What to wear under a cap & gown

Updated April 17, 2017

When you graduate, you might wonder what you should wear beneath your cap and gown. Try not to choose the wrong outfit because chances are your family, friends and other graduates will see you without your gown on at some point. Commencement is a dignified time and the way you dress should reflect that.

For Girls and Women

Girls and women who are graduating have several options for what to wear beneath a cap and gown.

A nice dress is always appropriate. It should be a dress that fits the dignity of the ceremony, so very tight, low-cut styles and spaghetti straps are not as suitable as dresses with sleeves and modest necklines.

Another option is a skirt and dress shirt. Your skirt should be close to knee-length or longer and your shirt should be modest and complementary.

Women also have the choice of wearing a nice pantsuit in neutral colours such as cream, taupe, navy blue or black.

For Boys and Men

Boys and men should wear dress slacks and a dress shirt. A tie is usually called for, so choose one in a complementary colour and design. Make sure your shirt and trousers are clean and pressed.

While the colour of your slacks is a personal choice, you fare better with neutral tones like black, brown, blue and taupe. A simple white dress shirt is always appropriate for the occasion.

The Best Footwear

For girls and women, dressy flats or low heeled shoes are appropriate and will keep your feet comfortable while you're standing and walking. Heels that are too high can get uncomfortable if you spend hours at your commencement ceremony.

Boys and men should stick to black or brown dress shoes.

Keep Season and Place in Mind

Just make sure the dress fits the season; lightweight fabrics and light colours are good for spring and summer, while darker colours and heavier materials work for fall and winter.

Men should stick to dark coloured slacks and dark ties during cooler months, but when it's warm outside, khaki trousers and light-coloured dress shirts are appropriate.

What Not to Wear

All graduates should avoid wearing crop tops, tight-fitting clothes, jeans, ripped clothing, sneakers and casual shoes like flip flops. Even if your commencement takes place in the summer, your style of dress should show respect for the occasion.

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About the Author

Since 1996, Zoe London has written extensively on fashion, health, beauty, crafts and parenting. Her work has appeared in "Mahogany Magazine" and "The Kid Turned Out Fine".