Back in Black

June 11, 2015


Wearing black to a funeral

A few months after a cheerful parade celebrating her 100th birthday, complete with a ride in a convertible Corvette, my Great Aunt passed away, and I was thrown into a tizzy trying to find a dress to wear to the funeral. Or should I say, a “proper” dress to wear to the funeral.

I searched my closet for my go-to summer black dress, but remembered it had become a bit too . . .  let’s go with “worn” as opposed to, “snug.”

Wearing black to a funeral
Just because it’s black, doesn’t make it funeral-ready.

My long sleeved wool dress, was the only suitable black dress I had, and a July funeral in Jay, Florida is no place for such an oppressive garment. I own other black frocks, but they are more “night on the town” than “hole in the ground” types of outfits.

Nothing is worse than someone being a little too “hoochie — coochie” – looking at a funeral. I know these days, people accept  all sorts of colors when we gather to marry them or bury them, but for a funeral, I just feel a strong pull to the tradition of sad, sorrowful black. I also like it when it rains at a funeral because it’s like the whole world is shooting out tears.What to wear to a funeral

People who say they want everyone to wear colorful clothing to their “Celebration of Life” are getting birthdays and funerals confused. It’s the same as if  they had a piñata at the service so people would have fun, but then filled it with bees so there wasn’t too much fun.  “Be happy! Wear red! Then cry your head off ‘cause I’m not here anymore!”

What to wear to a funeral, Leslie Anne Tarabella
Elizabeth Taylor loved wearing white to weddings!

The only other set-in-stone color rule in society is for weddings where the only one wearing white should be the person holding the largest bouquet of flowers and being presented the gift of jewelry.

Wear black to a funeral. Leslie Anne Tarabella
No, no, no!

White is for the bride alone, although a few grooms in the 1970’s thought they’d give the all-white tuxedo a try. (Not such a good idea after all, was it, Mr. Polka-Dot Underwear?).Much to my horror, an old girlfriend of my husband’s showed up at our wedding wearing white, and managed to jump into several photos. I swear on a stack of Bibles I had nothing to do with it, but the poor girl was never seen or heard from again, bless her heart.

Back to my Great-Aunt’s summertime funeral, I finally settled on a lightweight tan dress with coordinating tan heels, minimal jewelry and no perfume – because you never want to clash with all the flowers. I was suitably subdued, respectfully bland, but still not in proper black.

Wear black to a funeral, Leslie Anne Tarabella
YES!!! This is it!!!

My husband’s college roommate, John, was raised in the south by a mother from Boston who was extremely proper. After John’s date with a promising young lady, we asked him how it went. He gloomily shook his head and said, “I knew she wasn’t for me when she answered the door wearing all black before sundown.” At 20 years old, I had never heard that rule, but was deeply impressed there were still social and fashion rules I didn’t know. From that point on, John’s mother was my hero, and years later, she attended my wedding and endeared herself to me even more for casting an evil eye at the chick wearing white.

Wearing Black to a funeral, Leslie Anne Tarabella
Absolutely, YES!!!

If any of you aren’t feeling well, I’d appreciate it if you could just hang on a little longer while I find a decent black dress. I promise it will be worth the wait. And if heaven forbid, it’s my turn to be planted in the ground, by all means, wear whatever you’d like. But those in black get preferred seating. And pearls will earn you a souvenir funeral fan.



This article first appeared in the Gulf Coast Newspapers.


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