but the service was at the funeral home itself. Again, no one said a word to me and I honestly can’t remember what the others at either of these funerals were wearing. My mind was too occupied, especially at my mother’s funeral, to be the fashion police.

    Honestly, what matters in the end was that the OP was there to support Madonna and her family. Madonna is the one being inappropriate and hopefully she will come back around once the “dust settles.”

    • ALM August 13, 2014, 6:00 pm

      In general, people don’t tend to criticize the immediate family’s style of dress to their face. The center circle of grieving set the tone. In this case, the OP was tone deaf, but might have fit in fine at your parent’s funeral.

    • Melanie August 14, 2014, 1:33 am

      If it’s your parent’s funeral, you get to wear whatever you darn well please.

  • Georgina August 13, 2014, 12:02 am

    Madonna is wrong.
    One, she has no right to police what a colleague wears, regardless of how inappropriate she felt the outfit was.
    Two, she should be grateful that her colleague turned up to the father’s funeral and that she also made the effort to dress well, regardless of her opinion of the result.
    Three, grief is no excuse for rudeness.

    And to those speculating (and running with) that the OP may have been mistaken for the man’s mistress – wow, just wow.

    • BellyJean August 13, 2014, 11:30 am

      Thank you, Georgina. I whole-heartedly agree.

  • White Lotus August 13, 2014, 12:42 am

    We Buddhists are pretty picky about appropriate dress for Temple ceremonies. OP’s dress would be a “slider” for us because of the exposed upper arms. It would be OK for a member in the US if it had even a cap sleeve, but as a guest she’d be fine even if it were sleeveless. No one would expect her to know our rules, and it is a proper dress, not a strappy sundress. Clearly, she made an effort and we would appreciate that. If it were truly sleeveless, and I were wearing it, I would carry and whip out one of the handy, very lightweight, shawl/scarves I own to cover my upper arms while in the Temple proper for the service, or, if at a service if another faith, I saw that all the women who were members of that faith were wearing sleeves. These can also be used as head coverings, if I saw one was desirable. But that is just me, dealing with our rules and the unknowns of other people’s.
    OP would have been asked to remove her hat in the ceremony room of our Temple because no hats of any kind are worn by anybody in the Temple itself. Outside the practice hall, she would get compliments on it.
    In faiths where hats are allowed, or even usual, I see absolutely nothing wrong with OP’s hat and I think it looks like a lovely and respectful outfit. I own few sleeveless dresses, due to our dress code, but I can see wearing this outfit myself. To a summer funeral.
    I was taught that a “mourning veil” was a large circle of light, thin black silk gauze with a weighted fabric band around the edges, placed over the head with a hat on top, or perhaps attached to the hat, to preserve the privacy of women who might be expected to cry, as in close family members. Those are not worn by others in attendance. Such a veil is waist to fingertip length. It isn’t a bit of net attached to a hat. That is, as a PP said, a “fashion” veil, not a mourning veil. OP, I think you were fine. Like I said, we’re picky, but since you clearly made an effort, even we would appreciate that and cut you a pass. Madonna is, I think, badly over-reacting.

  • Marozia August 13, 2014, 2:37 am

    So, you made a mistake! OK, now you know better. But…you did apologise to your friend.
    What does Madonna want now?

  • michelle August 13, 2014, 7:28 am

    Wow, OP. When I’ve seen what some people wear to funerals, and then read about the care and attention you put into what you would wear, I could weep at the note your friend sent you. The not wearing a sweater or jacket (and the wearing of the veil, I guess) are examples of little faux pas – hardly high crimes! I think it would have been nicer (if she had to say anything at all) if she had just politely mentioned it to you in person at your next lunch date, but holy cow! I think this was overkill, personally.

  • NicoleK August 13, 2014, 9:57 am

    You know, in the movies everyone wears black to the funeral, but I’ve never actually been to one where everyone was in black. Somber, yes, but not black. Just modest, non-flashy clothes.

