…And you may already have it in your closet.

By Southern Living Editors
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You can never have too many little black dresses. From work presentations to school events to evening weddings, a black dress is always flattering and ever appropriate. Of course, one little black dress does not fit all occasions. While weddings and black tie events may deem a black dresses with feathers or sequins fun and appropriate, other occasions call for something that's a little more subdued. When it comes to funerals, unless the family requests otherwise, a conservative black dress is your best bet, and a simple, no-frills choice is the way to go. Like the good bottle of wine you keep on hand for last-minute hostess gifts or that fail-proof casserole you can whip up in a moment's notice, it's essential for every Southern woman to have a black dress in her closet that's funeral-appropriate, no matter the season or the venue. Here, the three things we keep in mind when determining whether or not a dress is fit for a funeral.

1. The Length

While shorter, sassier hemlines fit the bill for date night and breezy maxis feel just right on vacation, funeral dresses require a happy medium. A proper funeral dress should hit at the knee or just above. It's a respectful choice for church funerals and graveside services alike, plus it's practical and fuss-free, whether you're hugging the family or sitting in a pew.

2. The Sleeves

Covered shoulders are always a wise move for somber occasions, especially for funeral services held in holy places. We're partial to three-quarter-length sleeves as they're appropriate and comfortable year-round. One exception: A sleeveless black dress is fine for a summertime burial, so long as you wear a wrap while in church for the funeral itself.

3. The Style

We love making a statement with our dress choices as much as anyone, but funerals are not the place to draw attention to your look. Save dramatic silhouettes and festive fabrics for more celebratory occasions and stick to a dress choice in a classic cut (think fit-and-flare or shift) that won't distract fellow funeral attendees.

Don't have a funeral-appropriate dress in your closet? Shop our editor-approved picks here, here, and here.

Of course, if dresses aren't your thing, there are other smart, stylish alternatives: An elegant pantsuit or shantung cigarette pants with a crisp blouse look equally appropriate.