Late spring and early summer bring so many celebrations to look forward to, including graduations! Whether you’re a graduate or are attending a graduation, I wanted to share what to wear to graduation and a few things to consider as you put together your outfit for the day.
What to Wear to Graduation
What to Wear to Graduation as a Guest
Here are a few graduation guest dresses for 2023. Click on the collage below to shop the items, or click the link for an exact dress beneath the collage.
When deciding what to wear to graduation as the guest, here are a few things to keep in mind.
1. It’s better to be overdressed
Most invitations will state the ceremony dress code, but if you’re unsure, it’s safe to assume conservative yet dressy attire. You’ll feel more comfortable dressed up than dressed down, and whatever you do, don’t wear jeans!
That essentially leaves us working with a nice dress, a skirt with a blouse, or slacks with a blouse.
2. Keep it comfortable
Graduation ceremonies are long and if it’s an outdoor ceremony, the sun and heat can make them feel even longer.
Wear something you feel good in as you may be sitting for up to two hours. Avoid anything that’s too heavy, itchy, or tight.
3. Plan for the temperature
This is crucial! If it’s indoors, the A/C is usually blasting to accommodate for the crowd, so consider bringing a layer (dressy blazer, cardigan, shawl).
If the ceremony is outside, short sleeve or thin-strap dresses will be ideal. Try a lightweight, breathable fabric like linen, cotton, or rayon. And don’t forget your sunglasses!
What to Wear If You’re the Graduate
Here’s are a few white graduation dresses for 2023. Click on the collage below to shop the items, or click the link for an exact dress beneath the collage.
When deciding what to wear to your graduation, you want to look your best, but there are other factors to consider: weather, schedule, what type of surface you’ll be walking on, and more.
Here are 4 things to keep in mind.
1. Choose shoes for walking
My college graduation was a full day of walking. I probably walked 20,000 steps between going from my house to the ceremony at the stadium to lunch to friends’ houses for parties and department-specific ceremonies across campus.
Look for that diamond that’s equal parts comfortable, stylish, and stable. I recommend a block heel or wedge (stilettos may sink in the grass) no higher than 3.5”. The sandals I’m wearing in the photos above are a perfect example. I also love these lookalikes under $150.
2. When in doubt, wear a dress
There aren’t any hard and fast rules for what to wear to graduation, but when in doubt, wear a dress like the white dress I’m wearing above. You could wear a skirt or slacks with a top or a dressy jumpsuit, but this is a celebration of your hard work, so it’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed!
3. Know where your gown will hit when choosing dress length
You’ll feel very covered in your gown and graduation cap, and they can be a little heavy. To make things easier on yourself, try to keep the length of your graduation dress shorter than your gown.
Opt for a knee length, mini, or midi dress. These will not only look better when you walk across the stage (no random colors or prints peeking out for pictures) but should keep you cooler.
4. Choose accessories that won’t get hidden
Necklaces and bracelets will get hidden under your robe, especially if you receive awards, flowers, or cords.
For the ceremony, try earrings that draw attention to your face. Studs are perfect. You could choose statement earrings, but try to keep them classic as you’ll have your grad pictures forever.
Graduation Style FAQs
Can you wear white? What are graduation colors?
Certain schools have traditions around what colors to wear for graduation day. In the south, it’s common to see graduates wear a white dress for the ceremony.
I don’t think you need to be beholden to a certain color as a guest or graduate, though. Whether it’s a middle school, high school, college, or grad school ceremony, it’s a celebration, so wear what feels good to you!
What should you wear to graduation? Is there anything you shouldn’t you wear?
Dresses are the safest bet for grads and graduation attendees if the invitation doesn’t state the dress code.
When choosing a dress for graduation, a good rule of thumb is that it should be more formal/dressier than a dress you’d wear on a picnic but not as dressy as a cocktail/semi-formal dress you’d wear to a wedding.
What should the mother of the graduate wear?
If I had a child graduating, I’d want to err on the side of demure to let my graduate shine on their special day. But that’s not to say that the mother of the graduate can’t have fun or express her personal style!
Moms of grads should wear a celebratory dress, skirt/slacks and blouse combo, or dressy jumpsuit in a seasonal print or color, but nothing so loud that it detracts attention from the graduate.
What should I wear to a graduation party?
For graduation parties hosted by a family or several families, I’d wear something on par with what you’d wear to a spring/summer baby shower or bridal shower. A sundress, conservative mini dress, or summery midi dress would be perfect.
Graduation parties that are hosted by the school, a club, or a sorority/fraternity are usually slightly more formal events. Always check for the dress code on the invitation, but business professional dress is a safe choice. For example, a sheath dress, a midi dress with a conservative neckline, or slacks with a blouse.