Your graduation day from college or high school is a time of festivity and achievement. While the cap and gown form your uniform for the ceremony, you need a graduation outfit underneath that can take you from ceremony to celebration. The dress code for this outfit is typically business casual or semi-formal, so the graduation photos you take will turn out well. Choose weather-appropriate clothing that keeps you cool in the warm weather. Afterward, shed the gown for dinner or cocktails with friends and family.
Your Top Will Show
Graduation gowns are cut low enough in front to show a shirt or top, even when you wear a hood -- the colored sash that is worn around the neck and over the shoulders. For men, a collared dress shirt and tie present a tidy appearance, as the collar and tie show above the neckline of the gown. Because of the cut of the gown, scoop-neck tops with a modest cut and collared blouses are suitable choices for women.
Keep in mind that any honor cords will be on top of your outfit as well. Choose an outfit color that will not clash with these! This is why many women grads opt for a white dress or jumpsuit for the big day.
Watch Your Bottoms
Women can wear either dress pants or a skirt underneath the gown, although a floor-length skirt may make your outfit look heavy when paired with the length of the gown. Men should choose khakis or dark-colored dress pants. Brightly colored bottoms that show beneath the hem of the gown distract from the formality of the ceremony, so choose dark colors for pants or long skirts. For skirts that stop above the hem of the gown and can't be seen, a bright color is acceptable. Skirts should be relatively narrow -- no wider than an A-line style. Avoid puffy skirts that add volume to an already voluminous gown.
Weather, Clothes and Shoes
If your ceremony takes place outdoors, you need to dress for the weather. In summer or early fall, the high temperatures and humidity can cause you to overheat under the long gown. Dress lightly so you do not end up sweating uncomfortably through the ceremony. In case of rain, choose footwear that is dressy but that can withstand a little bit of moisture -- no rain boots allowed. If you are indoors, bring a change of shoes. Both men and women should wear closed-toe dress shoes to the graduation ceremony, not sandals or athletic shoes. Tall heels for women can make it difficult to walk, so aim for medium-height heels. If you are outdoors, consider wedges or platforms to reduce the chance that your heels sink into the soft ground.
Accessories and Hairstyle
The graduation cap limits the type of hairstyle you can wear. Loose flowing waves frame your face and balance the large flat top of the hat. Choices for up-dos are limited as you may not be able to fit the tight-fitting cap over a twist or bun. For men, clean, brushed hair is suitable. Wearing a class ring or a cocktail ring is appropriate for the ceremony. However, tuck chunky or quirky necklaces under the gown for the ceremony and keep your earrings simple and elegant.
Bethany Williams has been a beauty and style writer since 2006. She has written for "ELLE Canada," "Canadian Living" and "Flare Magazine." She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism and history from the University of King's College.