Home Aging in Style What to Wear to a Wake in 2023

What to Wear to a Wake in 2023

by Leona Small

Wake and funeral outfit ideas for women that will elicit feelings of confidence while still being comfortable.

An example of appropriate choices for what to wear to a wake. A photo taken behind an aging male and female in a side embrace, standing outside in nature with their heads pressed together, the male in a gray suit and the female in a brownish gray coat.

A wake, and/or a funeral, is generally accepted as a somber affair. Still, there is wide variability depending on the deceased person’s family, cultural background, ethnicity, and religious or spiritual preferences. It’s a challenging and emotional time to navigate for a variety of reasons, and deciding what to wear can oftentimes cause some unwelcome anxiety. In the guide below, we’ll discuss what to wear to a wake, sharing options suited for a wide range of events, body types, and style preferences.

How to Navigate a ‘Casual’ Wake / Funeral / Celebration of Life

Casual gatherings after the passing of a loved one are becoming more common, especially with the rise in popularity of the ‘Celebration of Life’ event. A casual wake or funeral is less formal than its traditional counterpart, and the dress expectation is more relaxed. While it may feel abnormal to wear casual clothes to such a significant event, it will also be uncomfortable to stand out as the person who didn’t get the dress code memo.

In many situations, the family will indicate that the affair is casual, either verbally or in the event announcements. If the family does not explicitly state that the event is casual, it may be safe to infer it will be a more casual affair based on the location or type of services to be provided. In this case, dress as though you were going to dinner at a fine restaurant.

Or, simply ask the family about the expected attire. Even if the affair is at a casual location such as beachside or in a garden, it’s not always a good idea to leave your attire up to chance. Check in with an in-the-know person to get an idea of what is appropriate. It is better to ask than to guess and get it wrong.

And, if you’ve unfortunately found yourself responsible for planning a wake or funeral for a loved one, make sure to check out the ideas in our previously written post on the topic, linked here.

A dozen or more black clothing garments on black hangers hanging on a single white rod with a stark white backdrop.

What’s The Deal With All The Black?

What to wear to a wake that is traditional or more formal? Black is a safe color if you are going to a traditional wake or funeral. It is also a color that is recognized as showing respect when worn. The tradition dates back to the Romans when mourners would wear a dark Toga to indicate they were in mourning. The custom spread across Europe and eventually came to North America with the early American settlers.

Queen Victoria wore black from the death of her husband, Prince Albert, until her own death. When she died, she had been wearing black for about half of her life. This set the standard for black attire to show respect for the death of a loved one.

A casual event will have some leeway, but don’t get too carried away. While black is a safe color, it is still possible to look out of place at a casual wake or funeral. This isn’t typically a time to experiment with fun wardrobe choices, but instead a time to stick with the classics, many of which you’ll find in our list of options for casual funeral outfits below.

A Dozen or So Wake and/or Funeral Outfit Options for Women

As we explore possible wake and/or funeral outfit options for women, remember that it is ok to maintain your personal style while still showing respect. Having some flair and personality is possible while keeping your appearance within the generally accepted limits of funeral attire. Jewelry, scarves, handbags, shoes, and other accessories are typically a safe way to express oneself, so your overall attire can remain muted and understated. Here are some acceptable styles and specific outfits for a woman attending a casual wake or funeral:

1. Panstuits

Beaded Pant Suit Set in Navy

3 Piece Pant Suit in Black

2. Dresses for Summer

¾ Sleeve A Line Midi Dress

Sale
HOTOUCH Women's Half Sleeve Casual A-line High Waist Trapeze Dress (Black M)
  • 【Features】: A line, Round neck ,casual style,3/4 sleeve, loose fit ,swing hem and pleated t-shirt flowy dress, simple and classy design; we love loose long dresses because they make us look more aristocratic and elegant.
  • 【Material】:95% Rayon, 5% spandex;A good amount of stretch,breathable,skin-touch, soft and comfortable material,makes you feeling well.

