Nikki’s Inbox: The Graduate’s Dress

My graduation is coming soon in June but I haven’t found anything yet to wear for the ceremony. I want something smart and elegant and that won’t be hidden behind the black gown. Please help!!!

Wendy, 22/London, UK

I’m currently 18 years old and about to graduate from high school. I’m really excited and also nervous because I don’t know what to wear for graduation. My school is pretty strict and I doubt they will allow short dresses (like for prom). Help, I don’t know how to look fabulous and not old for graduation!

Ruby, 17/Malaysia

I was wondering if you could give me some advice on what to wear underneath (purple) graduation robes. The dress is supposed to be short or up to our knees and although we can choose whatever style we want I would like a dress that is fashionable at parties as well as comfortable enough to wear during the ceremony. I’m also very petite (4’11”).

MinKyung, 18/NC, USA

Congratulations graduates! Here’s a toast to your achievements to date and the many more successes to come, whether that’s at university, graduate studies or work!

Your graduation ceremony is a special occasion that marks just how far you’ve come and it deserves a fabulous outfit to match – something that’s gorgeous and timeless to celebrate the occasion. As with any occasion dress, there are a few points to consider:

Color: Classic colors like black and navy are sober and sophisticated while bright colors like pink or yellow make a youthful statement. Check if there’s a dress code that dictates what color to wear.

Length: Get the measurements of the robe and decide how long you want your dress to be. It can peek out slightly under the robe for color but it means the dress needs to be calf-length, which may be too long. A short dress won’t be seen under the robe, but will look great in pre- and post-ceremony photos.

The day’s schedule: If you’re attending a celebratory brunch or dinner, be sure your dress is appropriate for the location and crowd. Keep it chic and dressy if everyone is looking fancy, but tone it down if most of the guests are taking the casual route.

Having said that, here are a few ideas that might answer your questions, ladies!

Smart and Elegant
This is an easy look; you probably have a classy go-to dress in your wardrobe already. Pencil skirts or dresses that fall just above the knee, LBDs and A-line dresses are all elegant. Look for neutral colors like black, white, navy and gray.

Peek-a-boo Dress
You want your dress to be seen (otherwise why spend so much time picking one out?), but it’s both unlikely and unwise for it to be shown too much. Graduation robes are usually high-cut and cover most of your neck and collar area – and in Wendy’s case, English robes usually come with a hood. Chances are you’ll get a sliver of color through the front of the robe, where there’s no closure and I think that subtle peek is more than enough. Look for dresses that complement the robe color; if your robe is standard black, avoid LBDs and opt for purples, blues and patterns instead. A purple robe like MinKyung’s is also versatile – black, white, navy and gray dresses will look chic, while bright hues like tangerine and greens will really make a pop.

Conservative Chic
If you’re looking for a longer dress, Ruby, anything an inch or two above the knee is youthful and classy and anything of similar length below the knee is just as classy. Consider A-line dresses, which give the illusion of a higher hemline, or drop-waists so the dress won’t hug your figure. You might consider a draped maxi dress if that’s your style, but it’s best to show some leg under the robe to avoid a bulky look. If finding a dress with the right length and cut are a problem, you can always opt for dress pants, which are also common and acceptable.

Toss That Cap and Party!
While graduation is a huge milestone, your grad dress, unlike the prom dress, doesn’t have to be a worn-once-in-your-lifetime affair. Pick one that can you can slip into for brunches with girlfriends, a sister’s graduation or even a party. MinKyung, if you’re going to a brunch or dinner party after your graduation ceremony, look for a dress that’s day- or evening-appropriate. If you’ve chosen a hem that’s higher than mid-thigh, make sure the dress has sleeves or at least covers the shoulders to stay event-appropriate!

Have fun darlings!


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One comment on “Nikki’s Inbox: The Graduate’s Dress

  1. Amy Dang May 9, 2011 11:52 am

    aww, thanks nikki! i was just about to ask you the same question, this totally resolved my question, thank you!