Selecting Burial Clothes: Five Expert Tips for Dressing the Departed

burial clothes

If you are responsible for planning a loved one’s funeral, you may be tasked with selecting their viewing and burial clothes.

In some cases, the departed may have already chosen these garments. If the death was unexpected, you may have little guidance in making these selections.

In this article, we have compiled five helpful tips for selecting burial clothes for a departed loved one.


Give thought to apparel choices.

If your loved one didn’t specify a particular outfit, you will need to make your decision based on a number of factors, such as their:

  • Age
  • Personality
  • Body condition, such as weight or scars
  • Religious or cultural requirements

A general rule of thumb is to pick something that the departed might have worn to a funeral.  While most burial clothing is on the semi-formal side, recent funeral trends have become more relaxed. People are opting for more personalization, such as sports jerseys, work or military uniforms, and even wedding gowns. There is no hard and fast rule for burial clothing as long as you feel that reflects the preferences of the departed and is respectful to their memory.


Provide a complete ensemble.

It can be easy to overlook important burial clothing elements amid grief. Here is a list of items you may want to include, as appropriate:

  • Long-sleeved shirt, blouse, or dress 
  • Pants or skirt
  • Undergarments (e.g. underwear, undershirt, bra, stockings or socks, slips)
  • Preferred cosmetics such as lipstick or nail polish
  • A photo as a reference for hair and makeup
  • Hair dye, wig, hat, or hairpiece
  • Scarf or tie
  • Glasses, if worn
  • Jewelry or watch
  • Other items to be placed in the casket 


Be practical with your selections.

Mortuary professionals offer these suggestions:

  • Choose loose-fitting items: The body, particularly if it is not embalmed, can be quite rigid and skin sloughing may occur upon contact. In addition, the abdominal region may be swollen if an autopsy was performed.
  • Prolonged illness can change the shape of a body: Consider if the departed will still be able to fit in the items in their wardrobe. If extensive weight loss has occurred, you may want to purchase a new ensemble.
  • Opt for long-sleeved tops: Embalming fluid can cause the skin on the arms to appear blotchy.
  • Forego the shoes: They usually cannot be seen as only the top half of the casket is open for the viewing. In addition, it can be very hard to get shoes on, as the body is quite rigid by the time of dressing.
  • Consider complementary colors: You may wish to coordinate the garments with the color of the casket and floral arrangements.


Personal effects are usually permitted with the body.

It is generally acceptable to place beloved mementos or keepsakes inside the casket, such as a photograph or Bible. Your loved one may have specified personal items they wished to be buried with, such as their wedding band. While these requests can usually be accommodated, some restrictions may apply if the body is being cremated. Your funeral director will advise you of any potential issues.


When in doubt, use your best judgment.

You might not find any information about what your loved one wanted to wear at their viewing or have any religious guidelines to follow. In these situations, let your instincts and common sense be your guide. If they never wore a suit or dress, don’t feel compelled to choose this attire for their viewing and burial. Instead, select an outfit that best represents who they were in life.


For more comprehensive resources on selecting burial clothes or planning a loved one’s funeral, we are here to help. Please contact our compassionate professionals anytime.


About Evan W. Smith Funeral Services: Since 2009, residents of Wilmington, Dover, and the surrounding Delaware community have relied on the caring staff at Evan W. Smith Funeral Services to help them through their darkest hours. Family-owned and operated, the company offers an array of elite funeral care services, including traditional funerals, cremations, memorials, pre-planning, grief counseling, and more. With decades of experience in caring for families from all cultural backgrounds and diverse walks of life, Evan W. Smith Funeral Services is committed to creating memorable, uplifting experiences that always exceed expectations. For more information, please visit

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