  • Hollyhock August 13, 2014, 10:10 am

    Just to clarify on the veil thing. Yes, mourning veils are generally an option only for close relatives — the mother, widow, sister or adult daughter of the deceased.

    However, the OP wasn’t wearing a mourning veil, she was wearing a pillbox hat with a birdcage or nose veil. She was not in any way misappropriating a symbol of mourning. Mourning veils are lace or tulle, often edged with a band of black satin, and fall below the chin and often are quite a bit longer (think Jacqueline Kennedy.) In no way can the embellishment on a fashion hat be mistaken for a mourning veil.

    I believe she was adequately covered for a summer funeral unless in the dress depicted; I wore a sleeveless sheath dress — black splotched with coral flowers — to my aunt’s recent funeral at an outdoor pavillion in the cemetery and was one of the most conservatively dressed there, perhaps the only woman there in stockings and high heels. One of her closer relatives actually wore black capri pants and an overblouse. (men were in shirt, tie and dress pants so this was not a casual affair but women’s attire was not up to par with what most men chose to wear.) I can’t imagine chastising myself for being “too dressy” just because others choser to the deceased chose to wear sloppy outfits. (And no, they were not exhausted caregivers or otherwise too overcome to select a decent outfit. They were quite chipper, almost too much so.)

    A wider-brimmed daytime hat would’ve been more appropriate than a cocktail hat if the OP wanted to wear headgear but I don’t think she did anything offensive. Etiquette does not require us to dumb down our apparel to the lower common denominator and just because few women in that circle wear dressy attire doesn’t mean a visitor was wrong to do so. I find it sad that dressing in a smart or fashionable ensemble is seen as “attention seeking.”

  • Amber August 13, 2014, 1:35 pm

    I believe the clothes the OP chose were fine. The dress doesn’t resemble a cocktail dress, it looks like a typical semi-formal dress with cap sleeves. The hat is also fine. I’ve been to about a half dozen or so Catholic funerals (being from a large Catholic family myself), and veils aren’t really worn by anyone, even in the immediate family. (They’re all northern Midwest Catholics – can’t speak for the wearing of veils in other regions of the US or abroad). And modest sleeveless dresses abound at the funerals I attended, from both the young and the old. This dress isn’t strapless or spaghetti strapped, and I admit to being a bit confused by the email’s admonishment. The comment on the mourning veil also seemed a bit strange. To me it looks like a pillbox hat with veil accent, not a mourning veil.

    Frankly, I wonder if Madonna wasn’t lashing out because she needed an outlet for her sadness. And also frankly, I think I would not have responded to such a catty email.

  • The OP August 13, 2014, 2:07 pm

    I posted a reply earlier but it has not shown up so I don’t know if Admin is not going to post it, hasn’t had time, it’s too long or if it got stuck in some kind of filter. Rather than retype the response, I will try to condense.
    1. I wear hats because I have developed a medical condition and between that and the maintenance medication I require, my hair is noticeably thinning. On days when I cannot get it into a suitable style and do not want people staring at my “balding spot”, I wear a hat. The hat was not a fashion statement or experiment, nor was it to attract attention or grab the spotlight, it was try to cover my hair and keep people *from* staring at me.
    2. The tone of some statements implying that I am some kind of mistress, trying to take attention away from the grieving widow and family is insulting. My husband was at the funeral with me.
    3. The dress was *not* a “little black dress” suitable for cocktail parties or clubbing. The hem is 3 inches below my knee and the neckline is high enough that my collarbones do not show. I have worn it to work functions and another funeral so I mistakenly thought it would be OK for this funeral, especially since it was in the high 80’s at the graveside portion of the service It’s not like I came in weeping and wailing in a skintight red dress and flung myself over the casket. Madonna’s dress was actually shorter than mine but I guess since she was related to the deceased she can wear whatever and not be compared to a mistress.
    4. Madonna is an fourth generation Italian-American. I know that the Catholic religion is the predominant religion in Italy, but she had never mentioned that she is Catholic or anything about attending church or any other type event traditionally associated with Catholicism. I never knew what religion she was until the church service.
    5. Madonna’s husband came over to borrow the weed-trimmer on Saturday and he and my husband spend about 30 minutes talking and shared a beer. When I brought out the beer, he hugged me and acted like everything was ok.
    6. Madonna returned to work last week and has been “cool” towards me. I have spoken to her a few times, expressed my condolences again and let it be. If she wants to discard our friendship over a hat with netting and a sleeveless dress, then so be it. I have apologized, offered to apologize to her mother or whatever to make it better for her family, but she has not offered up a suggestion as to how I should go about it. It seems ridiculous for her family (with the exception of her husband, apparently) to hate me, talk ugly about me and think I am a harlot over a dress and hat.

