What to Wear to a Funeral That Isn’t Black

For centuries, black has been the go-to for working out what to wear to a funeral. These days, it may not actually be the case. Dig down with us into the history of funerals and different colours of mourning to find out what you should be wearing when attending a wake.

Quick tips:

  • Avoid standing out.
  • If in doubt, stick to respectable darker clothing.
  • Wearing the deceased’s favourite colour has become a popular option.
  • Remember to wear comfortable clothing based on the place of the wake.

It may seem completely normal to reach for a black dress or suit when choosing what to wear to a funeral. For many cultures and families, wearing black may be abnormal or against their wishes.

Before you pick what to wear for a funeral, run your eyes over these tips and insights for what to wear to a funeral in Australia in 2019. We’ve researched what is considered appropriate funeral attire in different cultures, as well as some of the newer trends.

Should you wear black to a funeral or colour
Image source: Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

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What to Wear to a Funeral That Isn’t Black

Why is black considered a traditional colour of mourning?

Many people attribute the traditional wearing of black funeral attire to Queen Victoria. However, according to todayifoundout.com, the Ancient Romans have the first records of wearing dark wool togas during times of mourning or protest. Black and white crepe garb also became popular during the Middle Ages for the higher tiers of society, with those in lesser tiers sourcing plainer dark materials for a similar style.

It wasn’t until the Victorian era that people began to wear their mourning clothes for specific amounts of time. The deceased’s parents and children would observe two years of wearing plain or black clothing, while a widow would have one year of full mourning, followed by one year of half mourning.

When should you not wear black to a funeral?

In 2019, wearing black to a funeral has become a less frequented option. It’s quite common these days for people to dress in their loved one’s favourite colour to celebrate a life, or even for families to request all mourners to join them in doing so. For some people, black may not even be the colour of mourning and doing so could be disrespectful.

Starting in our own country, Indigenous Australian widows were known to wear white mourning caps, also known as ‘kopis’, made from plaster. They would wear the cap for a period of time (normally a few weeks or months), before placing it on their husband’s grave (australianmuseum.net.au).

Wearing white has also been noted in various artwork from the 14th and 15th centuries (artofmourning.com), and is the traditional colour of mourning for Buddhist families. On the other hand, red is considered the colour of mourning in Africa, while purple is that for those in Brazil and Thailand (Shutterstock).  

If you’re concerned about what to wear to a funeral, you may wish to speak to a close friend of the family, as the family themselves will be preoccupied.

What to Wear to a Funeral: The Don’ts

Avoid wearing anything to a funeral you’ll be uncomfortable in.

You do not want to be fidgeting, wrestling with hem or necklines or having aching feet at a funeral—so dress comfortably. It’s also best to dress for the weather and the environment you’ll be in. For example, you wouldn’t wear any type of heel to a beach wake and you wouldn’t want to wear full length sleeves and pants mid-summer in Australia.

Minimise how much skin you show at any type of funeral.

Cameron Dale, Costumer Design for Pretty Little Liars explains this well in her video with Glamour.

If you’re really stuck with what to wear to a funeral, speak to the organising funeral director.

Or, you may have got some ideas for your own funeral (if you’re so inclined to plan that far in advance) and want to talk about creating a full plan for your family when the time comes. Find all the funeral directors in your area on Localsearch!

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      Feature image source: Luke Braswell on Unsplash

      Sarah Russo

      UX Content Writer

      Sarah Russo is a UX Content Writer at Localsearch with a decade of experience in traditional and digital marketing. She has written for and assisted in the social media and marketing strategies for many different industries, including real estate, medical, health and fitness, trades and beauty. When she isn’t nose deep in data, SEO research or her content strategy, Sarah is a gym junkie, foodie and gamer with a brain full of random facts that come in handy far more often than you would think. As a digital marketing all-rounder and lifestyle specialist, her articles provide insight into marketing, advertising and branding for small businesses on the Localsearch Business Blog, as well as some handy lifestyle tips on the Localsearch Blog.