Short Sleeved, Chiffon A Line Dress

HAOKEKE Women Summer Dress Short Sleeves Chiffon Dress Retro Pleated Shirt Dress Wear Ideal for Party Work Casual Church Time Meeting Cocktail etc Solid Black Dress XXL
  • OCCASION: Summer dress ideal for casual, party, wedding, cocktail, evening, baby shower, going out, celebrity, church and other special occasions. Also a beautiful dress for photoshot.
  • MATERIAL: Chiffon dress with high end soft breathable comfortable chiffon material.

3. Dresses for Winter

Long Sleeved, Ankle Length Modest Black Dress

PINUPART Women's Elegant Long Sleeve Satin Party Evening Maxi Dress Medium Black
  • 100% Satin Polyester
  • Wrap Waist Belt;Non-stretch;Bishop sleeve;Wrap hem

Long Sleeved, Cocktail Length, Tie Waist Dress

YAOGRO Women's 2023 Casual Ruched Satin Long Sleeve Elegant High Tie Waist Cocktail Party Ruffle Dresses with Belt Black
  • COMFY FABRIC: This 2023 fashion satin long sleeve dress is made of skin friendly, soft and smooth high-quality fabric. This fabric is light and breathable, suitable for all seasons. The satin pleated wrap maxi dress will bring you a smooth and delicate silky touching experience, comfortable to wear and create an elegant atmosphere.
  • DESIGN: This gorgeous party satin ruched wrap A-line dress features ruched crewneck design and keyhole button closure at the back for easy to put on and take off. The long lantern sleeve,elegant high round neck, pleated, elastic waist, belt accessories are the perfect fashion details to make this cocktail satin dress stand out.The solid color design is simple and classic. The loose cut makes this pleated tunic dress suitable for most people, and pregnant women can also fit perfectly!

4. Skirt with a Jacket

All in One Skirt and Jacket Option

Black Pleated Mid Length Skirt

Kate Kasin High Waist Pleated Midi Skirt Casual Summer Skirt Black Size M KK659-3
  • The midi skirt with lining layer features pleated design, and stretchy waistline for a comfortable fit.
  • Simple fashion solid-colored design, will never out of date. The skirt is suitable for spring, summer and autumn,easy to match all kinds of tops.

Black Dolman Short Sleeve Top

Verdusa Women's Casual Tie Back Dolman Sleeve Mock Neck Blouse Top Black S
  • Soft fabric has no stretch
  • Stand Collar, Half Batwing Sleeve, Knot Back, Loose Fit

Black Formal Blazer

Sale
Tommy Hilfiger Women's Blazer – Business Jacket with Flattering Fit and Single-Button Closure, Black, 8
  • Quality comfort: These blazers for women crafted with our soft fabric blend are made to emphasize style and comfort; interior is fully lined in black multi-lining
  • Classic design: Tailored seams flatter your figure and add a bit of flair to your outfits; features single button front closure and 3 buttons on each sleeve

5. Slacks With a Shirt

Wide Leg Linen Pants

Sale
Amazon Essentials Women's Linen Blend Drawstring Wide Leg Pant (Available in Plus Size), Black, Large
  • RELAXED FIT: Relaxed, comfortable fit through hip and thigh. Mid rise, sits below the natural waist.
  • COTTON LINEN BLEND: Smooth and lightweight cotton linen blend features a beautiful drape and offers perfect breathability for those warm summer months.

Slim, Straight-Leg Black Slacks

Sale
Rafaella Women's Supreme Stretch Pant, Black, 8
  • Front seam
  • SLEEK STYLE: Dress to impress with the sleek, pull-on design and comfortable elastic waistband of these ladies’ dress pants. They feature 2 front pockets, 2 back pockets and a hidden zipper on the bottom of each pant leg for a custom fit.