    • SherlockSara August 13, 2014, 5:18 pm

      Thanks for clarifying, OP.

      My boyfriend’s mother passed away a few years ago, I wore a sleeveless dress that went 4 or 5 inches below the knee, and I can tell you right now he has absolutely no memory of what I or anyone else was wearing that day. Grieving people usually aren’t focused on attendee’s fashion.

      I can understand why some people might do a double take on the hat, but with your explanation and apologies, she really has nothing to hold a grudge about.

    • Ginger0630 August 13, 2014, 7:28 pm

      I’m Catholic and believe me, I’ve seen some very questionable fashion choices at Mass and at wakes/funerals: skin tight dresses, hooker heels, clothes that seek attention, short shorts, sweatpants, etc…I think your dress was perfectly fine. And now I know your intention of wearing the hat. And I agree – some of the comments about being a “mistress” were appalling. But now you know that to wear a hat to a funeral. Maybe a black headband that covers the bald spot?

      I think your “friend” is behaving ridiculously. I understand her father has passed away, but you apologized. Her husband borrowed your weed whacker. Like you said, if she wants to discard your friendship over what you wore to her father’s funeral, then she has other, deeper issues and may need to address them in a therapist’s office instead of attacking your for what you wore. She needs to get over herself, get off her self righteous high horse and realize that you are a good friend who supported her during a difficult time in her life. If not, perhaps her husband needs to buy his own gardening tools…

    • Miss Alex August 13, 2014, 7:56 pm

      Thank you for elaborating, OP.

    • Melanie August 14, 2014, 1:35 am

      You go, girl.

    • Amber August 14, 2014, 11:26 am

      Goodness, I didn’t go back in the comments enough to see anything about mistresses being associated with veiled hats. I didn’t know that mistresses came with a certain dresscode that involved hats with veils. What an odd assumption.

      Anyway, thanks for clarifying, OP. I still think you did nothing inappropriate, and Madonna was lashing out for reasons of her own.

    • Goldie August 14, 2014, 1:55 pm

      Thanks OP for clarifying! Wow, so Madonna should more or less know by now the reason why you are wearing hats in the first place. That she knew (or could’ve figured it out) and STILL gave you grief over your hat, makes her reaction even more appalling in my opinion. Hope she comes to her senses and realizes she’s had a good loyal friend in you!

    • cdubz August 15, 2014, 3:06 pm

      Thanks for the reply, OP. To me, the dress seemed perfectly appropriate, I’ve been to a few RC weddings and funerals and have seen much, much worse. I went to one funeral where a woman actually wore metallic leopard print tights!

      The hat probably would have been fine, too, if you put the netting up so that it didn’t cover your eyes.

    • Alli August 15, 2014, 6:30 pm

      Hi OP! I’m a trick sufferer myself, so I am sympathetic about hairloss. Certain haircuts really help cover bald spots, so you should try to see if you can find a hairdresser with experience in that.

      I do think you should realize that your friend may not have been the instigator of the comments. Some aunt or cousin may have said something, and left her feeling defensive and embarrassed, and she passed all of it on. It’s not great, but I’d urge patience with her given the circumstances.

      • Alli August 15, 2014, 6:31 pm

        *trich, not trick. Short for trichotillomania.

    • Mouse August 20, 2014, 3:34 pm

      You’ve said and done everything you can, OP. At this point, you have nothing to be embarrassed about. If Madonna chooses to fixate on funeral attire and not the sincere wish to provide support and comfort, that is NOT your problem.

