Thursday, August 26, 2010

Ask a Gentleman I

As I've mentioned a few times since I made over my blog, I've officially offered my advice to anyone who has questions regarding etiquette and manners (Ask a Gentleman) and costumes, sewing, and theater (Ask a Costumer). After looking through my first few responses, I chose the following e-mail from a close friend:

Dear Nostalgically Yours,

My boyfriend's godmother died yesterday (it's okay, she's had terminal cancer for 10 years and just started to fade this year so they knew it was coming) and the funeral is on Friday. I'm not 100% that I'm attending, [her boyfriend] says he doesn't want me to have to go to a funeral while I'm here [...] but anyway, I don't know what to wear! Since I'm here in Europe visiting, I'm very limited on what I have, so I need your opinion.. I was thinking black dress with black leggings, and then I have a grey lace blazer and my green suede heels. They are the only heels I brought so I don't know if they work, but I don't know if flats or my grey suede boots are appropriate? It's pretty traditional here as far as funerals, and [her boyfriend] is wearing a suit, tie, and dress shoes.
I've only been to two funerals and my grandma didn't want any of us wearing black to our grandpa's funeral, and at my friend Alexis' funeral, no one wanted to wear black because it was already sad enough, so I really don't have a lot of experience.. I also have a black high wasted skirt I could wear again with leggings because I don't think showing legs would be appropriate, [...] with a black sweater so I'm not showing my shoulders, and the green heels. That's another option I was thinking about. [...]
His sister is coming here with his dad to get his dad something to wear so I'll ask her what she thinks ([...] she will be able to tell me if i need to be in all black or not). It will most likely me slightly chilly so the blazer would be fine. [...] I'm thinking I will most likely go with the boots but like I said, I will get another opinion from his sister.

Thanks a bunch,
Hopelessly Under-packed

Dear Hopelessly Underpacked:

Whereas even fifty years ago the etiquette for events such as funerals and weddings were clearly marked by your culture and country, today it is extremely difficult to tell exactly what to wear to these sorts of things to avoid offending anyone. This is especially true about funerals - anything involving the death of a loved one is bound to make family members high-strung already, so the last thing we as guests of the funeral party want to do is make a spectacle of ourselves. Luckily there are still some general guidelines one can follow when having to go it alone, or when wardrobe is limited, such as it is in your case.
Your first instinct in terms of modesty are correct. It is inappropriate to show too much skin at a funeral, so if you must resort to wearing something shorter than knee-length, you should at least cover your legs. Shoulders and hair are generally acceptable in most situations, especially during the summer months, but it is important to double-check with the family and/or the location of the religious service to ensure there are no modesty requirements. Though I'm not worried about this with you, "H.U.", I will remind anyone else reading that cleavage is never acceptable at a funeral. Strapless dresses are also generally frowned upon.
Color is an issue that can vary widely. Though this doesn't apply to you, some Eastern cultures wear white to memorial services and funerals. As you mention in your e-mail, color can vary greatly depending on the deceased and his or her family. Though it's generally best to stick to black, grey and white, if a family member gives the okay for other colors, by all means go ahead. For your specific situation, "H.U.", I would nix the green suede pumps in favor of your flats or boots in neutral colors. More conservative crowds will find colorful accessories or bold prints to be disrespectful.
Since we know each other, I have trust in your taste. My only pieces of advice are to keep it covered, keep it simple, and keep in touch with the family.

My condolences,
Nostalgically Yours

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