Tom T. Hall, from “Ballad of Forty Dollars,” 1968:
Well, that must be the widow in the car
And would you take a look at that
That sure is a pretty dress
You know some women do look good in black
The gravedigger was just thinking out loud, of course, and anyway, it’s probably a safe bet the widow wasn’t trying to attract attention to herself. Forty years and odd later, that’s probably still true of the widow, but maybe not so much for the rest of the funeral party:
I was then struck by the dress of the young female mourners. And I really don’t mean this in a “tsk, tsk” kind of way, but they were not dressed well. Most of the girls looked like they were on their way to a prom or Spring formal. Some knew enough to wear black, but the outfits they wore were sleeveless and halfway up the thigh, while their heels were strappy and “sexy.” There were some who actually sported ensembles that were backless. This was in stark contrast to the men at the funeral who were mostly in their military dress.
Naturally, these girls meant no offense, but they simply have not been taught how to dress for such an occasion. It is as if the only look they’ve been taught is “sexy, sexy, sexy.” It’s sad, really. It’s one thing for a girl to know how to dress to attract a suitor or “turn on” her husband, but you know things just aren’t right when certain people don’t know how or when to turn it off.
So I betook myself to a search engine, keyed “what do I wear to a funeral,” and found this:
If you want to be traditional, go with a black suit, either skirt or pants. Otherwise, the following options are recommended. If it is summer, choose a black cocktail dress that is plain and not too short or low-cut. For winter, wear a black skirt and black sweater or a long-sleeved black dress (again, not too short). Make sure to wear close-toed shoes! If you want to mix it up a little, get a hat, such as a wide brimmed black hat. Don’t wear a trucker hat or other casual hat! If you are unsure in this department, look at some pictures of Queen Elizabeth II, or any other female member of the English Royal Family at a funeral. They have the basic idea.
Guys, needless to say, have fewer choices to make, but when is that not the case?
I’m inclined to be a little more forgiving, since presumably the young ladies in question were friends of the widow, who is described elsewhere in the piece as “painfully young,” and it’s likely few of them have ever had a reason to dress themselves for a funeral before. Perhaps some were not in a position to buy something new. The thing to remember, and this applies to all of us of whatever age, is that we are not the center of attention and we are to comport ourselves accordingly.
I might think otherwise if they’re burying me, but at that point, what I think isn’t likely to make a whole lot of difference.