      And honestly, it sounds like your dress was fine. What were you supposed to do, suffer a heatstroke at a graveside service?

      At this point, I wouldn’t sweat it anymore. If that’s Madonna’s attitude, she’s not worth your time.

  • Dani August 13, 2014, 4:43 pm

    I wonder if it wasn’t Madonna and her family that were thinking you were a mistress or estranged family member (due to the veil, I think the dress was fine). Maybe it was other guests. They don’t know who you are, ask the family, imply something improper. If more than one person did this, I can see how that would start to bother the family. Madonna may be less angry at you per se, and more angry at the people who hurt her mother’s feelings by implying you were someone you’re not, that her dead husband had a naughty secret. In her grief and feeling protective of her mother, instead of being angry at extended family or closer friends, she took it out on who she saw as the initial reason for the anger. Maybe she felt that you are the expendable relationship.

  • crella August 13, 2014, 6:32 pm

    “The tone of some statements implying that I am some kind of mistress, trying to take attention away from the grieving widow and family is insulting. My husband was at the funeral with me.”

    I don’t think that’s what they were saying….what they were saying is that people may have made assumptions (and who knows whether they did or not, the cause of Madonna’s mother’s objections to the dress and hat is not clear) as they did not know you. No one here thinks you were her father’s mistress. It sounds as if, although they are fourth generation, that her mother and possibly older relatives as well, keep the older customs of the Church.

    In my post about the evening dress, I was not assuming that your dress was like the one a young lady wore to my mother’s funeral, I was simply discussing a couple of things I’ve seen.

    • Abby August 14, 2014, 9:33 am

      Agreed. No one said OP was a potential mistress. They were speculating that perhaps *other guests* thought the young woman with the veil and hat was a mistress or illegitimate daughter, given her possible need to veil her face. No one actually accused OP of anything untoward. This was in reponse to what could be so “horribly embarrassing” for Madonna that her colleague wore a hat with a veil to Madonna’s father’s funeral.

  • Ginger0630 August 13, 2014, 7:19 pm

    The OP described the dress – black, sleeveless, and below the knee. I don’t see anything wrong with it at all. With low heels, minimal makeup and jewelry, I think it would look nice. But I DO have a problem with the hat. The OP states that she has taken to wearing hats as a fashion piece. A funeral is not a place to wear something you see as trendy. And a hat with a veil is definitely appropriate for the widow and very close female relatives, NOT someone who met the man once and works with his daughter.

    I don’t think the OP’s coworker should have written to her about her funeral fashion faux pas, but she is probably distraught over her father’s death. I think the OP should just email her back, apologizing her for outfit and leave it at that. If the coworkers chooses to be weird and not get over the OP’s fashion choice, then move on and find another friend who won’t make such a big deal over something very minor. I think the coworker should just be glad her friends and coworkers went to the wake and funeral. I think THAT should tell her that she has people who care for her and love her. To focus on fashion is ridiculous.

    • David August 13, 2014, 11:50 pm

      In her update, the OP states that she wears hats because of a medical condition.

  • Daphne August 13, 2014, 8:18 pm

    Perhaps to coax something positive out of this funeral faux pas, you could inform the shop that sold you the hat that it was not appropriate funeral attire, and that in fact, the family felt insulted by it. Maybe the shop needs to better train their employees, or at least let them know that lying to make a sale is not good for business in the long run.
    You can also look at it in a positive way as a learning experience of what to wear to funerals in the future, and to never completely trust someone who is trying to sell you something.

    Grief is sort of like alcohol for some people. It tends to exaggerate personalty traits, good AND bad.
    Sometimes people will use it as an opportunity to remove people from their lives that, for one reason or another, they don’t want to associate with anymore. Usually this behavior happens between relatives, siblings, or spouses, but it can also occur between friends. This might be the case with Madonna. So I guess my advice would be to give her a wide berth and for the near future assume that blowing up at you may be her immature way of instigating an end to the friendship.
    And please keep in mind that all you did “wrong” was wear something out of place to a funeral. It’s not like you committed a crime or something, Madonna WAY overreacted.

