When loved ones die, a common practice is to dress them in clothing that reflects their style and personality. Whether it is a favorite dress, a suit worn to special events or a pair of pajamas, these clothes help others remember the deceased in a way that feels comfortable and natural. In some cases, cultural and religious traditions require the use of specific garments or accessories that add a sense of meaning and respect. Choosing burial clothing that is clean and carefully pressed is also important so the body looks its best when it is buried.

Burial gowns are specialized clothing for people who want to be buried in clothing that is elegant and refined but not adorned with jewelry or other personal items. These clothing items are typically made of soft fabrics like silk, cotton or satin and come in a variety of colors and styles. They can be designed specifically for men or women and resemble smart night gowns, pyjamas or dressing gowns. These gowns can be crafted for all body types and sizes and may feature religious or other themes for the funeral service.

Some companies that manufacture burial apparel offer a range of women’s dresses, suits, negligees, robes and slips and men’s suit pants, dress shirts, pajamas, robes and panties. These garments are typically available wholesale to funeral directors and their clients. Some of these manufacturers include Rita Barber, Inc., Ethel Maid and Vera Lee Garments (Rita Barber, Inc., “History,” n.d.). Information on the fiber content of these garments is not readily available.

The death of a premature infant can be particularly devastating for parents who are struggling to cope with such a loss. To help these families, local seamstresses are re-purposing formal wedding gowns to make burial garments for babies that have died prematurely. These delicate and beautiful clothing items are a comfort for the parents of these tiny lost children.

When a baby is stillborn, hospitals often wrap the infant in a blanket because they do not have clothing small enough to fit the fragile newborns. When Indianapolis first-time mother, Faran Cheema’s daughter was stillborn at 27 weeks gestational age, she searched for something to bury her in and came across a website that referenced burial garments made from bridal dresses.

She was inspired to start her own business repurposing wedding gowns for preemies. Now, she and a team of volunteers work to craft gowns for the smallest of tiny. They use dresses that would otherwise be discarded, including those from weddings and proms. Each dress can yield 12 to 20 burial garments. The gowns can be embroidered with the baby’s name and the birthdate and delivery date. They also feature the hospital’s logo and phone number. The organization also makes a matching cap for the infant. The heirloom-style clothing is available free of charge for families who have suffered the ultimate tragedy. The project has received national recognition and media attention.