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About to graduate, and want to be completely prepared for the big day? Read on to learn what to wear to graduation!
MAY 14, 2019 by chelsea – university of oklahoma
While most of you are busy studying for finals and gearing up for summer vacation, some of you have something else on the horizon — GRADUATION!
While graduating college is exciting and a relief in some ways, it can also be a scary time in a girl’s life. Sure, you won’t miss the stress of exams, papers, and their associated all-nighters, but leaving the home and friends you’ve grown to love over the past 4 or 5 years is certainly bittersweet. Commencement is the main event of the month, and you’ll want to make sure you look AND feel your best during this exciting time — and CF is here to help!
About to graduate, and want to be completely prepared for the big day? Read on to learn what to wear to graduation!
Tips on What to Wear to Graduation:
Dress to impress.
You’ll be taking a ton — and I mean dozens and dozens — of photos. Today is not the day to sleep in and forget to shower. Pick out something conservative but still sassy to wear. You’ll want to look like the mature adult you’re about to become, but still look great and age-appropriate. Take the extra time to straighten or curl your hair, throw on a little concealer, and put your best face forward. Trust me — you’ll be thankful you did once those photos hit Facebook (or, are framed and placed over the fireplace at your parents’ house!).
Plan what to wear under your robe.
Some people assume that what they wear on graduation doesn’t matter because it will be covered up by a bulky robe. I completely disagree — wearing something great underneath your robe is important for several reasons:
- First of all, you might not have time to change between the ceremony and dinner with your extended family, your best friend’s graduation rager, or your last night on the town with your best friends. You’ll want to have something on that’s cute and stylish so you can leave college with a bang.
- Secondly, I have one tip for you all that I wish someone had told me a year ago when I graduated — wear a dress with pockets! Carrying a purse –even a cross-body bag — will look really strange while marching down the procession with 500+ of your classmates. Leave your wallet and such in your car (or with your parents if possible) and only keep your keys, phone, and a camera with you.
- Also, it’s important to wear something somewhat sleek. A graduation robe will add enough bulk on its own, so a really full skirt will look strange under it. If a skin-tight bandage dress just isn’t your thing, look for relaxed-cute items that will be comfortable but not add any extra volume.
- Lastly, check the weather. Nothing will cramp your style quite like freezing (or burning up) while you’re trying to listen to a graduation speech.
Cute dresses for graduation:
Here are some cute options for graduation — none are crazy short or revealing and all of them are super pretty and practical. The black dress includes pockets, as well. If you want more graduation dresses, see our post on cute graduation dresses for every budget!
The only part of your outfit that people will be able to see is your shoes, so wear a cute, somewhat dressy pair, and be sure to paint your toenails, too! Sexy, sky-high stilettos might be a little inappropriate, but the occasion calls for something fancier than a pair of sandals or ballet flats.
I would recommend a pair of wedges or 2-3 inch heels — this way, you’ll look great but still be able to walk the long distance they’ll probably have you march. Be sure to break in your shoes and practice walking in them before the date arrives – the last thing you’d want to do is fall down or be uncomfortable during Commencement!
Cute shoes for graduation:
Step up your makeup.
Now is definitely not the day to experiment with new looks, but it’s not a bad idea to wear eyeliner, mascara, blush, and lipstick if you’re comfortable with it. This way, you’ll look great in the far-away pictures your parents will take from the audience!
For ideas on makeup for graduation, see our list of college makeup essentials. You can’t go wrong with something classic and pretty.
Have some fun!
Small pranks — like decorating your graduation cap (see our favorite graduation cap ideas for more!) or writing your fictitious Facebook middle name on the card you give to the announcer before walking across stage — can be a fun way to personalize your experience. Of course, this all depends on what kind of school you go to and what kind of rules have been laid out. Be sure to keep it very subtle though; don’t be the girl that brings a blow-up beach ball or blowhorn to the fancy event!
Graduation Outfit Idea
An outfit like this would be absolutely perfect to wear during commencement. This pretty dress is lightweight and won’t look bulky under your robe, but will still look great for any activity you’ll attend after the ceremony (plus, it has pockets!). Wedges like these will look great with your robe, but are easier to walk in and a little more dressy than spiky stilettos.
Soft, wavy hair will look amazing flowing out from underneath that funny looking graduation cap, and a medium pink lip color will flatter any skin tone. Finish with simple jewelry — be careful with earrings due to your cap, but you can’t go wrong with simple rings and a graduation-themed bracelet. This quirky necklace can easily be tucked underneath your graduation robe during the ceremony, but it’s a super cute and not-so-serious accessory for afterwards.
