Of Funeral Etiquette

This installment of Gothic Charm School deals with a question that, at first glance, shouldn’t be a problem for those in the gothic subculture; our fashion sprang forth from dust, shrouds, and mossy graveyard soil. And yet ”¦

Do you have any advice for goths on what to wear to a funeral? I’ve never been to one, and even though most of my wardrobe is black, I don’t really know what’s ”too much” (no massive skulls and bats, nothing cut too low, but beyond that), or even how to do my make up for it. Considering how much of my style and interest in art is based around Victorian mourning clothes and the abstract concept of Death I have no idea what I’m doing.

You see, Snarklings? There’s the instantaneous thought of “This is easy! Most goths have a closet overflowing with black, why is this even a question?”, and then a pause and the almost-instantaneous thought of “Wait, no. This is much trickier than it seems”.

The thing that must be kept in mind about a funeral is that while they’re about the deceased, they’re not for the deceased. Funerals are for the living, an occasion for people to remember and celebrate the life of the departed, and to support each other in a time of grief. Which means that when dressing for a funeral, goths (well, everyone) should dress as respectfully as they can possibly manage. This is the time to find the plainest and most subdued of your wardrobe; you don’t have to go buy a new outfit that will disguise your true self, but don’t forget that you’re not attending because the event is focused on you. As a matter of fact, how anyone looks should be the last thing people are thinking about, because the focus should be on everyone looking out for each other.

Allow the Lady of the Manners to break from her usual writing style for a moment: when my mom passed away, I wore the simplest outfit I owned that still looked like it came from my closets. My mom loved my sense of style, but I had no way of knowing if everyone attending the memorial would know that, so I wanted to be as respectful of others as possible. And to be honest, I didn’t have the emotional energy to dress up in an elaborate outfit, even though I knew it would have delighted my mom.

Plain and minimal should also be the plan for any makeup, and smudge- or waterproof are also a good plan. However, again speaking from personal experience, if you think you’re going to cry (NEVER be ashamed to cry), then forgoing makeup all together is a better plan. It may seem a frivolous comment, but the Lady of the Manners never did find an eyeliner or mascara that held up to grief. Again, if people are judging you for not wearing makeup to a funeral, they’re focusing on the wrong things.

Mind you, a memorial for someone from the goth community that was organized by others from the same community? There’s a bit more room for personal expression at those sorts of memorials. The ones the Lady of the Manners has attended had a subtly implied dress code of “Wear an outfit that you know the deceased would have loved”. (The Lady of the Manners’ outfit included a wide-brimmed hat with veils; other people were sporting 1950s little black dresses, suits and ties, and -memorably- someone in formal white tie and tails.)

Other kind things you can do* when you’re going to be attending a funeral or memorial:

  • Bring tissues. Go to the store and buy several of those “pocket size” packets of tissues. It doesn’t matter if everyone else had the same idea, because it’s better to have too many packets than run out.
  • If there are small children attending (and you’re someone who does well with small children), help with them. If they’re getting fidgety or overwrought, volunteer to take them into the hallway outside of the room and keep an eye on them while they run around. Even if their parents aren’t some of the strongly grief-stricken, they’ll appreciate the help, because funerals and memorials are taxing for everyone.
  • If you see someone who looks overwhelmed, quietly ask them if they need a breather, if they need a glass of water, if they need anything you can help them with.

In short, be as kind as possible to everyone there.

* If you are one of the people directly impacted by the loss (a family member, a significant other, and so on), don’t worry about any of these things. This is not the time for you to worry about looking after others’ emotional needs, this is the time for you to take care of yourself and get through the event step by step.

* * *

The Lady of the Manners wishes no one had to go through these sorts of events. Yes, death is a part of life, and celebrating the people who touched our lives is vitally important. But the freight of grief that can come with those things is staggering. May you all have people who will help support you when you need it.

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4 Responses to Of Funeral Etiquette

  1. Mimi Rupp says:

    When my mother passed away, I wore a blue dress I had bought specially. My mother did not care for black and I wanted to respect her memory. My sister gave me a wonderful waterproof mascara, and that’s all I wore. I knew my emotions would be all over the place. When my grandmother died, I lowkeyed it with the black and wore red lipstick (with waterproof mascara) and that’s it. Funerals are horrible for me, I am an empath, and feel not only my grief but anyone else within range. Thank you for addressing this, Aunt Jilly, even for us dark-minded, it can be difficult to discuss

  2. Jess says:

    Pro tip: If you are someone who didn’t like or didn’t really know the deceased don’t speak at the funeral. My sibling’s speech at my grandma’s funeral was jarring & unfortunately memorable.
    Also I have cried for hours in E.L.F waterproof mascara so that could be an option. I am one of those people who wear makeup like armor & I found it very comforting to have mascara on.

  3. Spiffy Pumpkin says:

    When my Grandma died I wore a rose printed velvet outfit that I knew she loved to see me in. The whole family already knows I’m spooky and doesn’t mind but Grandma loved to see me in colors (basically everyone there wore outfits she had liked).

  4. Cat says:

    I have a specific ‘funeral’ dress: a simple black shift with a round neckline and ties at the back that adjust the fit at the waist. This has served me well; it means I don’t have to agonise over what to wear at what can be an overwhelming time. I wear it with simple silver jewellery (often a plain ankh) and take a small black bag for necessities.

    I strongly second the idea of taking small packs of tissues with you. This is something that can easily be overlooked, especially by those most affected by the death. I have been the only person with tissues at more than one funeral, and it has really helped me to feel that I have done something helpful for them, however small.

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