What Do You Wear To Graduation? 5 Outfit Ideas To Inspire You On The Big (And Slightly Petrifying) Day

Graduation is the last event you will ever attend in college. Once you walk across that stage and shake hands with the dean, the president, and the chancellor, and finally receive the diploma you have worked so hard for, you’re done with school for good (and all your woes about what to wear to graduation begin to seem flippant). That being said, graduation is a major event, and it usually simultaneously marks the end of something old and the beginning of something new. So, who wouldn’t want to step out in style?

If you’re like me, the first thought that goes through your mind when you know you’re attending an event is, “What am I going to wear?” I’ve been wondering about graduation for months now. And I’ve done some research, too. I normally consider my style on trend and feminine, but as far as graduation goes, I’d probably pick something more classic to wear.

While I absolutely adore my velvet crop top and my flat forms, there's quite a chance that I'd regret wearing those when I am haunted by my graduation photos years later. Also, whatever I wear has to look good with my cap and gown. As much as I hate that cap and gown, my school happens to require black cap and gowns, so I can’t be too bitter (and most schools typically pick black, blue, or similarly neutral colors). Lastly, shoe choice is crucial because no one wants to be remembered as that person who tripped in front of hundreds of people on graduation day.

So, in preparation for the big day, I planned out some potential graduation outfits. Ranging from trendy styles to boho chic to the classic white dress, here are five graduation outfits guaranteed to withstand years of trends and fads and make you feel confident and stylish for your big day.

1. Classic White

White dresses usually mean something is going down. White as a color symbolizes purity and innocence, which makes it common for wedding days and other formal occasions including graduation. So if your whole family is planning on attending your graduation and you’d prefer to convince them that all those black-out nights and missed classes never happened, you should probably wear white. While there is no guarantee you’ll fool anyone, white is a basic hue and typically really easy to style. Plus, white is always a foolproof match no matter what color your school requires your cap and gown to be.

I picked out a short, pleated white dress. The dress looks crisp and classic against my black cap and gown, and I combined the look with a pair of black high heeled sandals. Although, this dress would also look great with a pair of basic flats or embellished black sandals as well. The only trouble will be keeping the white dress clean until after photos are taken. So it might be smartest to take photos before heading to post-graduation lunch, dinner, or a party.

2. Trendy Yet Pretty

The default for graduation is a dress. But that doesn’t mean you have to wear one. Like I said before, I’m totally guilty when it comes to following trends. I love statement pieces and will gladly purchase an item that might be considered “last season” within the month. That being said, occasionally trends will become popular and will become wardrobe staples — enduring style for years. That was my mentality when I put together this skirt and shirt combination.

While neoprene might be a fabric typically used for swimwear, this neoprene fluted skirt looks great with a shirt tucked in. I paired the skirt with a gold embossed shirt, and would make the argument that gold and black have been in style for plenty of years to be considered old within the next few months. Additionally, I wore a pair of laced up heels that I’ve seen plenty of bloggers and celebrities wear recently. While they are definitely not the most comfortable heels I have worn, they gave the outfit a little more oomph to an otherwise basic look. Plus, all you can see when I have my gown zipped up are my shoes so I wanted to wear a pair that stood out.

3. Strapless And Floral

If you’re not into the idea of white, and you would rather wear a dress over two separates, this option may be for you. Plus, if you’re ready for summer and just want to be at the beach already, this style might be the best way to go. While maxi dresses can potentially be too casual, this floral, blue and green printed version is pretty and versatile so you won’t necessarily have to avoid it in your closet until everyone forgets what you wear to graduation. It’s strapless, which looks great with the gown, and it has a subtle leg slit so you can show off your shoes. Like I said before, you are welcome to pair your outfit with whatever shoes you are comfortable with, but I liked the idea of wearing this maxi dress with a pair of pretty sandals.

4. Bright And Colorful

Graduations typically occur in the spring, and what better time is there to wear color than in the spring? Surely come graduation, the trees will have grown back their leaves and the flowers will have bloomed. So, a bright and colorful dress is a no-brainer when it comes to graduation outfits. I paired my aqua blue mini dress with a pair of orange sandals. While I could have worn the same black sandals I wore with my white dress, I wanted to infuse some extra personality to the look and the orange sandals worked perfectly.

This idea also works wonderfully in conjunction with incorporating school colors into your graduation outfit. My school’s colors happen to be orange and white. Since no one can see what I’m wearing under my gown besides my shoes, my shoes are coincidentally great school spirit. But that doesn’t necessarily have to be coincidental. If you love your school and want to show off some spirit, this colorful outfit idea is easy to adjust to your school colors. Hopefully your school colors are relatively easy to shop for, because I know orange and white were quite a struggle.

5. Bohemian Chic

If there’s one television character I’ve always wanted to be, it is Serena Van Der Woodsen. Played by the gorgeous Blake Lively, her character’s wardrobe was always filled with tasteful sequined pieces, interesting textures like velvet and leather, and she always looked effortlessly dressed up yet casual at the same time. I always adored her style, and I tried to mimic it with this graduation ensemble.

Again, trying out a skirt and shirt combination as opposed to the more traditional dress, I wanted this outfit to look good with a cap and gown, which was the biggest struggle. While the other skirt I wore was shorter, I opted for a more bohemian maxi skirt embellished with sequins and beads. This skirt was high-waisted, and while I could have worn a crop top I chose to tuck in a basic white t-shirt I had to make it a little less formal. That way the skirt peeps out of the gown, but you’re still not overdressed for lunch or dinner plans after the ceremony. While shoe choice all depends on what you’re comfortable with, this comfortable pair of platforms looked great with the maxi dress. But just remember, if you’re not completely confident you can successfully walk across the stage and get your diploma without tripping, you should probably stick to a smaller heel, flats or sandals.

Now you should have a better idea of your graduation ensemble. Just remember, make sure that whatever you wear, you feel comfortable in it.

Oh, and con-graduation!

Images: Author's Own; Giphy