What Should I Wear to a Graduation?

Devon Pryor

Graduating students often have little choice as to what they can wear to a graduation. Of course, there is the cap and gown, the typical graduation attire, as well as any ribbons, chords, or special tassels that have been awarded to the student. A graduating student must also wear something underneath the cap and gown, and the flexibility as to what is an acceptable outfit to wear under cap and gown may depend on the institution.

A dress shirt.
A dress shirt.

Some institutions dictate what the graduating student must wear to graduation, whereas others may leave this decision up to the student. Female students may be required to wear dresses or skirts and blouses, and males to wear dress shirts and slacks. Others may simply require graduating students to wear particular colors or styles.

Students may be required to wear specific colors during graduation.
Students may be required to wear specific colors during graduation.

Even in the case that the institution does not dictate what graduates must wear to a graduation, the graduate will likely want to choose a versatile outfit to wear to their graduation. Something that they will be comfortable in, and yet will not show from underneath the graduation gown. It is important to remember that the outfit a graduate wears to a graduation will be commemorated in photos, and therefore, should be something appropriate.

When deciding what to wear to attend a graduation, the best rule of thumb is to combine comfort with style. Whether attending the graduation of a class of kindergarteners or a class of university Master’s degree recipients, one will want to be dressed both appropriately and comfortably. It is common to take commemorative photographs of families, friends, and fellow graduates at a graduation. For this reason, attendees will want to wear something that they feel good and look nice in. This includes wearing styles, colors, and prints that look good in photographs.

As for comfort, there are a few more specifics to consider when deciding what to wear to a graduation. Most graduation ceremonies require attendees to sit in plastic or metal chairs throughout the proceedings. Shorts or skirts should reach the knee when one is sitting. This will prevent the skin of the thighs touching the surface of the chair, which can be uncomfortable and leave marks on the backs of the legs. White clothing should probably not be worn, as the chairs used by guests may not be completely clean, and get white pants or skirts dirty.

Another thing to think about is whether the graduation will be held indoors or outdoors. If the graduation is indoors, there may be strong air conditioning, and an attendee may want to bring a sweater to wear to the graduation. If the graduation is outside, the attendee should remember that they may be sitting in the sun during the ceremony. Short sleeves, or short pants that leave the tops of the thighs exposed can leave one vulnerable to sunburn. It is usually not advised to wear a hat to a graduation, because it may block the view of those seated behind.

Traditionally, students wear a cap and gown to graduation.
Traditionally, students wear a cap and gown to graduation.

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Discussion Comments


I don't know about that Jan. I think it's kind of cool to look at the pics and remember the styles that were popular then.

And newsflash...your kids already think you're weird!



Don't wear anything too trendy or current stylish. Trust me, when you look back at the picture in 20 years, you'll groan at what you are wearing and your kids will think you're weird. Dress nicely comfortable and you'll be fine.


Of course you rock your school colors in a cap and gown for your graduation ceremony! What a wonderful tradition to move your tassel from right to left and even throw it in the air to symbolize freedom! (Just be sure to ink your name in it so your parents can find it later)

As a graduation guest, it’s important to wear 'business casual' attire. Show the graduate you care by taking the time to dress the family nicely. My concern for graduates? What types of flowers are appropriate and best represent a good future to a new graduate? And why are high school graduations during the day in Arizona now?

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