11/06/2014 12:08 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Funeral Dress


There is a somber topic that sales people know too well. When a client comes in distraught and frustrated because they have to make a purchase that has no buyer's joy and often very little thought... the need to buy an outfit for a funeral. As a sales person, this becomes a shared tragedy because although there is a bridal section, prom dress season, a bat mitzvah alcove or even a designated area for holiday parties; there is no section for grief. A clothing purchase is supposed to produce a high that once the garment bag is opened at home there is a glass of wine, maybe a favorite song playing while accessories are tried out or even a bit of a catwalk for lovers. This is not the case when an outfit becomes a uniform for loss. I had a discussion with a friend a year or so ago that this is a topic of conversation and was quickly dismissed that no one wants to talk shopping and death. I am not afraid to address the obvious and at the risk of seeming crass; there are a few things learned over the years that can make an unbearable situation easier so that the superficial world of fashion can be bypassed and the stress of dressing is dismissed in the hopes of focusing on the better spent energies of love and support.

First of all, the loved one that passed is not going to judge your presence at their memorial based upon whether you bought your look on sale. I am asking right now that anyone attending my memorial to wear the cheapest outfit possible and take the saved funds to do something positive for themselves...consider this my final gift. So when you are aimlessly shopping around a sale and thinking of all the things you hope to buy that will add excitement to your life, keep a side glance going for something that would be appropriate when a tragedy occurs. Depending on your social presentation at the time; you may need a few looks.

Memorials are extremely political because they are mixing family, business, religion and fashion. There will always be someone who decides to go the sexy route and that might have to be you but still be respectful and elegant. What comes to mind is Jami Gertz or Susanna Hoffs in that Bangles/Less Than Zero smashup. Ok, you have lost 75 pounds and your ex husband will be there showing off the new wife with bonus points if you do not know the deceased that well or they were mean to you. Just be careful and wear a lightweight trench that you may have to keep on if when you arrive a wave of guilt falls over you. Keep that trench on and let the heat and discomfort remind you that you lost focus on what you are really there for and that is to remember this person.

Now if there is money involved and you might be a recipient of some blessing this person has bestowed upon you then immediately cover up. Think ample draping or at least lace if it is hot and try to be comfortable because you were obviously an important influence at some point and your choices should be respected. At this time you can be an eccentric, mournful gypsy ala Stevie Nicks and get away with it. You might be able to go without undergarments for better comfort while you sob your heart out. If you are young, people will consider you artistic, tattooed, an Olsen sister or if you are older then it says "I am here to mourn and my statement is a non statement."

This could be a bitter situation though and that calls for some serious tailoring. Maybe the person that no longer speaks put you through some serious trials and tribulations. Your best accessory for this moment is a pair of sunglasses. Others do not need to see you roll your eyes or squint in disbelief as the deceased is hailed by people who were able to enjoy a brighter side to this soul. No need to be bitter though; keep those sunglasses on and channel your inner Catherine Deneuve from the Hunger while humming Bauhaus. Stay cool and talk little...your wardrobe says stay away from you. Practice fake hugs and air kisses because this will be a long day.

Overall this should be a celebration of a person living and dying with contributions you may not understand so harboring stress from your apparel is not needed. Keep it in the back of your mind or your closet that these circumstances are not within your control but a little preparation goes a long way. Next time you purge your wardrobe or pass a sale rack; take a minute and think the unthinkable: What is my funeral dress?

Special Thanks to Mark Chamberlain for the illustration with the only instructions: I want Edward Gorey in drag.