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SelfWritingPen
06-08-2017, 11:57 PM
I'm writing a screenplay where a mortician goes into dialogue with the people he's preparing for burial about the nature of life and their attitudes towards their death. I'm looking at four people to play the "dead" people - two older people (60+) and two younger people (20-30). Since part of the process is dressing them I want to make sure they're dressed at least semi accurately. I asked a friend of mine who works in a funeral home (we're in the US South) about it and she said:

"It's up to the family to decide. Formal clothing like suits for men or fancy dresses for women are still the most common but less so than in the past. I find that more formal clothing like suits or dresses is more frequently brought in the older the deceased is, and that shoes or footwear is brought more often when the deceased is male. In caskets younger people are more often wearing 'street clothes' and women frequently go barefoot or just wear hose or slippers".

Does that sound correct to anyone with more knowledge than me? Here are the outfits I have thought up with the actors:

Older man - Black suit, polished black office shoes
Older woman - White ladies skirt suit, hose and white shoes
Younger man - White button up shirt, jeans, loafers
Younger woman - Brown ruffled blouse, knee length brown skirt, barefoot

Tazlima
06-09-2017, 12:09 AM
It sounds correct to me, based on my single personal anecdote, so... take with a grain of salt.

In my mid-twenties, I had a roommate/good friend who died. His parents flew in to go through his belongings and decide what to do with everything. He had this ratty old leather jacket that he just adored and wore everywhere. When they brought up the topic of clothing for the funeral, I said, "the only thing I can think of is that jacket. I know he loved it, but it's not exactly formal enough for the occasion (I was under the impression that funeral = fancy clothes). I was quite surprised when they were like, "no, that's perfect. That's who he was. He hated wearing suits and ties." And so my buddy was buried in that beat-up old jacket.

Maze Runner
06-09-2017, 12:23 AM
Yeah, definitely, it's the personal items. When my grandmother was laid out, we made sure she had her favorite jewelry with her. Frank Sinatra's family slid a pint of Jack Daniels in his suit pocket.

Myrealana
06-09-2017, 12:33 AM
Well, with my grandmother, we put her in a lavender suit dress that she bought for my brother's wedding two years earlier, and we made sure she had nylons and a nice pair of high heeled shoes with elegant detailing on them the way she liked and a matching handbag. Her wedding ring from her second(current) marriage was on her left hand and the wedding and engagement rings from her first husband on her right. Matching necklace and earrings like she was ready to go out on the town.

If the loved ones are thinking clearly enough, I think most people try and dress the deceased in a way that the person would have felt comfortable in life.

I remember when my cousin died about ten years ago, his mother dressed this young man who wore jeans every day of his life - even to church - in a full (obviously new) suit and tie AND had the mortician cut his long hair into a preppy-style cut. I didn't even recognize him.

MaeZe
06-09-2017, 12:50 AM
They won't put shoes on unless either the full coffin is open or the family insists.

Here's my horrible anecdote as best I can recall given the influence of false memories over time.

My boyfriend was killed when I was 16, car accident he was 18. The body was on view before the funeral. Keep in mind how someone 16 might act in that situation. I wanted to see him, curiosity mixed with still being in shock. I lifted his shirt. It was split in the back, they don't dress them all the way. Whatever they did, autopsy or in the embalming, his chest was sewed up with a kind of sisal twine. I touched his lip and the wax stuck to my finger and pulled up. I pushed in back into place.

Later, thank goodness, his mom thought he looked more like he should. The mortician makes the face up matching a picture the family brings in. She didn't know I had touched his lips. I hadn't known they were restored with wax.

I put mementoes in the coffin. I think that's common.

I think most people want the body dressed formally. But I could see someone insisting on dressing the person in casual clothes. The funeral home has the family bring in something most of the time.

Markiemoo
06-09-2017, 03:35 AM
Some religions have formal burial clothes. For example, a Mormon who has been to the Temple has special clothing.

