What to wear to a summer funeral

Ask Allie: What to Wear to a Summer Funeral

Fashion Advice

I know it's a somber topic, but I live in a hot climate and I have a relative who is ill and in hospice. I realized today that I have no idea what is okay for a funeral in a VERY hot climate.

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The most important thing to factor when dressing for a funeral, is dressing out of respect. First, consider the religion of the service, then dress in a way that shows you understand the formality of the situation and that you know you are not the subject of attention. A good rule of thumb is that if you wouldn’t wear it to church or to an office where it’s Business Attire (not Business Casual), it’s not appropriate for a funeral.

Can I wear sleeveless to a funeral?

These days, a sleeveless dress and bare legs is appropriate at most American funerals, especially when it’s a very hot climate. Consider a lightweight cardigan if there’s a service inside the house of worship and a hat to protect yourself from the sun at the grave site. If your shoulders are bared, your neckline should be very modest, the fit not too tight, and the hemline at the knee.

In your email, you mentioned a maxi dress and while it wouldn’t be inappropriate to wear a long skirt, many maxi dress styles these days are lightweight jersey and have low necklines. If you have one that is of a dressier fabric (cotton sateen, crepe jersey, linen, silk blend) and doesn’t show off your décolleté, it can work. Again, if you wouldn’t wear it to church or to work, I’d consider something else.

Can I wear pants to a funeral?

Pants are acceptable for less religious funerals, and can be far more comfortable in the heat. Linen trousers (not drawstring slouchy pants) with a silk or crepe shell is perfectly acceptable.

As for color, black is not necessary these days; as long as the color doesn’t scream “look at me!” it’s acceptable. Muted colors like navy, olive, plum, mauve, gray, taupe, and brown are acceptable. If you wear a print, it should be very subtle (watercolor prints, tone on tone). Again consider the religion before choosing the color; some only wear black, some wear white, and some encourage bright jewel tones.

As for fabric, as long as it’s not too casual (denim) or too formal (satin), it’s okay in such heat. Linen and cotton is acceptable if it’s in more formal of cuts and ironed before wearing.

Accessories set the tone for your outfit; keep the sparkly necklaces and statement shoes at home. A simple pair of leather shoes in a neutral, a delicate chain necklace or a strand of pearls, a leather bag free of adornments that complements the color of your outfit. If there is a grave site service, choose a wedge or flat shoe so your heels don’t sink into the grass. Though you may be seeing many people from your past, it’s not a high school reunion and not a time to show off your sartorial skills.

Finally, what you wear is not as important as your attendance. Few will even notice what you’re wearing; as long as you don’t dress to receive attention you will be just fine. My heart goes out to you and your family during this difficult time.


  • eds_77845 June 26, 2014

    You said it well… dress to not draw attention to yourself and to show respect. Some food for thought…


  • Karen June 26, 2014

    Great advice, Allie. 🙂 On a more general point, I think some negative commenters would do well to remember that people reading advice on the internet and asking questions of bloggers may be from all walks of life and different experience levels. Just because an answer seems obvious to you doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be said for the less experienced. How else are they supposed to learn? Not everyone was blessed with good guidance growing up.

  • Karina June 25, 2014

    Your response is spot on and I’m always impressed by the maturity and grace with which you answer questions and present yourself.

  • Ginger June 25, 2014

    One thing that set me off at my Dad’s funeral was the minister, a woman in her 30s, in flip-flops. She had on a black robe and I imagine she thought since she had that on that her feet didn’t matter.
    It mattered to me ;(

    I think shoes you’d wear to work, providing you don’t wear flip-flops at work, would be more respectful

    • Allie at Wardrobe Oxygen June 25, 2014

      Oh wow, what an awful decision by that minister! That would have set me off, I bet @peacebang would have a FIELD DAY with that! http://beautytipsforministers.com/

      • crtfly June 26, 2014

        A fashion/beauty blog for ministers? I never thought of it but why not? These folks are on public view a lot. And their particular job requires a certain amount of of sartorial formality and restraint.


  • Jaime June 25, 2014

    I went to a funeral several years ago where the wife of the deceased wore a gray skirt suit with a bright purple shell because purple was her husband’s favorite color. I thought it was so touching. So, if you know your relative had a favorite color or item of clothing that she liked on you, I’d put my vote in for that (climate and formality willing). 🙂

  • Sonia June 25, 2014

    Just as another post mentioned, it’s always about choices, while being tasteful with style and class. Thanks, Allie, as always for your tips and advice.

  • Lisa June 25, 2014

    As always- beautifully written.
    I love that you give many choices for what to wear.
    Your awesome Allie!

  • Simpleware June 25, 2014

    Seriously? A LBD. How hard is that?

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