What to Wear to a College Graduation

what to wear to college graduation

College graduations note a milestone accompanied by a sense of achievement, pride and hope for a brighter future. Alongside these musings, rises a bigger question of how to dress appropriately for this marked ceremony. 

Figuring out what to wear to college graduation is almost as much a rite of passage as the event itself, but there are clear parameters that can make it easier to nail that college graduation dress code. 

Decoding College Graduation Dress Codes 

Like any event, college graduations have clear dress codes that can help you decipher how to dress for a graduation ceremony. These dress codes apply to graduates and guests, so let’s start with the easiest task first: 

Ceremonies that have college graduation dress codes listed on the invitation and/or school website: If you receive an official invitation to a ceremony that has the dress code clearly marked, well, you have won the graduation lottery. These invites will tell guests and graduates to show up in:

  • Casual: Think sundresses, cotton-based skirts and wraps, or even a classic pair of jeans with a nicer blouse or top. 
  • Semi-formal attire: Think of semi-formal as one step above what you would wear to the office or to a professional event. Look for dresses that fall knee-length or below, but you have more room to play with length and pattern than you would with a formal graduation dress for college. 
  • Formal attire: Formal graduation dresses for college will be more elevated than a semi-formal dress and would be something you would wear to a wedding, gala or high-end event. Formal graduation dresses for college should fall to the ankle or below, think a gorgeous silk maxi or an elevated jumpsuit or wrap dress. Formal dresses tend to be solid colors and avoid anything too patterned as it dilutes the formality of the look. 

Ceremonies that do not have dress codes clearly listed on the invitation or school website: If you don’t receive an invitation with a clear dress code and you can’t find this information on the university or college website, you can assume semi-formal attire is expected. 

Things to Consider for College Graduation Attire


College graduation ceremonies are an endurance sport, and how you dress for a graduation ceremony should reflect that. We suggest flats or sandals (this will also prevent you from sinking into grass at outdoor venues). If you do want to go with a heel, keep it short and remember that aching feet can ruin even the most joyful of events. 

Fabric-wise, choose something breathable as many graduations are outside and on sunny, warm days, you don’t want to be sweating through your look!


Accessories are a great way to add some dimension to your graduation look. We suggest keeping it simple and avoiding anything too large, flashy, or chunky that might distract from your big moment as you walk across the stage or, as a guest, would seem out of place or take away from the big day.

Pattern and Length

When it comes to patterns, avoid animal print or anything too loud or busy as it will take away from the formality and professionalism of the day. Length-wise, stick with dresses and skirts that fall below the knee. For graduates, you don’t want anything too short or too tight or too revealing that would make it hard for you to walk across the stage. You want an outfit that is comfortable and that you would feel good moving around in for a few hours.

Dress Picture Perfect

When deciding what to wear to college graduation, make sure that your outfit will photograph well and that you aren’t making a selection that will clash with anything else going on. 

Be Color Scheme Forward

For graduates, you will be wearing whatever dress you select under a larger graduation gown. Make sure that the color of the dress you pick out matches the gown and creates a cohesive color scheme. 

Fame and Partners: Your Partner in Life’s Biggest Events 

At Fame and Partners, we love a big occasion. Our collection of college graduation dresses are designed to match all styles and personalities and, since everything we create is 100% customizable, you have a chance to make our garments your own. We design the dresses — you decide on the final touches that make each look pop. 

Throw that hat in style. Make this moment your own.