(Former Mormon, I will answer any questions about Church mannerisms but not the religion itself (no Bible/BoM discussions or debates)

frimble3
06-09-2017, 04:17 AM
My dad was sent for cremation in whatever he was wearing in the hospital when he died. His only opinions on the matter was the hostility in his voice when he spoke about men whose families only bought a suit for them after they had died. (It was part of a discussion on living life while you could, and not saving things 'for best' until you couldn't enjoy them. And possibly on doing things 'for show'.)
Although he owned a suit (and two ties!) my sister and I decided to send him on his way 'as is' and send his clothes (cleaned) to people who could make use of them.

Orianna2000
06-09-2017, 10:38 PM
Slightly morbid question, sorry, but how on earth do you get pantyhose onto a corpse? I mean, I can barely get them on myself! I can't imagine a mortician struggling to put them on a body. Do they actually try? Or do they cut the top part off and just put the legs on, as if they were knee-highs? Or do they request that the family bring knee-highs instead of regular pantyhose?

LJD
06-09-2017, 10:50 PM
It may depend, too, on the, um, condition of the body. Probably not an issue in the majority of deaths, but in the one case where I had to pick clothes, it was an issue. If, for example, it was a violent death, certain things may need to be covered up.

Siri Kirpal
06-09-2017, 11:38 PM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

You probably don't need to know this, but in case it helps: Sikh corpses are dressed in (usually) new clothing -- usually white if Western Sikh, colored or white clothing if Punjabi. Traditional tunic over pants (the original pajama style) for both men and women. If the person is Amritdhari (AKA baptized), then someone wraps a turban on their head. Deceased is dressed by (usually) 5 family or friends of the same gender. No shoes. Casket is usually open and it's a cremation casket, because cremation is what we do (barring things like sea burial). Because we cremate, there's no embalming. But we sponge homemade yogurt on the corpse to keep decay from setting in before the service.

Sikhs wear white to both cremation ceremonies (usually three days after death)and memorial services (usually within a month of death).

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

Bolero
06-09-2017, 11:42 PM
My experiences in the UK have never involved clothes or open coffins actually at the funeral - all occasions except for one were cremations. In each case where I know the details (all cremations) the body was not dressed, it was put in a shroud rather like a hospital gown and you were offered choices of colour - white or blue. If you wanted to go round to the funeral directors and see the deceased you could, but the coffin was closed at the funeral. And if you wanted to see them more than three days after death, then you had to have them embalmed - otherwise you weren't allowed to lift the lid. Don't know either way if there was any make-up involved but suspect not.

I've always been curious about funerals I see on US drama programmes. Really big mahogany type coffins, lots of fancy fittings, flowers everywhere and everyone in black. The funerals I've been to in the UK have never had as many flowers, sometimes none - donations to charity instead, or flowers from family only - and people wear something neat and dark but not black suits and hats. The coffins were varied - cremation shells (faked to look like fancy wood and brass fittings, but relatively small), a woven willow coffin made by the relatives for someone who was really green, and another cremation shell which had pictures printed all over it.

So no use to you if you are setting your screenplay in the South. But if anyone could comment on whether all US funerals are like the ones on TV that would be appreciated. Always been curious on that.

Orianna2000
06-10-2017, 12:08 AM
But if anyone could comment on whether all US funerals are like the ones on TV that would be appreciated. Always been curious on that.
I only vaguely remember my grandfather's funeral. It was in 1989, in California, and I was ten. He was cremated, so it was held at some memorial/funeral home, with a large photo of him on display, instead of a casket. I don't recall anyone wearing hats, just nice clothes--I've no idea if they wore black or not, but I was aware of the custom, probably through TV, because I remember being upset that I didn't have a black dress. Somehow my mom convinced me that it was okay for me to wear a dark blue dress.

When I was younger, probably 6 or 7, I attended the funeral of an elderly woman I'd befriended at church. It was held at her gravesite, closed casket, and there were flowers, really pretty white roses, as I recall. The coffin was polished wood, just like you see in the movies, but I don't think they lowered it while we were there. There was no ceremonial throwing of dirt. Weirdly, I didn't even remember that I'd gone to her funeral until this topic came up. The memory just hit me out of the blue. Funny how that happens sometimes.

