Follow College Fashion on Twitter!

How to Dress for Graduation


College graduation

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!

Considerations for Commencement Day:

* 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.

* Consider footwear.

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. 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!

* 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!

* Have some fun!

Small pranks — like decorating your graduation cap 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!

Outfit Inspiration

Graduation outfit
Dress, Ring, Shoes, Necklace

An outfit like this would be absolutely perfect to wear during commencement. This silky sheath 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 deep 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 an elegant cocktail ring. This quirky necklace can easily be tucked underneath your graduation robe during the ceremony, but whipped out during any funny photo opts that might happen.


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!

Posted on on May 3, 2012 / Filed Under: Fashion Tips / Tags: , , ,

Blog Widget by LinkWithin

44 Responses to “How to Dress for Graduation”

  1. 1
    May 3rd, 2012 at 11:12 am

    I would also recommend either wearing a dress/top with buttons, or bringing some kind of badge or safety pin – a lot of my friends had trouble on our graduation day trying to make the coloured hood part stay in place! It kind of messes up your photos when it’s halfway up your neck…

    For my graduation, I wore a white sleeveless blouse, a purple pencil skirt, and some flowery shoes (since your shoes are the only part that people will definitely see when you’re going up to collect your degree!)

  2. 2
    May 3rd, 2012 at 11:22 am

    The shoe tip is a perfect. At my high school graduation i tripped and fell right on my backside while going to get my diploma. Make sure your comfortable in your shoes and you can walk in them :)

  3. 3
    May 3rd, 2012 at 11:33 am

    Fabulous tips! Hadn’t thought about sleek under a robe, but I remember the pockets issue from high school.

  4. 4
    May 3rd, 2012 at 11:33 am

    omg! i wish someone wrote this post earlier!! gonna have my grad ceremony in 10 hours!!!

  5. 5
    May 3rd, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    For my high school graduation, I wore black cigarette pants, forest green suede wedge heels, a creme chiffon pussy bow blouse, and a gold/pearl statement bracelet and chunky ring.
    It was comfortable, different, and ultra posh!

  6. 6
    May 3rd, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    I used to work for a company selling graduation wear in the UK. I don’t know if it’s the same in the states, but I would second Natalie’s comment about wearing buttons (or bringing a brooch, pin or badge), as it allows you to keep the gown/hood in the right place.

    I won’t be graduating myself for a few years but I love the outfit suggestion!

  7. 7
    May 3rd, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    When I graduated we were told that if the grad gowns got wet they could bleed onto whatever we wearing underneath. I believe we bought them from a common vendor as well.

    Graduation day came and in the middle of the ceremony is started to down pour. Luckily my dad brought me an umbrella so I didn’t get soaked.

    But if you live in an area where is rains often in May and your graduation is outside it might be something you want to think about.

  8. 8
    May 3rd, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    Such an adorable ensemble, if only I wasn’t a freshman…

  9. 9
    May 3rd, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    I am graduating next week, and this post has definitely made me think about trying on my white sleeveless mini dress before the day of the ceremony so I can avoid the last minute rush if I don’t like the way it looks!

  10. 10
    May 3rd, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    I graduate college in 15 days. Still no dress. Ahh! Already know what shoes I’m going for, though. Wedges are my best friend!

    You should do more outfit inspirations for graduation! :)

  11. 11
    May 3rd, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    Great tips. I don’t love the assembled outfit however. Does a moustache necklace really show the great “mature adult” you’re going to become?

  12. 12
    May 3rd, 2012 at 6:42 pm

    For my college graduation I wore a simple belted floral dress with black heels (2 inches the end of the day my feet still had blisters). The day before graduation my college gave all the seniors free manis and pedis – saved me alot of time and money! Be sure to check with your school if they do something similar for Senior Week activities before going out and getting your nails done :)

  13. 13
    May 3rd, 2012 at 9:09 pm

    I love the outfit but…what is a plastic mustache necklace doing in a graduation outfit?

  14. 14
    May 3rd, 2012 at 10:39 pm

    A note about shoes – consider where you will have to walk in them. I had to walk down a big hill then onto grass. I bought wedges so my heels wouldn’t sink into the grass, but they were really high, and my feet were KILLING ME later. I looked really cute, though. :-P

  15. 15
    May 4th, 2012 at 2:47 am

    In the Netherlands, you don’t get to wear a robe for graduation ceremonies, so dressing up is definitely a necessary thing to do. Your considerations are great guidelines, thanks! And I love the white dress.

  16. 16
    May 4th, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    Just remember that, depending where you are, it can get really really hot.. Also, if you want to wear heels, consider wedges. They are much more comfortable than pumps and easier to walk in.

  17. 17
    May 4th, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    I graduated in December, so this post isn’t exactly for me, but the outfit is cute for the season. Love the pockets. I would have loved if my dress had some for chapstick. I just really don’t like the necklace for the event. Earrings are probably a no, but a simpler ring or necklace could be great for pictures.

