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A shroud is an alternative to a coffin. It’s a piece of material that you wrap a person’s body in before burial. It can be made from different types of material such as cotton, wool, calico or bamboo. Burial shrouds can also be known as grave clothes.

What is the purpose of a burial shroud?

There are different reasons why someone might choose to be buried in a shroud. Here are the most common reasons:

  • To show that in death everyone becomes equal. In some religions, such as Judaism, being wrapped in a simple burial shroud is used to represent equality.
  • To respect beliefs and traditions. Initially shrouds were used in the Christian faith to save on costs. But it also allowed a way to say goodbye to the person who died in a respectful way. Now it’s done by some Christians as more of a ceremonial tradition. You’ll also find different types of burial shroud used in other religions, including Judaism and Islam.
  • To help the environment. If you’re planning a natural funeral, you might want to consider a shroud. Using a biodegradable material and no coffin can help the body break down in a more natural way. Some natural burial sites only allow shrouds to be used for burials.
  • To keep the funeral fuss-free. A shroud costs less than a traditional coffin so it’s a way of keeping funeral costs down and keeping the funeral as simple as possible.

What does a burial shroud look like?

Depending on the religious beliefs of the person who died and the reason why they’re being buried in a shroud, each one can look a little different. Most traditional burials shrouds are white. Some are handmade and simple. And some can be decorated with embroidery. But non-traditional shrouds can be colourful. Those who choose a natural burial shroud for environmental reasons may choose something made of hemp or wool.

Read more below on the different types of shroud used by different religions.

Burial shrouds from different religions


In the Jewish faith people who have passed away are dressed in clothing known as Tachrichim. They’re typically white and hand stitched. But they’re always kept simple. They include trousers, a shirt, a head covering and belt for both men and women. But men are sometimes wrapped in a jacket too, known as a kittel. The purpose of Tachrichim is for all people to be buried in an equal way. There’s no expensive or elaborate Tachrichim used. This is because in the Jewish faith there’s a belief in all humans being equal, no matter their personal wealth.

Find out more with our guide to Jewish funeral traditions.


When someone dies in the Islamic faith they’re buried in a Kafan. This is a white burial shroud made of a simple cotton or similar material. It’s used to protect the privacy of the person who’s died. For men the Kafan has 3 lengths of materials. For women it’s usually 5 lengths of material. Before the body is wrapped in the Kafan the ritual washing (ghusal) takes place.

You can find out more in our guide to Islamic funeral services.

Winding sheet

Even though burials shrouds are less common in the Christian faith some orthodox Christians still use burial shrouds known as winding sheets. They also wrap a thin cloth called a coronet around the head of the person who’s passed away. Unlike in other faiths, the winding sheet can be decorated with embroidered symbols. And the coronet often features an image of the crucifix.

Want to learn more about burial shrouds? If you’re arranging a funeral or putting together your final wishes speak to a professional near you who specialises in religious or eco-friendly funerals. Use our funeral director finder for help.