Saturday, January 10, 2009

Today's funerals: The Father of a Friend and Decorum

The Father of good friend died earlier this week. I have just arrived home from his moving and thoughtful memorial service. It was exceedingly well-done by the three generations preceding him. He was a man well-loved by our North Salem and I was glad to see such a gesture and turn-out.

I never met the gentlemen, but I know his children and grandchildren, finer people I may never meet. I can imagine no better testament nor more telling a sign of the decent person he was than the quality of his family: Extraordinary. I truly believe that I do not need to see every corner of your home to know what kind of man you are, and I am certain that when the measure of this one is taken, he will not be found lacking in any way.

For him, for the kind of man I understood him to be, for the kind of friend his son and his girlfriend, my dear friend Jennifer, are, I rose early this morning. I prepared good black clothing, a long coat, and carefully did my hair and makeup. I made sure the doctor's appointment of this morning would not cause me to be late to the service or even cut close. I was in my seat ten minutes before the appointed hour because these people, the lives they led and have lead, and their loss, is important to me. I want always to be respectful and careful. I was pleased to see any number of people who felt the same.

Then there were the others: Jeans, old sneakers, things that looked for all the world like pajamas, all made multiple appearances in the packed house. There is no excuse for appearing this way at a funeral: Change in the car if you have to but make your last visit to the man's side one for which you made a demonstrative effort to respect the life he lived. The quality of his days was not a sweat-pant affair and indeed no life is one truly. Besides being a person worthy of your trip over to the church today, they are also creations of a mighty and perfect force (whichever one you subscribe to) which also deserves respect when its finest work goes on home.

Please. Wear black or very dark colors to funerals, still. I know girls down south who wisely have a funeral suit or dress and shoes for every season. Ever ready, those organized types.

And by the same token, even at night, black is still inappropriate at weddings (Be advised: Many cultures see this as a reverent mourning color and Grandmother does not care at all that you come from a big city where they do that all the time.), doesn't matter that it is white tie, in the dead of a winter night somewhere in Saskatchewan, it is not appropriate. Period. The Save-the-Date card seems to show up earlier with each passing wedding, does it not? Why, you have a year's notice, in some cases, to find a dress of the correct length which is not black or have one made.

Just get it done. There are no excuses: Begin scouring thrift shops now for some great $10 vintage items if you want to save a bit. Here is one I found this past week at the ladies club where my Mother gives her time, good for an evening wedding: A dark gold on gold, probably from the 50's, and memorably fabulous with a short sleeve pleated hem cape-like jacket over a matching sheath dress.

Both pieces were $50. Killer beautiful.

For a funeral, don't be too much of a fashion plate, this is not about you. If you never dress understated: Learn. Fast. You don't need to look like a frump but you do need to exercise restraint. By the same token, if you ordinarily present yourself as "casual" (which could, dangerously, be all in your mind when you actually remind those who you know of Mrs. Van Astor's pet goat. Best to ask your Mother for the cold truth.), you will need to make an effort: Get rid of that bed head, get your hair blown out by a professional and maybe get over to the mall and let the cosmetic people make up your face. No excuses.

For a funeral, the below will do in any season. Wear a shaped jacket or sweater over either for colder weather under a long coat:

Tory Burch, The Duncan Dress

Theory, The Betty Tailor Dress

Gentlemen and masters of any age going to weddings and funerals alike: Kindly put on a suit which fits, with a tie over a pressed shirt, no matter what your buddy is doing. Be sure your hair and nails are tidy, and polish your dress shoes.

Sweat pant-wearers: Bow your heads and ask our dearly passed on and newly married for forgiveness.


Jessica said...

I couldn't agree more. I can't stand to see people who dress like they are still in frat-boy mode when attending a funeral or wedding. This goes for both men and women. Please, please, please, if at no other time in your life, show respect to the deceased and or the bride/groom by dressing appropriately!! Borrow from someone else if you have to.

An Aesthete's Lament said...

