“Clothes mean nothing until someone lives in them,” designer Marc Jacobs once said. Burial clothes mean a lot, as this will be the final time mourners see the body of a loved one or dear friend. Families ask us how to dress a deceased loved one for a funeral; the answer depends on the individual.
Traditionally we’ve seen men (or boys) in suits and women in dresses, but there are no rules on how the deceased is dressed. What’s becoming more common is dressing the deceased in clothing and accessories that display what type of person they were – or what they really enjoyed.
We have hosted gatherings and funerals where the deceased is wearing (or sometimes not wearing) a variety of attire, such as:
- Favorite pajamas
- A wedding dress
- A tuxedo
- A disco outfit
- And nearly naked
What is appropriate for the deceased to wear?
Some guys wouldn’t be caught dead in a three-piece suit – pun intended. There are families who don’t think a suit and tie is best for Dad or Grandpa. That’s not how they want to best remember him or the outfit they want to send him off in. That’s fine. He can wear something else.
What’s more common these days is a favorite sports jersey or a military uniform for a veteran or a scouting uniform for a troop leader.
A suit and tie or fancy dress is not needed if that doesn’t fit the personality of the deceased. Just as each service we host for families and loved ones is personalized to the deceased, the clothing is an important part of that.
If Dad was a dedicated fisherman, rubber waders and his hat adorned with favorite lures and flies is just right.
Things to consider:
What’s comfortable for your family? Think about what’s going to help attendees grieve and remember the deceased fondly. If Grandma was rarely seen without her baking apron – or without her motorcycle helmet on – consider making those part of the display in or near the casket.
What is acceptable? If you and your father had an inside joke between just the two of you involving a clown wig, that might be the most acceptable accessory for him to wear in the casket. But consider the feelings of those who are attending the farewell services. They won’t get the joke and might find it harder to say goodbye that way.
What fits? I don’t mean physically what sizes of clothing are best, but what fits the deceased’s personality. We’ve seen many examples and they all differ. It can be a dignified woman who always wore a smart suit, perfectly coiffed hair, but she was also a die-hard Patriots fan. In that case, consider a classy Patriots-themed blanket to adorn the lower half of the casket.
Adding personality to the casket
Pretty much anything you can think of has been part of a funeral service. Family members often dress up the inside, top and surrounding area of the casket and visitation room with all sorts of things based upon the person’s hobbies. We’ve seen Harley-Davidsons in the building and classic cars lined up in the parking lot.
If there’s some disagreement on what Mom should wear as her burial clothes – one says yes to the fox fur coat; the other says no way – try and come to a compromise that won’t spill into an argument when guests arrive. Perhaps the fox would be happier back in the bureau.
Remember, no one dictates what is right or wrong when adding some of the deceased’s personality to the service. Go with your gut and you’ll rarely go wrong.