What to Wear to Graduation

Graduation is a huge event in your life. Your graduation ceremony celebrates your transition from one chapter of your life to the next, so you want to look and feel your best. Most graduations will have students wear a cap and gown during the ceremony, so you might think the clothing you wear underneath doesn’t matter.

The truth is, though, that your outfit can make a big difference on your big day. In this guide, we’ll help you figure out the best outfit to wear at your graduation to have the best graduation day.

Graduation Dress Codes

Before choosing an outfit, it’s important to check if your school has any restrictions on graduation wear.

In some cases, they may prevent students from participating in the graduation ceremony if they don’t adhere to the dress code. You don’t want that to happen, especially if you have friends and family visiting for the event.

Common Restrictions

Most schools require that students wear the assigned cap and gown for the ceremony. While decorating your graduation cap is a common trend now, some schools prohibit it to keep the group of students looking uniform. It can also prevent any controversial topics from being displayed during the event.

Sometimes, making alterations to the graduation regalia is not permitted simply because the cap and gown are rented for the event, and you must return them at the end.

Some schools will restrict overly casual clothing at graduations as well. You may be asked not to wear sneakers, jeans, sweats, or pajamas. Other items of clothing might be restricted due to safety concerns. Flip-flops or very high heels could pose a trip hazard during the ceremony, for example.

Choosing Your Graduation Outfit

Once you understand any limitations your school imposes on graduation outfits, you can choose what you want to wear. There are several factors to consider when choosing what to wear.

Weather Conditions

One of the keys to being comfortable is dressing appropriately for the weather. This can be really important if you have an outdoor graduation, but you should also consider it for an indoor graduation.

Outdoor Graduations

Graduations often happen in the spring or summer, so the weather tends to be warm. Graduation gowns are just sacks of polyester, so they don’t breathe, which can make it easy for you to overheat.

If the weather is supposed to be hot on your graduation day, make sure you wear breathable natural fibers under your gown. Stick to materials like cotton and linen if you can. While wearing as little as possible may seem like a good idea, the graduation gown might stick to your skin, so wearing something with more arm coverage may be more comfortable.

Outdoor events usually mean walking on grass, so save your stilettos. These can sink into the dirt, especially if there’s been rain recently, and trip you up. They can also get unattractively caked in mud and grass.

Instead, try a wedge-heeled shoe, square-heeled Mary-Janes, or open-toed flats for the event.

Of course, your graduation day may be chilly. In that case, you may want to add a sweater to your outfit. Choose one that’s warm, but not bulky so it doesn’t look awkward under your graduation gown. Adding a pair of tights can also increase the warmth factor.

Indoor Graduations

Indoor graduations are less affected by the weather, but you should still be prepared. If your graduation is in the summer, they will likely be blasting A/C. If you tend to get cold in air conditioning, it might be smart to pack a light sweater you can slip on or off under your gown.

Sometimes the graduation venue will be in a space like the school gymnasium, which may not be well air-conditioned, if at all. In this case, it will probably get hot with so many people packed in for the graduation. Wear an outfit for coping with the heat, similar to what you would wear for an outdoor graduation.

Graduation Outfit Ideas

One thing you can guarantee about graduation is that there will be a lot of photos taken during the ceremony and afterward. Once the ceremony is over, you’ll probably want to take your gown off, or at least unzip it.

There are plenty of cute looks you can wear under your graduation gown, both traditional and unique. From graduation dresses to rompers and suits, here are our favorite graduation outfit ideas. 

White Graduation Dress

A white sundress is a common choice for graduations. White dresses typically symbolize summertime, youth, and innocence, so they have been traditionally seen as a fitting choice for an event like graduation. In some ways, graduation ushers you into adulthood, after all.

You can’t go wrong with a breezy white cotton dress. Pastel shades are also popular and fit the same overall vibe.

Add a pair of wedge heels and a contrasting cardigan to complete the look. It’s simple, comfortable, and very cute.

Formal Graduation Looks

Instead of a simple summer dress, you might want to opt for a more formal graduation look. If your graduation is in the evening, or if you are going straight to a nice dinner or graduation party after the ceremony, you might want to choose a cocktail-inspired look.

A floor-length formal gown might be too much for a graduation ceremony, but a shorter cocktail dress can give a classy evening look without being too fussy. However, if you want to feel like a total princess, ball gowns are a popular graduation trend for the romantics graduating this year.

Pick a dress that fits well so you can feel comfortable and confident. Choose a color that makes your skin glow and a silhouette that flatters your favorite features, so you can wear it to future events as well.

You may want to wear a chunky square-heeled shoe for the graduations, but you can pack your most daring stilettos to change into after the fact. Don’t forget to add some bling with a nice pair of dangling earrings.

Pants Looks for Graduation

Unless your school is very old-fashioned, there’s no rule that says you have to wear a dress. More dressed-up pants-based outfits can be a real show-stopper for your graduation. You might choose a two-piece look with some trousers and a matching vest or jacket to create a sharp suit-inspired look.

A jumpsuit can also be a fashionable choice. Select one with a defined silhouette to keep from looking too casual. If you do want an alternative to a casual summer dress, a romper in a floral print or pastel color would be perfect for creating a breezy summer look.

Pants have the added benefit of protecting you from thigh chafe. You also don’t have to debate whether or not to wear stockings with them.

You can still wear a nice pair of heels with dress pants, or you might opt for a pair of leather loafers or Oxfords to play on the masculine suit style further.

Hair and Makeup

Remember that your favorite updo might be ruined by your graduation cap. Instead of piling your hair up high, opt for a low bun, braids, or wearing it down. Some cute metal clips or slides can be used to keep your cap in place and accessorize your look.

You don’t have a lot of room for your style to shine through during the ceremony, so your makeup is the main place you can get creative if you choose. If you anticipate being warm during the ceremony, you might want to finish everything off with some mattifying powder so you don’t look overly shiny in photos.

Look Your Best at Graduation

Despite having to wear a cap and gown at your graduation ceremony, you can still express your personal style. There is plenty of room for creativity under your gown.

Depending on the weather and location of your graduation, you may need to prioritize dressing for the weather, but there are plenty of cute graduation-appropriate styles you can choose. 

There is also a range of formality that might be appropriate for your event, but the most important thing is to be comfortable and wear a look you’ll be happy seeing photos of for years to come.

Just remember that you feeling good in your outfit is the most important thing on such a big day.