    —Also, reading through the comments all the advice you received about somber, inconspicuous funeral clothing is spot on. I would only add that regardless of what you wear, make sure it could not be misconstrued in any way as “sexy”. The same goes for hair and make-up. Keep it very understated.

    • Hollyhock August 14, 2014, 9:36 am

      Except that the hat was not inappropriate for funeral wear. Why spread disinformation just because Madonna overreacted at an emotional time. To accuse the shopkeeper of lying is doubly egregious considering she is correct.

      A pillbox with a small birdcage veil has probably been worn to hundreds of thousands if not millions of funeral over the past 80 years or so. Yes it is far less common today but that does not make it incorrect or inappropriate. That some people cannot process the concept of being fashionable and somber does not mean the rest of us have to reduce our attire to their level.

      Look at pix of Princess Diana’s funeral, for example — you will see many smartly-dressed women in hats, including the more correct wide-brim but also Sarah Ferguson wore a fascinator with decorative veil. Similar hats also were common at Margaret Thatcher’s recent funeral with many fascinators and veils in evidence. And in the US, while hats are less common, look at any recent funeral that received news coverage for plenty of sharply-dressed people.

      It is not necessary to dress blandly in order to show respect to the deceased and mourners.

      • AthenaC August 15, 2014, 1:55 pm

        “That some people cannot process the concept of being fashionable and somber does not mean the rest of us have to reduce our attire to their level.”

        Hear, hear!

        A habitually bland dresser who nevertheless does not resent sharply dressed people

      • Daphne August 17, 2014, 10:33 pm

        According to the family it was. And it doesn’t really matter what celebrities wear to funerals, this was not a celebrity funeral. The bottom line is the fancy hat was considered too showy by the family, and they were offended by it.
        And I’m sorry, but at a funeral the least you could do is try and “reduce” yourself clothing wise to the mourners’ level. It’s considered in extremely bad taste to dress ostentatiously at a funeral because it’s not a fashion show, it’s a solemn opportunity to show respect. Maybe if the OP goes to a celebrity funeral in London some day she will not be out of place wearing that particular hat, but it sounds as though in her particular social circle fashion statement and funerals really don’t mix.

        • AthenaC August 18, 2014, 12:50 pm

          “At a funeral the least you could do is try and ‘reduce’ yourself clothing wise to the mourners’ level.”

          How is one to know ahead of time? And how far should one go to “reduce” oneself clothing-wise? What if the immediate family decides to wear flip-flops, a bikini top, and a sarong?

          This is why it’s best to use one’s best understanding of appropriate attire rather than obsess over blending in.

          • Daphne August 18, 2014, 3:26 pm

            If you or someone in your party does not know the person whose funeral you are attending, or does not have ANY IDEA of who the bereaved might be or how they might comport themselves at a funeral then why are you going? Or are you trying to suggest that you have been to a funeral where the mourners were wearing bikinis and flip flops and you were the only person dressed appropriately in a LBD and netted pillbox hat?
            Because either way your argument is starting to sound a little ridiculous!

          • AthenaC August 18, 2014, 7:48 pm

            Unless you have specifically attended funerals with people, how would you know? Observing what someone wears in a casual setting gives you no clue at all as to what they would wear for a funeral.

            What’s truly ridiculous is:

            1) asserting that people should comply with unknown information, and:
            2) referring to the OP’s dress as a “LBD.”

          • Daphne August 18, 2014, 11:04 pm

            Personally I cannot imagine attending a funeral for someone for which I would have “no clue at all” as to what to wear. I have myself sadly hosted funerals and can say without a doubt I knew EVERYONE there. And they all knew the deceased, and as far as I can remember, not one of them wore a bikini.
            And the dress I referred to as an LBD was yours at your hypothetical “bikini” funeral, not the OP’s.