Coffins are hella expensive, and so are sympathy flowers, so the kind of funerals you see on TV with the mahogany caskets and tons of flowers, they're generally reserved for those with well-off families.

lonestarlibrarian
06-10-2017, 12:37 AM
When I read "Behind the Formaldehyde Curtain (http://spa.walsingham.org/ClassDocuments/31582/Behind%20the%20Formaldehyde%20Curtain.pdf)", it was the first time that I really appreciated that 20th/21st c. America really has its own very specific funerary customs that are different from elsewhere in the world, or even different from, say, pre-1900's America. It's a good read, especially about the processes of what goes on even before the body is dressed.

Here's an article (http://naturallymoi.com/2015/10/the-grave-woman-5-things-you-should-know-about-dressing-your-deceased-loved-one/) about how to dress your loved ones for burial. It talks about how to handle things like underwear, jewelry, shoes, and that sort of thing, according to American expectations.

The funerals I've been to have generally been half-open caskets, so I haven't been able to see shoes, even if they're present. Older people, or people from more traditional backgrounds, are generally are dressed in the sort of clothes you'd wear to church-- most of the funerals I've been to have been church services. I've also been to memorial services at the funeral home. The venue doesn't really make much difference in what they wear--- it's more of a way the individual and their family approaches death, and how they perceive the ceremonies around it. So a child might be buried in pajamas, or you hear about rabid fans being buried in football jerseys, or that sort of thing. But a lot depends on what the person has requested for themselves, or how their family wants to remember them looking.

MaeZe
06-10-2017, 01:14 AM
When I read "Behind the Formaldehyde Curtain (http://spa.walsingham.org/ClassDocuments/31582/Behind%20the%20Formaldehyde%20Curtain.pdf)", it was the first time that I really appreciated that 20th/21st c. America really has its own very specific funerary customs that are different from elsewhere in the world, or even different from, say, pre-1900's America. It's a good read, especially about the processes of what goes on even before the body is dressed.

Here's an article (http://naturallymoi.com/2015/10/the-grave-woman-5-things-you-should-know-about-dressing-your-deceased-loved-one/) about how to dress your loved ones for burial. It talks about how to handle things like underwear, jewelry, shoes, and that sort of thing, according to American expectations.

The funerals I've been to have generally been half-open caskets, so I haven't been able to see shoes, even if they're present. Older people, or people from more traditional backgrounds, are generally are dressed in the sort of clothes you'd wear to church-- most of the funerals I've been to have been church services. I've also been to memorial services at the funeral home. The venue doesn't really make much difference in what they wear--- it's more of a way the individual and their family approaches death, and how they perceive the ceremonies around it. So a child might be buried in pajamas, or you hear about rabid fans being buried in football jerseys, or that sort of thing. But a lot depends on what the person has requested for themselves, or how their family wants to remember them looking.

Confirmed my memory on this part:
Is it true that the clothes are going to be cut?
Yes, in many instances when dressing the deceased it is common practice to cut the clothing in a straight line up the back. This aids in dressing and also creates a more natural appearance for the deceased while lying in the casket. In situations where clothing is to too tight or loose this also helps to create a better fit when possible. If you do not wish for the garments that you bring in to be cut simply let your funeral director know.

Cyia
06-10-2017, 02:05 AM
Gone to far too many funerals. Been in the room while the deceased's hair was done. Older people tend to have suits and "Sunday" wear. If they're old enough that they've fixed out their wills and such, or made known their preferences, they often have a suit set aside. My grandmother had a dress ready to go; her mother used a nightgown. My grandfather was buried in his best clothes, save his favorite suit jacket because it was deemed "too worn," which was stupid, and his cowboy hat covered his hands; his mother wore a dress. Some people have weird ideas about colors being unlucky or inappropriate/disrespectful for burial. He was buried in a brown shirt because he liked it; people complained.

Make-up fixes natural discolorations in the skin, but so do the colored gel-lights placed over the coffin during family viewing / wake (usually 4 hours, the night before the funeral). If the deceased is decidedly disfigured by sudden injury, or has made prior arrangements, the coffin will be closed. (My grandfather died in an explosion that left his skin filled with metal pieces, which turned his skin green. His coffin was closed. Others have been sealed upon preparation by request of the deceased. Screwed down, sealed air-tight.)

My dad was buried in a running suit and red shirt, mainly because he'd always wanted to wear red shirts but heard too often that redheads shouldn't wear red.

