What to wear to graduation

Got your graduation outfit sorted yet? Check out our top tips to ensure you look the part on the day

So, several years of (mostly) hard work down the line and you’re almost done with uni! The last thing to tick off your list is your graduation. Along with the usual worries (like tripping on stage or getting too drunk at the reception) loads of people worry about what to wear to graduation. Remember your graduation photo will probably take pride of place on your parents’ mantelpiece for the foreseeable future, so it’s worth putting some effort into your look! But it needn’t be a massive issue - we’ve put together some handy recommendations for where to find a stylish, affordable graduation outfit and some ideas for what to wear to your graduation ceremony.

A group of male and female students at their graduation ceremony

Things to consider

Graduation isn’t the time to be shimmying on stage in your clubbing gear - it’s a great excuse to dress up nicely and look your best. While you’re wearing your robes (and don’t forget that very stylish mortarboard), your outfit won’t be visible, so it’s worth thinking about what will work with your graduation gear. Most unis allocate coloured hoods or sashes depending on your qualification, so it’s worth finding out what colour your hood will be ahead of time so you can choose your outfit based on this. You’ll also want to pick an outfit that’s comfy, as there’s a lot of standing around, and not too thick or heavy, as it can get seriously toasty under those robes and hat.

Where to buy your graduation outfit for women

TSR user Georgiahoneybee managed to find some really nice graduation dresses at ASOS and Dorothy Perkins - and the good news is that both sites accept student discount, so you can make the most of the last few months of your NUS card. Member jus-mi found her outfit at House of Fraser, and went for a classic black dress that she jazzed up with accessories and colourful shoes. Lovinlife2 also recommends trying Zara, New Look, AX Paris and Oasis for graduation outfits, so there’s plenty of choice out there.

I suggest looking on both ASOS and Dorothy Perkins websites as they have a really great selection of dresses.


Women's graduation outfit inspiration

One important thing to think about here is the length of your graduation dress. The robes tend to be pretty long, so unless you’re wearing a maxi dress, much of your outfit will be hidden. However, the robes don’t fully close, so it’s worth putting some thought into the colour at the very least. Midi-length dresses and cocktail dresses work well - even though they’ll probably be shorter than your robes, you’ll have a bit of skin exposed to the air so you don’t get too hot.

Comfy shoes are also ESSENTIAL. Whether you decide to go for heels or flats, make sure you can walk in them before the big day. A chunky mid-heel tends to be a relatively safe choice if you’re not confident in heels, but you’ll also see plenty of people in flats. Whichever you go for, this might be your one chance to show a bit of personality on graduation day, so choose a style that represents you, whether that’s a chunky shoe-boot, a classy court shoe (Office have a great selection) or a pair of pretty pumps.

Oh - and don’t forget safety pins and hair grips! You may need them to pin your robes and hood in place or to secure your hat if it’s a little big. But really, the golden rule is to wear whatever you’ll feel comfortable in, as happydinosaur shared in the forums. A wrap dress looks smart, but is still comfy enough to see you through the day.

A patterned jersey dress is a good shout - it's stretchy, super comfy and the pattern makes it look way smarter than the fabric would make you think. Florals are always versatile, so you can wear one of these dresses over and over again.

Why not add a bit of sparkle to your graduation outfit? We're not talking head-to-toe sequins here, but a little nod to this exciting occasion won't hurt anyone. Think subtle embellishment or a metallic thread rather than all-out clubbing gear.

When in doubt, you can never go wrong with an LBD! A sleeveless little number will help you stay cool under your gown, and you don't need to worry about clashing with your hood.

At graduation this week people are wearing anything and everything, girls in dresses, skirts and tops, shirts, leggings, pumps, heels. Anything goes and a couple of safety pins should sort you out. 


Where to buy your graduation suit

In terms of affordable suits, TSR user UWS is keen on Next and H&M, or if your budget is slightly higher, it’s worth checking out T. M. Lewin for your graduation suit. Duncan2012 recommends looking at M&S for suits, and The Empire Odyssey likes Moss Bros for shirts and accessories. Burton and Topman also stock a great range of affordable suits which will get you looking sharp on a budget. 

I bought mine from Next, they do some good deals for whole sets. You can also buy from H&M. 


Men's graduation outfit inspiration

You may think that there’s not much of an opportunity to get creative with a graduation suit, but it’s all about the little details. Finding out what colour hood you’ll be wearing means you can find a tie that works with it. This doesn’t have to be a plain, block colour - you could also go for a patterned design with details in your chosen colour for a more interesting take. If you’ll be wearing a pocket square with your suit, you should also make sure this works with your suit, tie and hood.

In terms of the suit itself, the guys in this thread are fans of charcoal, but black and navy are still totally safe bets. If you don’t want to go plain, consider a pinstripe, or for a super modern look, a faint check print could help take your graduation outfit to the next level. A crisp white shirt will work with literally any suit, but a pale pink or pale blue are safe alternatives - and don’t forget that if it’s a hot day, you may ditch your suit jacket, so a nice shirt is a must.

A Prince of Wales check is a classic pattern - subtle enough to work for a wide range of events (you could easily rewear this to an interview), but equally with a bit more visual interest than a block colour.

If yours is a summer graduation, it is worth noting that you get extremely hot as the gowns are quite bulky and you are wearing it for a number of hours. You might just want to wear the suit jacket for photos. 


A light grey suit is ideal for a summer graduation ceremony. It'll look less heavy than black, navy or charcoal, and is a summer staple that you can wear year after year. This is definitely one you could repurpose for any weddings you have coming up, and would look fantastic with a bright, patterned tie and pocket square.

When it comes to the suit 'looking good' on you, 95% of that is down to fit. If it fits right, and you match the shirt and tie correctly you will look good.


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