Dead Wrong?

I looked around for the cameras; there were none. I looked around for people related to the local drama scene, and, this being Malta, there were two or three of them – but they were with members of their extended family, and didn’t appear to be acting (at least, not any more than usual).

The weather wasn’t especially hot, and yet there were a number of lacy and sheer tops, camisole-and-shawl ensembles, and rather short skirts. The jewellery would have made a good haul in a hold-up; and that was just what was worn by the males.

This was a funeral Mass I had stumbled upon, on my way to visit a friend in a particular town. I’d managed to get a lift, and so I was early, and my friend would still have been on the school run.

Just for the record, I have already asked my family and friends to make my funeral Mass ‘a garden with butterflies’ – because rather than the sombre greys and morose blacks and greys we are so used to seeing, I would rather have happiness and colour.

But when I was a child, I was taught that a conservative, dark set of clothes, complete with tights, must always be kept good to go. If, perish the thought, you decided to wear a part of the outfit because it went well with something else, you were duty bound to wash it practically as soon as you got home, and iron it when it was not yet completely dry. That way, you’d be properly turned out, should the need arise, unlike those with “nothing to wear” – as if the dead person were going to chide you for wearing different shades of black.

To say that the people at this funeral were well-heeled would be to make an awful pun. And yet, a number of people were there in totally unsuitable stiletto-heeled strappy sandals. A number of them appeared to share the same flamboyant hair-stylist (or at least the same shade of hair-dye).

I got the impression that this was yet another occasion where they congregated (in this case literally) to share notes and commiserate with one another, and then, since life goes on, they return to their lives and make an appointment with their beautician in reparation for the next gathering of the clans.

There is a time and place for everything – and so it is with clothes. The cortège should never be turned into a semblance of a sashay on the runway.

Do you insist on wearing dark clothes, knowing you’ll hate spending the rest of the day in them? Do you dress to impress, or do you attend a funeral just to show respect to the deceased?

Unless you do have something specifically intended to wear at funerals, you may actually find yourself cutting a bit of the skirt of a long dress and hemming it (with glue if time is short), or removing the braid from a jacket, or cutting off a part of a top’s sleeves, or rolling up the sleeves of a shirt…

There are no rules that say footwear has to be black. The general idea is to dress for a funeral as you would dress for a job interview – where the job is in an office and not in the arena in the Big Top.

There is a solution to this quandary.

Some shirts and tops can be rolled up into practically nothing inside a handbag – so a classic suit could be given a new look with a quick visit to the restroom. Even easier would be the addition of a neckerchief, held in pace with a junk jewellery ring. Please keep away from the Dallas look. It’s distracting.

You can, of course, disguise a high-waist pair of trousers with a top that fits over it, if push comes to shove, just as you can lessen the décolleté of a top by wearing a shirt, or a lacy camisole, underneath it.

It is disturbing, having to think about what to wear “at a time like this”. That is why it makes sense to have an outfit on call, as it were. This is the epitome of “effortless dressing”. You know better than to judge anyone, of course, but there are people who have made an art-form of criticising others. A funeral should be an occasion of peace, not one that generates bad vibrations.

And… another thing… when you wave to an acquaintance across the aisle, and sign the condolences book, please hold the jangly bracelet still with your other hand.

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