The clothes are often split down the back to make dressing easier and to prevent trauma on the body; the person's mouth is wired closed; their eyes are glued shut. Shoes are difficult as feet often need to "wiggle" to get into them. They may need to be cut or omitted, but as there's a curtain-like napkin placed at the deceased's waist (to prevent people seeing the bottom-half of the coffin's interior, it doesn't make much difference for a visual.

armydillo978
06-10-2017, 07:20 AM
I guess it depends. When I was in the military I was honor guard for 6 different funerals for fallen unit mates. All had civilian funerals, and some buried in civilian cementaries, some military. Everyone was buried in their dress uniform with their service caps laid across their chest.

As the civilian ones I've gone too....one guy was an Elvis impersonator, and was buried in his rhinestone jumpsuit.....black wig, glasses, and all. It was a hoot. :) Some of my friends are bikers....one guy was buried riding his bike. They had to build a special crate/coffin and was lowered into the grave by a crane. He was wearing blue jeans, leather boots, his MC vest, bandana, and cut off gloves. Another guy we used to fish with passed on, and wanted to be buried in his johnboat. So, the family bought enough plots to make it happen, and he was layed out in the boat in his camo hunting gear, his pack, rifle, fishing pole. There was also this guy who was Irish....like many of us.....and I swear.....he thought it would be the funniest thing in the world to buried in a leprechuan suit with a symbolic pot of gold at his feet. Open bar followed at the wake. Finally, the only other one that comes to mind is an old Scot we used to serve with, and get drunk many times. He was buried in classic Scot attire. Kilt, belt, jacobite shirt, sporran (the pouch), hose. Again, a great going away party followed.

So, it depends....sometimes people are buried in accordance to their greatest love/passion/hobby. Probably won't help ya much, but...there ya go. :)

Bolero
06-10-2017, 12:32 PM
I only vaguely remember my grandfather's funeral. It was in 1989, in California, and I was ten. He was cremated, so it was held at some memorial/funeral home, with a large photo of him on display, instead of a casket.
snip
Coffins are hella expensive, and so are sympathy flowers, so the kind of funerals you see on TV with the mahogany caskets and tons of flowers, they're generally reserved for those with well-off families.

Thanks for the info on US funerals - real vs TV.

Cremation - every cremation I've been to in the UK, the chapel has a plinth in it - most are where the altar would be in a church but round by 90 degrees so the foot of the coffin points at the congregation. It is there for the service, then at the end slides off through a hatch in the wall. One crematorium I went to was on a hillside with a stunning view - so they had massive windows at what would have been the altar end and the coffin was sideways on to the congregation under the window, and then rolled off to the left.
Having photos of the deceased is becoming more common.


Edited to add
Clothes worn by mourners. Just remembered being at one funeral and overhearing someone complaining about a previous funeral. At the previous funeral, the deceased's wife wore the dress he'd always liked the most - bright red. And the person at the current funeral was having a half-whispered rant about how disrespectful it was - all the details about favourite dress etc were included in the rant. Some people.

Service in church, burial in churchyard in UK
For completeness adding - what you can do at a church service in the UK is more limited than what you can do in a crematorium. There will be a church service and the music that can be played is at the discretion of the vicar. So if your favourite music was Bach - no problem. If heavy metal rock with profanities - forget it. Also churchyards have rules and standards about the gravestones - so if you are in an area with lots of historic gravestones made of the local stone, you will not be permitted to have a bright pink marble stone, twice the height of all other stones.
Crematorium - you can have pretty much what you like. You can bring in a vicar, or a priest of a different religion, or a member of the family can run a service of celebration and no limits I've run into on the music.

WeaselFire
06-14-2017, 01:57 AM
"It's up to the family to decide."

This. The funeral home asks for clothing for the body. The family provides it. That's really all there is, family members choose how they want, or believe the deceased wanted, the final dress. Jewelry is removed for cremation but may be added to the URN for burial or returned to the family.

Jeff

Twick
06-14-2017, 07:32 PM
I actually went and bought an outfit for my mother's funeral. Then the funeral director reminded me she'd be cremated. No need for an outfit, since the casket was closed.