I know this won't sound correct, but honestly, there is no reason NOT to be chic at a funeral. Dressing impeccably at such a moment speaks well of the departed and acknowledges the gravity of the occasion. Grand women from grand old families always have a full funeral ensemble at the ready, just in case; there is no reason everybody shouldn't. And if one is a woman, don't forget the hat with an appropriate veil, just a soupcon of black net will do. It just looks correct.

Blushing hostess said...

Chic, yes, okay, agreed. Grandstanding, no. This is a fine and critical line. I have not seen a veil at a funeral in... since I was a child, probably. Or on older ladies going to funerals in the North End of Boston. They are beautiful when not moth-eaten. In a culture which seems not to appriciate them, it would be lovely to see women dairing enough to return them to regularity in certain circles, anyway.

Blushing hostess said...

Daring, that is...

~Tessa~Scoffs said...

Last year I had the unfortunate opportunity of having to dress for my beloved beau-pere's funeral and then once again this year for his best friend who was buried with full military honors at Ft. Rosecrans. On both occasions I wore a black suit with a dark purple scalloped-neck blouse. Madame D'Ariaux recommends wearing absolutely no jewelry to funerals but I felt I couldn't go totaly without and wore a few understated onyx pieces to both funerals.
I enjoy your posts on manners and although I have worn black to a few weddings (I live in So. Cal.) I concur whole-heartedly with your opinions on cheese.

Blushing hostess said...

I was/ am (?)stumped for a moment, Tessa. I lived in France and took French for many years and was still somehow unfamiliar with the term beau-pere. I almost had to appeal to Aesthete for help... If this is indeed correct, I am sorry for the loss of your Father and friend, and for his dear Friend.

I was only six weeks past the birth of our first child when my Dad passed away very young the same week as my Brother's wedding. I found it a challenge to sep away for a moment to find something to wear, and frankly, I had no interest in being out - everything was quite destroyed for me then and I just wanted to be with my little girl... but I found several dresses which carried me through the proceedings though I never wore them again. It is with a certain agony that I see them still. I will save them for my daughter, they will not carry the stigma for her they do for me.

Be well, The Hostess

~Tessa~Scoffs said...

Hostess: thank you for your lovely comment. The term Beau-Pere actually refers to one's father-in-law. (MIL would be Belle-Mere and Brother in law would be Beau-Frere, etc.) Because my in-laws are Quebecois I adopted the french terms when I married. And I think they kind of sound better.
I have come to understand that these familiar terms are a bit outdated on the continent.

teaorwine said...

I too agree. A funeral ensemble of sorts should be maintained and ready for wear, should a need occur. Heavy, glittery jewelry in large quantities should be avoided at all costs. A nice string of pearls will suffice.

northsidefour said...

Oh thank you, what I consider to be common sense, and courtesy, is lost on an entire generation of people. Although I once saw a woman, easily in her sixties, in a short short sundress and flip flops at the funeral of one of her contemporaries. Dress up, clean up, go forth and show your respect. Thank you!

Teacats said...

When I dress correctly (suitable dress and even a hat and gloves) these days -- I find that people actually stare at me -- as though I have committed the worst social gaffe. In fact some folks even comment -- quite rudely about my "dressing up"!! Sigh. The last wedding I attended -- I wore a black-and-cream toile dress with a cream jacket (switched to a cream shawl later in the evening), creamy "Louise Green" hat, gloves and shoes. As usual -- even though it was a hot summer day in Dallas -- I was the only lady in a hat! And people looked at me as though watching a sideshow freak! One gal asked me "Do you ALWAYS wear hats? -- my grandmother was the last person to wear hats!!" Sigh.

Jan at Rosemary Cottage

Blushing hostess said...

Dear Jan at Rosemary Cottage, Northside, Teaorwine (I'll have both!) - Be fearless and undeterred on your course while modern and style-savvy in interpretation and remember, I will always have your back. Be well,
The Hostess