Black Quarter Sleeve Button-Down Top

Diosun Womens Button Down V Neck Shirts Long Sleeve Office Casual Business Plain Blouses Tops (Medium, Black)
  • Features: Sexy v-neckline, button up, cuffed sleeve, long sleeve. Classic shirt collar, basic plain women's shirts
  • Comfortable Wear: Lightweight, relaxed, durable and breathable, womens casual fashionable button shirt is great to daily or office wearto work business party in spring summer and autumn

6. An ‘always Safe’ Black Dress Option (In Both Regular and Plus Sizes)

Regular

Sale
Calvin Klein Women's Tulip Sleeved Above The Knee Sheath Dress, True Black, 12
  • Live in style: This sheath dress features a fitted knee-length style and exposed zipper closure in the back; tulip sleeves add detail and balance to your look
  • Exude confidence: Tailored details set this dress apart from the standard cocktail dress; front fitted seams highlight the body’s natural curve for a modest, professional, yet flattering silhouette

Plus Sizes

Accessories & Additional Considerations:

Shoes

Elegant Heeled Option

Eldof Round Cap Toe Pumps,Classy 2 Inches Block Heel Chic Pumps, Slip on Comfortable Chunky Heel for Office Wedding Dress Black-Beige US 8
  • 【Heel Height】Heel measures approximately 2 inches. Women's block heels provide you a comfortable and gentle fit, offering every step stable and elegant.
  • 【Classic Design】Their contemporary two tone cap toe and slip on design are the perfect block pumps for you.

Black, Ballet Flat Option

Amazon Essentials Women's Belice Ballet Flat, Black Faux Leather, 11
  • COMFORT AND FIT: These ballet flats have a padded insole with high-quality memory foam for added comfort and a heel pillow to relieve pressure and heel slip. The elasticated topline ensures a perfect fit. Available in regular and wide-widths. If you're between sizes, round up.
  • MATERIAL: Amazon Essentials shoes are made from high-quality alternative leather materials. This style has a super soft faux calfskin upper and is lined in faux suede with a leather heel lining.

Pashmina Scarf

Sale
RIIQIICHY Scarfs for Women Winter Black Pashmina Shawls and Wraps for Evening Dresses Warm Large Scarves Wedding Shawl
  • Materia:RIIQIICHY Women Scarf is made of high quality material, soft and cozy, and good hand feel like cashmere scarf.This Pashmina scarf is perfect for a chilly outdoor night in winter.
  • Suitable size: length 77" (71"+3" fringes each side), width 26". Weight:9.1ounces. The oversized scarf can be wore as a scarf, shawl or wrap for women.

Bra

We may be a bit biased, but we’ve rounded up the 7 best bras for older women for you already, and will link to our overall favorite for light to medium support here for you!

Sale
True & Co Body Lift Scoop Bra with Soft Form Band, XS (30DD,30DDD), Bronzed
  • Wide scooped neckline with straight back
  • Keeps shape and retains stretch, even if you wear it everyday

Hat

Sale
Lanzom Sun Hats for Women Wide Brim Straw Hat Summer Beach Hat Foldable Packable Cap for Travel Outdoor (Style F-Black)
  • Material:Made of paper straw material.
  • Size :One size fit for 22 1/2 inches (7 1/8 Hat size), fits most ladies women girls.

Handbag

Sale
SCARLETON Leather Tote Bag for Women, Womens Purses and Handbags, Reversible Tote Bags for Women, Purses for Women, H18422501, Camel/Black
  • [Material] - High quality faux leather that is processed for a look and touch like a real leather tote bag; Eco-friendly, no animal cruelty issues; Anti scratch surface and water resistant; Sturdy structure; Stitching is strong and resilient; Dirt resistant, easy to clean, and doesn't get easily worn out
  • [Dimensions] - Bag: 18.1" x 3.4” x 11.3"; Pouch: 8.3" x 6.4"; Weight: 2 lb; Handles drop: 9.5"; Spacious interior; Perfect size tote bag that can fit an iPad (10.2"), Macbook Pro (13"), water bottle, legal size folder, phone, notebook, wallet, makeup set, book, mask, woman accessories etc.; Well made fashion tote bag for women that looks great with any outfit
A group of people are gathered around a black coffin, standing solemnly in the grass. The majority of them are wearing dark clothing, with some dressed in suits and others wearing more casual attire.

