As the mother of a graduate, you should dress appropriately and with sophistication, keeping the attention on the graduate and not you. But that doesn't mean you have to compromise your individuality. Many ensembles are stylish, age-appropriate and becoming. The trick is finding the right one.
"Your attire shouldn't be too short or low cut, and it should fit you well," says Laura Lieff, president of Accentuating Service, a concierge and coaching firm in New York. "A graduation ceremony is a professional ceremony and, therefore, you want to look professional. As it's not a wedding ceremony or cocktail party, you don't want to be overdressed."
Dresses and Dress Pants
Dresses are the go-to fashion piece if you are a mom attending a graduation. They're versatile, easy to accessorize, feminine and a great way to celebrate the senior or graduate student in your life. Choose from all sorts of colors, cuts -- just above and below the knee -- and price points. Dress pants paired with flattering tops, and dressy pant suits, are worthwhile options if you're not a fan of frocks. Just remember to keep it classy.
"The goal is to (err) on the side of demure -- the sartorial equivalent to dressing for a baby or bridal shower," writes Andrea Cheng on Instyle.com. "But that's not to say you can't have fun! While the soon-to-be graduates will be cloaked in uniform caps and gowns, you can show some support ... with a celebratory look."
Dress for the Weather and Venue
Sleeveless or short-sleeved sundresses are ideal because most graduations take place in May and June. That said, it's good to bring a light jacket or sweater in case the weather is cool or if the ceremony takes place inside an air conditioned auditorium, cautions author and etiquette expert April Masini.
"A beautiful scarf is a great way to add color and style to a classic simple dress," says Annika Connor, the founder and artist behind the New York company ShawLux Art Scarves. "It keeps the style conservative and elegant while having the added bonus of being a light-weight way to add warmth -- something that can be much needed in highly air conditioned auditoriums and graduation halls or gymnasiums."
The same practicality applies to footwear.
"A shoe with a heel may work inside but if you are outdoors, flats, wedges or block heels are going to be a lot better," says Deborah Boland, author of Fabulous After 40: Tweak Your Chic on her website. "You don’t want to get your heel stuck in grass or between patio stones."
Be Camera Ready
It's good to wear florals and colors that flatter your complexion. Just remember that you will be taking a lot of photos with your pride and joy, so steer clear of garish shades and patterns that are too busy, Boland says.
"A cheery shade is fine, but no neon hues or jarring brights that distract from the real star -- your child. Also, avoid giant or loud patterns and edgy animal prints. They’re overpowering," Boland writes on her website. "Florals are a natural choice and always work well this time of year, or you can go for a relaxed print. Elegance is the magic word when it comes to dressing for a graduation."
Mekeisha Madden Toby is a Los Angeles-based TV critic. She has been a professional journalist since 1999, also writing for "Essence," MSN TV, "The Detroit News," "TV Guide," "People Magazine," "Us Weekly," "The Seattle Times," "San Francisco Chronicle," "Minneapolis Star Tribune" and "The News Tribune" in Tacoma, Wash. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Wayne State University.