More Graduation Day Outfit Ideas
Need more ideas for what to wear to graduation? We’ve got you covered. Look no further than these other College Fashion articles:
- 5 Stylish Outfits for Graduation – Self-explanatory, lots of options
- 3 Perfect Looks for Graduation – Slightly boho outfits, perfect for those with bohemian styles
Are you about to graduate? What are you most nervous about? Have you already graduated? What advice to you have for other seniors? Are you having a graduation party? What are you most excited for? Leave a comment and continue the discussion!
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in 2012; it was completely updated and revamped in 2019 with new photos, products, and information.
In need of a white dress? Here are 32 super-chic graduation dresses for every budget. From lace and off the shoulder to bohemian and maxi dresses. Which style are you?
I can barely believe that it’s nine years ago since I celebrated graduation with my fellow drama classmates in Umeå, in the north of Sweden. This year my little sister Elin is graduating. Time flies!
For Elin’s and all you aspiring student’s sake, I’ve put together a guide with my hand-picked favorite white graduation dresses. I hope that one of these dresses and styles can inspire you to find your dream dress.
I hope that one of these dresses and styles can inspire you.
Find your perfect white dress – The ultimate guide to chic graduation dresses
Lace is always stylish and romantic. Invest in a lace dress to the graduation and then use it again and again, matching it with everything from over knees boots to a leather jacket.
White Lace Dresses
1. White Lace Dress from Carolina Cavour (→ cheaper dress alternative here)
2. Summer Dress from Morgan
3. Lace Button Dress från Boohoo
4. Bohemian Lace Dress from Navy London
5. Cocktail Dress from Swing (→ cheaper dress alternative here)
6. Lace Dress from For Love and Lemons (→ bcheaper dress alternative here)
Cold shoulder or long sleeves? That is the question. Whether the reply, it is very very chic.
Sleeved & Could Shoulder Dresses
7. Fantasy Cold Shoulder Dress from Stevie May (→ cheaper dress here)
8. White Cocktail Dress from Carolina Cavour (→ cheaper dress here)
9. Lace Could Shoulder Dress from Missguided
10. Frill Sleeve Dress from River Island
Embrace your inner gypsy! Those adorable bohemian dresses are perfect for graduation. I want them all but are crushing most on number 11. Isn’t it just gorgeous?
Bohemian Dresses for Graduation
Tight waist and a flared skirt. A skater dress is perfect for all occasions and is equally suitable for sneakers and boots as the heels.
White Skater Dresses
Show off your gorgeous legs with a shorter dress (or match it with over knees). I simply can’t get enough of number 19 with the off shoulder and cute lace details. Isn’t it adorable?
Short White Graduation Dresses
19. Off Shoulder Dress from Abercrombie & Fitch (→ cheaper dress here)
20. Bombshell Dress from Nelly
21. Chic White Dress from Molly Bracken
22. Off-White Dress from See You Soon (→ cheaper dress here)
23. White Dress from Vila
24. Cocktail Dress from Laona (→ cheaper white dress here)
These dresses are hand-picked for you guys that are looking for something elegant, simple and stylish that would look just as good on graduation as on any other occasion when you want to feel exclusive and chic.
Elegant White Dresses
25. Elegant Summer Dress from Bardot (→ cheaper dress here)
26. White Dress from Carolina Cavour (→ cheaper dress here)
27. DFlor Dress from Tiger of Sweden (→ cheaper dress here)
28. ESonata Dress from Cheap Monday
Beloved maxi dresses! If my graduation were this year, I would go for a bohemian dress or one of these maxi dresses. Doesn’t number 30 look just like a princess’s dream? With this dress, you can embrace windy weather, and hope that your dress will be fluttering nicely on your graduation photos.
White Maxi Dresses
White Jumpsuits & Playsuits
Don’t want a dress for your graduation? Go for a white playsuit or a jumpsuit. It’s both stylish, chic and comfortable.
13 Shoe Ideas for Graduation
As for shoes, go for shoes that you feel comfortable in and that you can wear for a long time. Wear shoes with a lower or thicker heel or comfy sneakers, converse or ballet pumps. The last thing you want to think about is feet that ache. If you still want to wear high heels pack a pair of foldable ballet flats in your handbag.
I especially think it’s pretty to match a white graduation dress with shoes in beige, pink or white. But black is, of course, also (as always) a very chic color.
