Recently, a particularly precocious little girl, while at the funeral of her grandmother, wondered aloud about whether the undertaker “was going to carry gran-gran to heaven [by way of] using his Superman cape.” It brought to mind a question we had hoped to look at…. Why do Undertakers wear what they wear?

Anyone attending a funeral in Barbados can, without a doubt, immediately spot the funeral director. Bedecked in tailcoat, waistcoat and pinstriped grey pants he is often the most flashily dressed male present despite the muted palette of his clothing.

The traditional dress of the male undertaker in Barbados is a variation of the traditional British morning dress, the formal daytime dress code. For men this consisted of

* Morning tailcoat
* Waistcoat (black for funerals)
* Formal striped or checked trousers worn with braces
* Formal shirt with tie or ascot
* Handkerchief or pocket square placed in front breast pocket
* Black Oxford shoes or dress boots
* Optional top hat and other accessories

An all black version of the morning suit is sometimes referred to as a mourning suit and was the traditional wear for funerals.

Being the suitable attire for important social events, morning dress was naturally worn to funerals; a tradition still carried out by funeral directors in Barbados today. This strict code is often relaxed by local undertakers to include dove or charcoal grey coloured waistcoats. Indeed, there are few ‘modern’ men who still employ the use of braces or suspenders to hold their pants up. Top hats, though a rarity, are also not unheard of.

But what of female funeral directors? Morning dress for women was simply an appropriate dress. This would hardly allow female undertakers to distinguish themselves from the other female mourners in attendance. Instead they opt for a feminised version of the men’s attire. They are often seen wearing black or pinstriped skirts, formal shirts with optional tie or neckpiece and a black jacket though without tails.

One must be well turned out, at the ‘turn-out’. Sartorial Splendor, indeed!