  18. 18
    May 4th, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    I’ve been waiting for this post all week! I’ve been racking my brain wondering what I should wear for commencement. Thanks for all the tips. I thought about wearing an A-line dress and black pumps but now I’m reconsidering. I don’t wanna look any bigger and I don’t wear heels normally. Wedges it is…

  19. 19
    May 5th, 2012 at 3:11 am

    here’s a tip: as mentioned, grad gowns are often WAY oversized and can look pretty ridiculous. That’s why I think shoes are key. If you are short, definitely wear shoes with a significant heel (wedges are the best) to give you a little height and not let the gown swallow you up. But if you are tall, here’s my advice:

    I noticed the year before i graduated that my super tall friend looked huge towering over everyone in pictures, even though they were all in heels. The giant gown really emphasized her height! so for my graduation (I am taller than most of my friends) I wore cute sandals that matched the color of my school (and stoll). This was perfect because in pictures, I am not towering over everyone since they are all wearing heels! Plus, it was super comfy, and I wore heels for professional pictures and later once my gown was off for dinner.

  20. 20
    May 5th, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    DO NOT wear flowerly heels. I’m in business, trust me, wear business attire. That includes black heels, or another neutral color with no open toes. Also, tights tights tights are a must if you are wearing a dress under your robe!

  21. 21
    May 5th, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    I think wedges are a good idea but the ones pictured don’t look all that easy to walk in.
    My school requires that we arrive an hour early and we have to stand the whole time BEFORE we are seated. I’m wearing flats to save myself the inevitable body aches that will accompany heels, even if they are only 3 or 4 inches.

  22. 22
    May 12th, 2012 at 3:59 am

    This was a helpful post. Thanks for all the remunders!
    @Mlo, I think it really all depends on your school and its atmosphere as to what is acceptable to wear. Tights and neutral shoes may be right for your graduation, but we’re still young adults and can express ourselves reasonably through our fashion at graduation!

  23. 23
    August 10th, 2012 at 7:45 am

    my college graduation is on the way it’s going to be an outdoor event on the school grounds mainly grass and a little concrete what shoes are best…and about the dress what is best a dress ofr a blouse/ skirt/ pants

  24. 24
    May 8th, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    It’s helpful!!!! I’m graduating in 1 month and I was starting to freak out about my outfit, so now I have the time and necessary tips to choose what I’ll be wearing.. Thank You for this :)

  25. 25
    May 19th, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    Thanks, Lifesaver :) Graduation time is so exciting and nerve wrecking!

  26. 26
    March 31st, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    Excellent article. I’m facing a few of these issues as well..

  27. 27
    April 24th, 2014 at 10:25 am

    This is really interesting, You’re a very skilled blogger.
    I’ve joined your feed and look forward to seeking
    more of your wonderful post. Also, I’ve shared
    your website in my social networks!

  28. 28
    May 7th, 2014 at 2:53 am

    I will be graduating college in 8 days and cannot wait. I already have everything set from my hair to my dress, but would like to say thank you for taking the time to write this blog.

  29. 29
    May 10th, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    Nice share… I am graduating next month, I was starting to freak out about my outfit, so now I have the time and necessary tips to choose what I’ll be wearing. Thaks

  30. 30
    May 27th, 2014 at 7:29 am

    ah! great, my graduation is near thank God have gotten tips, gudbye dear writer

  31. 31
    June 7th, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    I am 39, and graduating in ONE WEEK for my Associate’s Degree in Business Management and Accounting. Yes, I’m on the older side…but hey, it’s never too late to get an education! I have literally cried over what I am going to wear. I have never even been to anyone’s graduation (no, not even my own. I was a HS dropout). I have a long formal gown, with no sequins or glitter, in bland colors (chocolate & ivory). I think, to describe it, it would be a gown to wear to a formal Navy Ball, if that helps you picture it. Do you all think that will be fine to wear? I am scared of getting there (across the country) and looking stupid. Please help!

  32. 32
    July 3rd, 2014 at 8:07 pm

    this is very helpful thank you and the neack lace is a great idea

  33. 33
    August 29th, 2014 at 8:30 am

    Is it wrong to wear a long dress for graduation

  34. 34
    August 29th, 2014 at 8:32 am

    Pls is it wrong to wear a long dress for graduation

  35. 35
    October 23rd, 2014 at 9:18 am

    Hi, am graduating next month. Thanks for the tips. was stranded as far as dress code is concerned.

  36. 36
    December 1st, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    I have read so many articles or reviews concerning the blogger lovers but this article is truly a nice
    article, keep it up.

  37. 37
    January 3rd, 2015 at 11:47 pm

    For my university graduation I went with a black pencil skirt, plain purple shirt and low-heeled ankle boots. I also brought a couple of tiny brooches to better pin my hood and gown in place; they slip around a bit.

    I don’t agree with the wedges, though: my ceremony included a 25 minute procession through part of the city, and some of the other girls were complaining of aches and pains by the time we finished the procession. It’s worth checking the route you might have to walk before you buy shoes.

  38. 38
    February 14th, 2015 at 2:42 am

    Thought I would get some fashion advice since I’m graduating college in a couple months, I know it’s early but I have no idea what I’ll wear. Would a little black dress be okay, if it’s knee length? Or a red dress with black printed roses, and about one inch sleeves? Or are those more cocktail-type? Thanks!

Links to This Article

Leave a Reply


* Comment Rules: CF is a positive place and our comments section is no different. Constructive criticism is fine, but if you're rude, we'll delete your comment. Please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name and do not put your website in the comment text, as both come off like spam. For more info, see our Comment Policy. Have fun & thanks for adding to the conversation!


* Want a custom avatar to show up next to your comments? Sign up for a free Gravatar.