2. Sandals in Dusty Pink
3. Wedge Sneakers
4. Black Lace Up Heels
5. Beige Ballet Pumps
6. Adidas Superstar
7. Light Pink Ballet Pumps
8. Black Lost Ink Heels
9. Black Slip-ins
10. White Ballet Pumps
11. Nude Heels
12. Black Ballet Pumps
13. Adidas Originals
I’m sorry to report that I didn’t attend my own graduation ceremony, circa some time ago. I don’t know anyone from my era, ungrateful little tykes, who did. A few engineers and physicists may have trundled along, but those of us immersed in what we had unilaterally decided was the more profound thought field of the humanities were far too busy frying ourselves in Hawaiian Tropic to bother. Or maybe we just didn’t know what to wear.
Several decades on, the academic landscape has transformed. Not only are engineering and physics now sexy, but the graduation ceremony, whether it’s to mark a First or a Desmond, has become the high-water mark of a post-Finals epoch that begins with some variation of a “May” ball (no longer the preserve of the Oxbridge colleges), and thwacks up, sometime around September, against the reality of finding somewhere to live that isn’t actually, technically, your parents’ place.
Nowadays nearly all graduates attend their graduation. Of course they do: they, or their parents, have paid handsomely for their privileged access to the nation’s august seats of learning and they are not missing out on one last opportunity to acknowledge their debt/party with their uni mates and inject some visual gravitas to their Facebook and Instagram timelines.
If that means donning a mortar board and a fur-lined cape, so be it. Unlike its effect on their parents’ generation, the gown doesn’t make the class of ’17 snigger or cringe in Pavlovian anticipation of a caning. They grew up on Harry Potter and Elle Woods, the faux-dumb blonde in Legally Blonde who managed to work some crimson lippie and her signature fuchsia into her black ensemble. Emma Watson also wore red lipstick to “switch up” her black cape when she graduated from Brown University in 2014 and earned magna cum laude style points for flashing an Angelina-esque leg through the slash.
For students who have spent the best part of three years in a disorientating rota of sweatpants for day time and boob tubes for night, the unfamiliar formality of the graduation outfit requires careful accessorising, especially if their university gown incorporates coloured strips.
Note that “photo-finish”: it’s essential for Instagram. It is now quite usual for impending graduates to table considerable outfit-plotting time into their exam revision schedule, which is mystifying, given that most of the redbrick universities have thunderingly clear rules on what graduates can wear: plain, buttoned blouses and dark, knee-length skirts or trousers for the women; dark suits for the men. Most universities also welcome the wearing of national dress provided, as the University of Cambridge puts it, “it is dignified and culturally important to the wearer”.
The universities insist this lower-level bank clerk look is meant to be helpful rather than a killjoy: the buttons on a blouse allow for easy securing of your gown, which tends to be quite heavy. Being able to tuck a blouse in a skirt means you won’t look as if your cape is trying to throttle you.
Belshaw fold A-line skirt, £75, Finery
The monochrome memo, however, doesn’t seem to have percolated. Florals, lace and polka dots are all on the agenda.
Alison Dawson, head of public and ceremonial events at Bristol University, concedes that “female graduates are increasingly moving away from the white blouse and black skirt uniform – possibly because of the availability of alternatives, but also because generally I think they’re more concerned with dressing smartly now than they used to be. We don’t have a problem with this. Generally graduates choose something appropriate – such as a plain black or, increasingly, a plain white dress”.
On the rare occasion a student turns up in something more radical, Dawson says the university takes a tolerant line. “We usually smile and wonder whether they might regret their choice in years to come.”
HOW TO GRADUATE IN STYLE
1. Demure is lovely, especially when you’re young, but avoid frumpy. Longer dresses require shape, to flatter curves. Avoid dark tights and fussy necklines – but don’t go too plain either.
2. Be pragmatic. You’ll probably be running between friends, family, and the nearest bathroom mirror. You don’t want to be waddling to the stage in ankle-snapper heels and a wiggle-dress. A mid-height block heel is this summer’s key look. Lucky you. Make sure you wear them in first and don’t let blisters ruin your day.
Ganni suede mules, £180, Net-a-porter
3. We’d all love it to be warm and sunny, but you can’t count on it, even in the summer. Make sure you’re adequately dressed beneath the gown. Avoid thigh-high slashes — there’s enough peekaboo going on in your gown.
Woven waterfall dress, £79, COS
4. Hat-hair is a danger. Plan a style that can survive that mortar board.
5. Jewellery can add individuality to an outfit — and look good in those photos — but ensure it doesn’t interfere with the collar and cuffs of the gown.