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Death and Fashion: What Should Your Final Outfit Be?

This is how your family and friends will remember you forever. Dress accordingly.

New York has always taken fashion very seriously and twice a year the city is pleasantly hijacked by the fashion industry. Tents go up around Manhattan, designers showcase their brilliant (often outlandish) creations, and thousands watch to see not only the fashion forecast but also who gets the coveted front row seats.

Having grown up in NYC, most of my family and friends are in this industry and everyone thought I would follow in their footsteps. Since I'm often referred to as the “Funeral Guru” it’s clear I opted for a slightly different field. Although I no longer feel the need to get dolled up and shuffle from one venue to another, I still love the parties!

At one of these soirees, my contrasting career became a topic of conversation. Not surprisingly, the discussion quickly became focused on: What would your FINAL outfit be? My friends came up with some very creative ideas and wishes, but unfortunately, I had to point out there were a few things they should keep in mind before settling on their last looks.

Religious Considerations

First, if you’re religious, you need to consider the appropriate ritual dress. For example, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Baha’i people traditionally are buried in shrouds. These are plain white natural fabrics (either linen or cotton depending on the religion) that are hand-sewn together (no zippers or other fasteners are used.) The thought behind this uniformly inexpensive burial garb is that at the end of life, all are equal in the eyes of God. The lack of pockets is meant to remind the living that you cannot take your possessions with you.

If you’re not bound by religious rituals, there are still a few guidelines to keep in mind. Traditionally, people were buried in their best outfits, such a suit for a man and a dress for a woman. If you opt to go this route, keep in mind that the outfit of choice should be freshly laundered, arms should be covered, and don’t forget to include all pieces of the outfits. By this, I mean that socks or stockings and undergarments are a must, and you might consider including a handkerchief, scarf, belt, glasses, and even jewelry.

Personal Style

There might be possessions of yours that your loved ones will want to cherish. Although you might think no outfit is complete without your trademark watch, ring, or tie, that item might serve as a valued keepsake or heirloom to someone else. Also, if you're tasked with choosing the clothes for a recently departed loved one, our How To Choose Clothing For The Deceased article is a helpful resource.

I’ve always supported straying from the norm and choosing an outfit that is special to you. For example, if you want to support your favorite team for eternity, choose a team jersey. Proud of the time you served your country? Select your military uniform. Maybe, you just want to dress appropriately for the “long slumber” by wearing your favorite pajamas. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something that is you, because unlike the trendy ensembles on display at fashion week, this is also how your family and friends might remember you forever.

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