What Should You Wear On Graduation Day At Commencement?


The big day is finally here. Several stress-out sessions and too many exams later, you are finally graduating! Congradulations!

Having used up so much brain power on completing your studies, just the thought of figuring out what to wear to convocation can sap your remaining energy.

The key? Dress up, but be comfortable (and follow your school dress code, if there is one). Guys, you will regret not going for the tie and, girls, those super tall heels—although they make your legs look great—aren’t worth the trip (the one you’ll likely make across the stage).

What to wear?

Gents, it is recommended you wear a tie for your graduation portrait, and the logic remains for graduation. Having that tie popping out of the top of your robe adds a dash of sophistication and really tops off the look.

Ladies, be mindful of the length of your dress or skirt, should you choose to wear one. It might look a little funny to have that bit of colour peeping out the end of your robe.

Believe it or not, graduation robes are actually quite fun to wear. Trust me, you’ll look good in one!

Location, location, location

If your convocation is being held outdoors, some extra considerations need to be made.

For one, those black robes can really heat up in a non-air-conditioned space, so try to wear something light and airy underneath. Also, you may be crossing a lawn to get to your seat, so be mindful of just how clean and new those heels are (you may find yourself sinking into the earth now and then).

An icky question to consider: will your grad robe leak colour onto your outfit? Depending on the robe’s materials and the weather conditions during your grad ceremony, it could happen. Just be aware of this when choosing the outfit you’re going to wear underneath.

The big to-do about shoes

Shoes are probably the most focused-upon aspect of graduation wear. After all, they’re the only part of your outfit that’s visible beneath your gown.

For the gentlemen out there, a nice pair of black shoes should do the trick. Sorry, but running shoes or sandals definitely won’t cover it!

Ladies, a fancy pair of flip flops may slide under the radar, but this is your big day, so spring for a more formal pair of shoes. Opting out of heels is acceptable (your pretty flats will look and feel good), but if you do wear heels, breeze past that really tall, uncomfortable pair and find something you can confidently walk in. You only get a few seconds on stage and you want to make the best of them!

Hair care

Careful if you put your hair up or spring for spikes. Will the graduation cap really fit over that beautiful but thick bun? No. And don’t go all out on the hair around your scalp because no one is going to see it, and when they do, it will be after two hours of being shoved under a hat.

My fellow curly-haired maidens, you have a situation before you. If your hair curls from the roots, your top curls may be flattened by the graduation cap, resulting in flat hair on top and a wiry, I-just-got-electrocuted look on the bottom, so whip out your high school grad cap (if you didn’t throw it up at the end of the ceremony before realizing you might never find it again) and test out the look.

That’s not to say you have to straighten your hair, either. My curls form about halfway down my hair, and speaking from my own convocation experience, the cap conforms quite nicely.

Your moment to shine

The best thing you can wear on your big day is light semi-formal attire, comfortable matching shoes and a big, bright smile. You want to look back on this day and think, I had a good time and I looked good doing it, too!

Photo credit: Outdoor Graduation Ceremony by Margan Zajdowicz
About the author

Marisa Baratta loves writing, especially about topics pertaining to environmental change, animal issues, human rights and health. She loves helping others and wants to make a positive difference in the world. She is always working on publishing her books, which seek to inspire and incite laughter. She has been published in the National Post, t.o. night newspaper and on several online magazines. She completed a BA with a specialization in English and a bilingual certificate before studying Book and Magazine Publishing at Centennial College. She lives with her family and two cats (can you spot one of them in the picture?).