            If you read my reply to the OP I was pretty much on her side. And I don’t come on this site to interminably argue impossibly ridiculous situations. I come on this site to learn from others and maybe hopefully impart what I have learned over my long and sometimes admittedly etiquette challenged life.

  • Kate August 14, 2014, 7:12 am

    If my father had passed away, I doubt I would notice if a funeral guest turned up in the nude. I have heard of that custom with the veil, but I still think Madonna is making a mountain out of a molehill.

  • Kimbubbley August 14, 2014, 11:53 am

    My father died somewhat unexpectedly in April, approximately a year and a half after my best friend’s mother.

    I don’t recall WHY we had the conversation, but I remember her telling me that I simply would not notice what people were wearing and she was absolutely right.

    To be honest, my brother and sisters and Mom and I were working so hard at staying focused and being welcoming that at several points during the two days of wake, we had trouble IDENTIFYING people that we’d known all of our lives. Working so hard at remembering names and associations in the fog that we were in left absolutely NO brain space left to observe, evaluate and critique what ANYONE wore and we, evidently, had some humdinger fashion faux pas there. I know that only because, as each of us started getting out and about after his death, friends would ask, “Who was the guy wearing the cut-offs and flip flops with the Grateful Dead t-shirt?” and only after they were able to describe his face and who he was talking to most were any of us able to place who he was.

    There were 4 or 5 like that, including a young lady in a glittered black cocktail dress and platform heels that was actually a close friend of the family that traveled 1000 miles to be there for us. She got dressed in my sister’s house, had breakfast with us at my mother’s and was there afterward until the wee hours of the morning. Until my friends brought it up, I had absolutely NO recollection of her decolletage or the span of thigh that was evidently on display.

    5 months later, I also STILL don’t care about the Grateful Dead t-shirt, the flip flops, the mini dress…none of it.

    I think Madonna overreacted. I have some experience with the heavily Italian funeral traditions and they can be quite…cumbersome and judgmental, perhaps? Give her some space and see if she comes around. So far as I’m concerned, being an Italian Catholic whose father died unexpectedly, you did nothing wrong, OP.

    • Anonymous August 18, 2014, 1:22 pm

      Wait, someone wore a Grateful Dead T-shirt to a FUNERAL?!?!? I’m not a judgemental person, but didn’t they see the irony in that? I hate to say it, but a Grateful Dead T-shirt at a funeral seems somehow ruder than, say, a Beatles T-shirt.

  • SJ August 14, 2014, 1:02 pm

    I am of a faith where I always wear things that cover my shoulders.

    That said, I don’t see what is wrong with the OP’s dress, even from my highly-modest perspective.

    Sometimes sleeveless can come across as overly casual, but I don’t think this was a big deal.

    Also, I tend to wear navy, brown, or gray to funerals. Even wearing black is a little bit outdated at the funerals I’ve attended.

    The veil was just a mistake/misunderstanding. I wouldn’t have worn it, but I have no medical reason to need a hat.

    My cousin wore a fitted, mid-thigh, sleeveless dress with sheer black nylons and black Uggs to our grandfather’s memorial. I thought it was inappropriate, but no one said a thing. Including me. Until now.

  • Anonymouse August 14, 2014, 8:57 pm

    While I can’t necessarily condone it, I can understand Madonna’s reaction. When my uncle died unexpectedly last year, a group of relatives came from Arkansas for the funeral. They had come directly from a camping trip and were only in town for a couple days before the funeral. So they wore what they had brought with them. T-shirts, jeans, sandals. One was even wearing short shorts. I was furious.

    My husband pointed out all the above, and that negated it somewhat, but I still get mad thinking about it. In the end though, what does it really matter?

    Grief makes people focus on the strangest things, such as a fellow mourners funeral attire. Madonna is angry at the situation, and OP is a convenient way to deal with those feelings. It is unfortunate that it is affecting their relationship this way, but eventually she will realize she’s overreacting.

