My graduation is looming close and along with the usual companions it brings – finals, paper, projects, goodbyes, parties, final thesis – it also brings the question: what to wear? My schedule for the graduation day itself includes:
- Commencement Ceremony
- Graduation lunch: just me with family and close friends @ a restaurant
- Graduation dinner: co-hosting a catered dinner party with my best friend (also graduating) @ the function room of one of our condo buildings.
- Graduation party: until the wee hours of the morning @ a nightclub
So I will need at least two outfits: a daytime look for the ceremony and lunch, and a nighttime look for the dinner and party. I’m still looking for the perfect outfits and in searching, I’ve come up with some factors to consider when picking out graduation outfits:
- Graduation robe:
Your outfit will be underneath a robe for the entire ceremony and you will be walking across stage in front of hundreds, maybe thousands, and photographed in that robe. So pick a dress with a clean silhouette because anything with a lot of volume will look really strange underneath the robe. For my undergraduate graduation, I wore a beautiful strapless, knee-length dress with a stiff, slightly trumpeted skirt (it had tulle underneath). It looked really awkward underneath my robe – at knee height, there was this slight outward bulge. I looked like I was smuggling a small hula hoop!
It is best to dress in a classic look on the more conservative side for the ceremony. You will be meeting many of your friends’ parents for the first time and a classic, conservative look will make a better impression on the parents than an outfit that the parents found distasteful.
I had a very diverse group of friends in undergrad, most of them from Latin America and the Middle East, which are both religious and conservative cultures (at least in their parents’ generation). Knowing I would meet their parents, I picked something beautiful and classic, rather than sexy or trendy.
If parents are not a good enough reason to dress more conservatively, think about it this way: it will be very embarrassing to show your children/grandchildren a photo of you wearing a cap, gown and skin-tight mini-dress with a plunging neckline or something overly trendy and dated. A classic look is timeless and always beautiful.
- Weather and time of year
Think about the weather and time of year not only in terms of comfort for yourself, but also in terms of appropriateness. For a spring graduation, go for a lively color palette in light fabrics. Bold primary colors work well also as long as you keep the silhouette simple. Strapless, sleeveless, short sleeved, halter or something with straps work well for a spring setting. I would go for a dress or a top and skirt as opposed to pants or shorts because it is appropriate for the occasion and it will be the coolest (in terms of temperature, not awesome factor!). I’d advise not to wear dark colors – it’s a happy occasion so wear happy colors!
I graduated in Florida and the ceremony let out just past noon – just in time for photos under a blistering sun directly over our heads. I wish I had picked something a little lighter as the raw silk of my dress was a little thick and the tulle made my sticky legs itch. Thank goodness for the strapless bodice!
Needless to say, an abnormally large amount of photos will be taken on this day. Make sure your outfit is photogenic. Sometimes drapes, folds and prints might look amazing in person but not on camera. I’m sure many of you have seen celebrity red carpet mishaps where the dress photographed see-through and embarrassing pasties/underwear or worse, private parts, were revealed under the flash of the camera or sunlight! Graduation is an important milestone in your life so you want to be able to show your photos proudly in the future without being disappointed or embarrassed about your choice of outfit. Photo-proof your outfit by taking photos of yourself.
I am a hearty eater who always ends up looking slightly pregnant after a meal so I’m debating whether I should limit my food intake at lunch and dinner or find a dress that will conceal a stomach bulge. I’m opting for the latter at lunch and the former for dinner, since I will be going straight to the club after dinner and I am slightly vain 🙂 . However if you are not as vain as me, you will have to consider the fact that you will have a bloated moment after dinner. Instead of a form fitting dress, try an empire waist dress, a slightly unstructured or flowy dress, or even separates. Also, I’d shy away from white – you don’t want to accidentally spill food and have to go clubbing with a food stain on your beautiful outfit! I usually won’t wear white out partying either because oftentimes, partying can be messy with cranberry vodkas in the hands of drunken dancers!