How should a mother dress for a graduation?

graduation graffiti image by Michele goglio from

The mother of a child who is graduating, whether from kindergarten or from college, plays a very important role at the graduation. A mother is often a child's largest support and being at this graduation is important for not only the parent, but also for the child and the various friends and family involved.

Next to the graduate, the mother plays the biggest role. Therefore, it is crucial that the mother looks and dresses appropriately for this event.

Dress Like a Lady

The first and most important thing to remember when dressing for a graduation is to dress like a lady. This means no low-cut tops that show off cleavage and no short skirts that are more than an inch above the knee. It is important to look respectable and polished. A suit is always a good, respectable choice. It can be a pants suit or a skirt suit; both are appropriate. Other acceptable options include a skirt and blouse, trousers and a blouse or a dress. Just make sure they are cut appropriately. However, do not go overboard and wear clothes that are too long or baggy. This will look frumpy. You want to look polished and tailored. For example, in an article in the New York Times entitled "She Dresses to Win" it discusses the style of Michelle Obama, Jackie Kennedy and other First Ladies. As a First Lady it is imperative that a woman dresses properly, and, it would often be agreed that a First Lady is an icon of ladylike style while her husband is in office. Therefore, when dressing as a mother for a graduation, think of the concepts of the First Ladies. Some of the ideas discussed in the article are streamlined silhouettes, solid colours, and dressing to suit one's own body type. All of these are essential, classic fashion concepts and should be kept in mind when dressing like a lady.

The Mother Represents the Child

At a graduation, the mother is there to support and represent the child. Most likely the mother will be meeting the child's friends and classmates, professors and other parents. You do not want to wear anything that would draw inappropriate attention to yourself or embarrass the child. It might even be a good idea to check with your child (if he or she is old enough) to make sure the child is comfortable with what you are wearing and does not find it embarrassing.


Colour can be the best or worst thing about an outfit. The right colour can set off an outfit perfectly. However, the wrong colour can make an otherwise good outfit all wrong. For example, a lovely, tailored suit would be far less lovely in a bright shade of neon green or yellow. The key is to blend in on this day, not stand out. A neutral colour palate such as black, white, navy, red or tan work nicely on almost anyone. Pastels can be lovely for a spring graduation. Just make sure they are not too sheer or see through. No bright colours, period.


Since a mother does not want to wear anything that will make her stand out from the crowd, this means it is not time to try out a new leopard print suit or zebra print shirt. Wild, bold, flower patterns are also not recommended, as they can also be dated and out of style and draw extra attention. Do not wear anything with sequins, beads or an excessive amount of decoration or embroidery. Solids are the best bet for a graduation. A solid colour suit or solid separates are always classic. This isn't to say all stripes and patterns are out of the question, but they should be soft and subdued.


Although a graduation is not a formal occasion, it is not a casual one either, so this means jeans and a sweatshirt are definitely not appropriate. It is a semi-formal occasion, so a long, formal gown is also not appropriate. This is not a gala, a ball, a dance or an awards ceremony, so anything too formal, too frilly, or too over the top will not fit the occasion. Depending on what the mother is comfortable with, a dress or suit should be knee length or tea length; floor length is too formal for a graduation. Think of what one might wear to a job interview; those same rules apply. If a skirt or a dress is involved, wear pantyhose. Bare legs are generally not proper unless you live in a very warm climate, (for example, Florida, Southern California or Hawaii where everyone will have bare legs.) As the mother of a child who is graduating, you want to look effortlessly elegant and ladylike. Keep the above rules in mind, and the perfect outfit for the mother of a graduate is within reach.