  • Emmy August 15, 2014, 4:57 am

    I haven’t been to any funerals where anyone has worn a veil. I have always associated it with times long gone…greiving widows and daughters in chignonss dabbing their eyes…that is why I would assume a veil would be for the widow. Looking at the enclosed pictures, an outfit like that seems like it is intended to call attention to the wearer. Style is not the important thing at a funeral or funeral event and you definitely wouldn’t want to look like the bereaved.

    • The OP August 15, 2014, 9:34 am

      Emmy- I wasn’t trying to be “stylish” or “looking for attention” at the funeral. I was taught to dress nicely for funerals and at the time, I thought it was appropriate. I can see now that the veil part of the hat was a mistake and should have worn something much simpler. I can assure you that in no way was I trying to take attention away from the family or imply that I was a member of the family. I was trying to prevent people staring and saying “do you see that woman with the bald spot?”

      Honestly, I still see nothing wrong with the dress. It was not a “little black dress”. It fell below the knee and although it had a square neckline, very similar to the one in picture, it was not low-cut at all. Now that I know that arms need to be covered in a Catholic church, if I choose to wear that dress again, I will pair it with a cardigan or sweater.

      I can accept the fact that I made a mistake with the clothing, the part that really bothered me was the downright venomous and nasty tone of the letter. Even if the family was commenting on my appearance, would it have been so hard for Madonna to say “That’s my friend. Yes, her clothing choice may have been inappropriate because she is not familiar with our religion and customs, but she is trying to show support for me and our family”.

      • The OP August 15, 2014, 9:45 am

        Just to clarify- I don’t think Madonna should have been focused on me, but I don’t see letting a family bash someone who is supposed to be your friend just over clothing choices/mistakes.

        • Abby August 15, 2014, 3:06 pm

          Yes I agree. While I wouldn’t have chosen the hat and would have worn a light sweater or jacket with the dress, Madonna’s email to you was way over the top, and the fact that she continues to act coolly towards you after you’ve apologized is just downright rude.

  • Kendra August 15, 2014, 2:22 pm

    Wow, lots of differing opinions, now here’s mine. From what I can find in a fairly short search on the internet, your hat was particularly appropriate for a “solemn religious ritual”. In fact, according to several sites, the hat you showed was expressly designed for “female non-family members of the deceased” to wear to a funeral. Apparently, the same hats designated for church, weddings and other formal occasions were in colors not black. What the honorable admin and other commenters seem to be confused about is the difference between a “mourning veil” that a widow or female family member might wear and a “birdcage veil” that is appropriate for all the rest of the women to wear. Also please remember that on this site “attention-seeking” is “anything that I might perceive as taking attention away from me.” Your attire was fine, but that isn’t really your question. Your friend seems to feel you have made a mistake and you want to know how to make it right. Unfortunately, I believe you did everything you could to apologize. Trying to do any more would only make you seem pushy. The admin was right in this small way, the ball is in Madonna’s court and you just have to wait and see what happens and take your cues from her.

    • NostalgicGal August 16, 2014, 4:11 am

      I think because of the confusion about the netting on the hat; perhaps it would be best if you are not close female kin of the deceased, choose a hat that doesn’t have netting, then there won’t be any confusion on anyone else’s part.

      I too have ‘thin top’ like the OP mentioned later, and can sunburn quite easily; a lobster pink cranium is not a fun thing to have. I wear a hat most times, just because also. But. Inside a building I can indeed take off headgear; if I must stand at graveside a black sun hat if I am attending or one of those black round headcover things are perfectly acceptable. The robes I wear for officiating are black and the headpiece just seems to look like part of the ensemble; nobody has ever said anything.

  • Enna August 16, 2014, 2:41 pm

    If there is a dress code then it should be made public knowledge to the mourners. The OP did not mean to offend, it wasn’t like she was wearing a full morning veil and her dress was not a mini dress. Madonna is clearly upset at losing her father. The OP was a bit naïve but she didn’t mean to offend – to me this is an honest mistake. However the outfit wasn’t outrageous.

  • Mary August 17, 2014, 10:50 am

    I’m from the South, Catholic family and also Italian.