What You Should NOT Wear to a Wake

Since some wakes are casual affairs, it is vital to assess the type of wake you are attending to ensure you are dressing appropriately. You’ll typically find wakes to be less formal in comparison to funerals, and you are able to dress accordingly. 

If you are leaving work to attend a wake, your professional clothing will likely pass just fine. Otherwise, avoid all of the items listed below for not wearing to a funeral.

What You Should NOT Wear to a Funeral

If you are doubting what to wear to a funeral, the first step is to accept that your personal clothing preferences are unimportant. A funeral is not about you. A funeral is about showing respect, care, and empathy for those grieving the loss of a loved one. What you wear communicates your sympathy and respect for the deceased and their family.  So, it is best to leave your personality at the door and avoid wearing the following to a funeral:

  • Bright colors like pink, red, all-white, and orange. Stick to neutral colors.
  • Jeans of any kind
  • Hawaiian shirts unless it is a nontraditional Hawaiian funeral.
  • Revealing clothing such as short skirts, low-cut blouses, very tight pants, or sheer fabrics.
  • Athletic clothing
  • Flip flops or house slippers 
  • Bright, flashy ties
  • Excessive jewelry
  • Wrinkled or stained clothing

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. What is the difference between a wake and a funeral?

    A wake and a funeral are both related to the process of honoring and remembering someone who has passed away, but they serve different purposes and have distinct characteristics. A wake is usually a gathering held before the funeral, allowing mourners to pay their respects to the deceased and offer condolences to the family. A funeral is typically a formal ceremony or service that commemorates and honors the life of the deceased, providing an opportunity for people to say goodbye and express their grief and condolences to the family.

  2. What do you wear to a wake vs funeral?

    The attire for a wake or a funeral typically follows a similar dress code, which is generally more formal and conservative to show respect for the deceased and their family. However, there can be slight variations based on cultural or religious customs, as mentioned earlier. For a wake, you can wear conservative and subdued clothing such as dark-colored pants or a skirt paired with a blouse or a collared shirt. For a funeral, these same items will work, or you could step it up a notch with a dress or pant suit.

  3. What should men wear to a funeral and/or wake?

    A great option for men is a dark-colored suit with a collared shirt and tie. A black suit is traditional but other dark colors, such as navy or charcoal gray, are also acceptable. If you’re looking for more ideas, check out our post on the topic here.

  4. What is appropriate to wear to a wake in the summer?

    The key to dressing appropriately for this type of event in the summer is to choose clothing that is respectful, modest, and comfortable given the temperature. To do this, try to look for options with lightweight and breathable fabrics. Short-sleeved shirts or blouses are acceptable as long as they are modest and respectful. Alternatively, choose shirts with three-quarter length sleeves, which offer a bit more coverage while still being suitable for warmer temperatures.

A woman holding a red flower

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, the key to dressing for a wake or a funeral is to dress respectfully and conservatively, acknowledging the solemn nature of the event. Remember it is always better to err on the side of being too formal rather than too casual. Hopefully, this guide will allow you to confidently show up and support your loved ones rather than worry about what you’re wearing or how you look. But, at the end of the day, your presence is all that matters!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Leona Small is a freelance writer and former caregiver. She has experience working with people who have Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias, and has worked in hospice.

Her passions include writing about healthy aging, finding resources to help older adults and caregivers, and traveling.

She has written for various publications, including fiction stories and the Wall Street Journal. Now, she is a freelancer who enjoys writing about a variety of interesting topics.


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