    Appropriate attire is very regional but what is pictured would be appropriate in the churches I have attended. In my parents younger days a woman did not enter the church without a head covering. That hat seems quite appropriate to me.

    The dress doesn’t qualify as a “little black dress” in my opinion. It’s definitely not saucy like a good LBD should be!

    I attended a funeral yesterday at a Lutheran church – similar to Catholic and saw all manner of dress, including sandals, shorts, bare sleeves and jeans. All common lately no matter where I attend. Perhaps the OP was over-dressed according to the times an thus stood out. Is it possible the OP looked nicer and more respectful than Madonna?

    Even were there some gross error committed (and from the range of comments there is no unanimous agreement on that), the email was completely out of line and unkind.

    I would chalk this up to your friend’s grief. OP, i think you have been exceptionally gracious and there is no need to do anything further.

  • AIP August 18, 2014, 10:45 am

    The dress looks fine to me. We buried my dad on Friday and wouldn’t have been the least bit put out if any of my friends turned up wearing that. They had jeans on, but I didn’t mind in the least as – unlike some who spent more time in my house than I did- they showed up and they did have a very long drive. I was at another funeral on Saturday and a close family member was wearing a grey summer dress with broadish straps, and if it was warmer she would’ve probably gone without the cardi. Again, nobody batted an eyelid. This is the west of Ireland and we tend to be a more practical and informal breed which could explain it.

    The hat might’ve given me pause, as although I appreciate a nice hat, it isn’t usual where we’re from and it is a little showy. It’s lovely, don’t get me wrong, but I’d wear it to the races or a wedding. When I was reading the original submission I did go “oh no” when I saw the mention of a veil. Although it’s not a mourning veil per se, the birdcage is covering the eyes slightly which does imply a closer familial relationship than was intended.

    But it all depends on the religion and locality – even though we’re all “Catholic countries”, there are far different customs surrounding death in Ireland, Italy, Spain and Malta for example. Even what was commonplace only a few decades ago (covering up all windows, having “keeners”, or professional cryers at wakes and the graveside) would be unheard of today.

    You appear to have offered up not just an apology but actual contrition and I think your friend is being unduly harsh. As someone else said before, better to be there and wear the wrong thing than to not turn up at all.

  • Joanna August 21, 2014, 8:37 am

    Honestly? In today’s world I have been to events where people wore all manners of inappropriate clothing…i.e. a wake where a man showed up literally looking as though he’d just stopped mowing his lawn, remembered the wake and jumped into his car. Yes, he was wearing a tatty grass-stained white t-shirt and a pair of equally questionable shorts, which IMO are in NO way appropriate for that kind of event.

    However, that being said, I think Madonna was way out of line to comment on it. That makes her just as rude as she figured the friend was being. IMO the important thing is to see the intention behind the action at such times…yes, maybe someone is a bit clueless to your thinking, but they cared enough to come and support you during your difficult time. That is what really matters, not the superficial stuff.

  • OSUJillyBean August 25, 2014, 12:45 pm

    Personally I see no problem with the dress whatsoever. Typical funeral wear in my neck of the woods often include your “good jeans”. I’ve seen attention-loving teenaged girls wearing cutoff denim shorts to show some leg (which I personally find crass but of course no one says anything). The veil/hat thing is weird fashion-wise but to me not an etiquette blunder.

    I think the OP is just fine in her choice of attire. She came to support her grieving friend dressed reasonably appropriately (if she’d had warning beforehand that there would be a strict dress code, then maybe she’d be out of line). Sorry for the fashion police, OP!

  • Joy September 21, 2014, 11:09 am

    Bottom line…the OP thought enough of her friend and her family to attend the wake and funeral…that is a show of her kindness and compassion. When my girl died, a very close friend had to come straight from work and really had to book-it to make it to the funeral on time. She asked me before if I would prefer she be a few minutes late and took time to change from her uniform or just came, in uniform. I thought that was kind of her to ask. I told her that my girl loved her dearly and if she showed up in a potato sack, that would have been okay with us.

    Please don’t forget to look at the HEART of people and their intentions, etiquette aside.