Congratulations on your child’s graduation! It’s an exciting and proud moment for both of you. As a mom, you want to look your best and feel comfortable enough to enjoy the occasion. There is much to consider when choosing an outfit, as I learned when my son graduated from college. But don’t stress! Here are some tips and outfit ideas to help you decide what to wear to your child’s graduation.
shop the look
1. Dress Up
Many schools don’t have an official graduation dress code, so don’t expect to see clear dress guidelines on the invitation. All you need to know is that a graduation is a formal event, so be sure to dress up, even if it’s just a little.
The outfit you choose will depend on a few factors, such as the location, school, type of graduation, and personal style preferences.
A good rule of thumb for an appropriate outfit is something you would normally wear to work or in business. Your outfit should be smart, neat, and polished. Think business casual or professional, and you will be on the right track.
shop the look
2. Leave Your Jeans at Home
You may not feel like dressing up, especially if it means buying something new, but having your child graduate is a significant accomplishment and merits more respect than just wearing a pair of jeans. Jeans or any denim, capris, and shorts are too casual. Leave them at home!
Instead, consider these outfit ideas:
- A classic dress: A simple, elegant dress in a flattering silhouette is a timeless choice for a graduation ceremony. Choose a knee-length or midi dress in neutral, pastel, or bright.
- Pants and dressy blouse or top: A pair of bright pants and a pretty top or silky blouse is always appropriate and classy. Add a jacket or cardigan to uplevel the look and create a more powerful vibe. Pants with a neutral top or shirt + a colorful blazer are a polished mom look.
- Pantsuit: A pantsuit can be a stylish and comfortable option for a graduation ceremony, especially if the event is outdoors or you do a lot of walking. Choose a tailored suit in a lightweight fabric.
- Skirt and blouse: A knee-length skirt paired with a blouse is chic and feminine for a graduation ceremony. Choose a flowing dress in a bright color or pattern, and pair it with a simple blouse in a complementary color.
When my son graduated from college in NYC with a degree in Drama, the suggested dress code was casual/creative. So, I wore a pair of flowy drawstring dress pants, a black and white graphic top, and a hot pink jacket. I looked professional but a little artsy in keeping with the school’s creative vibe.
If he had been graduating from an Ivy League school in something like law or finance, I probably would have dressed even more conservatively, meaning I might have worn tailored pants with a classic top, or perhaps a less bright jacket. Ultimately, it’s really about how you feel in your outfit that’s important. you need to feel confident to enjoy the day.
shop the look
3. Wear Comfortable Shoes
This was an eye-opener! I knew graduations involved a lot of walking around, but I never realized how much. I can’t stress how important it is to wear comfortable shoes.
While high heels are fashionable and dressy, they’re not practical. For example, many afternoon graduations in the spring/summer are often held on the grass, with guests sitting on bleachers under a tent. You usually have to walk on grass or a stone walkway. Flats, wedges, or block heels will be much easier to walk in. You don’t want your heel stuck in the grass or between patio stones.
When I attended my son’s May graduation, it was a very long walk from the parking lot, up and down stairs, and over what felt like a mile of concrete to get to the outdoor stadium. I wore low, chunky heel slides which were not my first choice but I thought would be pretty comfortable. They were o.k. for part of the way, but thankfully I had tucked a pair of fold-up flats into my bag and switched into those to finish the walk.
I saw many moms wearing pretty floral dresses or pants and a blouse with chunky athletic sneakers the entire time, and they looked fine. It was understandable that comfort was key.
What about indoor graduations? There may not be as much walking, but there’s a lot of standing and mingling. At an indoor fall or winter graduation, you can still look polished in low heels or dressy flats. Boots with dresses are also acceptable, so long as they are in good condition and not mucked up with dirt or snow.
shop the look
4. Dress for the Weather
Graduation ceremonies are typically very long and drawn out. They are usually held indoors in the fall and winter and outdoors in the spring and summer. It can boil at this time of year, so many women prefer sleeveless to keep cool. Light, breathable fabrics like cotton and linen blends can also help.
On the other hand, you never know how the weather will end up. It might suddenly turn chilly, so be prepared. It’s a good idea to bring a sweater in case it gets cool, or the air conditioning is blasting. A scarf, shawl, light trench coat, or blazer also works.
You might also want to take a light tote: sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat. Thinking you might want to take an umbrella in case it rains? Take a rain poncho instead to avoid blocking the view!
shop the look
5. Consider Color
The colors you choose to wear to graduation are important for a couple of reasons. First, you don’t want to upstage the grad wearing anything too bright or loud, but you do want to look fashionable and fabulous in photos. Many moms opt for pastels or cheery colors worn with some neutrals. You can also wear classic colors like navy, taupe, green, gray, brown, etc., which are always appropriate. However, avoid wearing the school colors or all black since you don’t want to blend in with your child’s graduation gown in photos.
4. Avoid anything too Flashy
While showing some personality via your outfit is fine, avoid wearing anything loud, distracting, or flashy. Neon colors, wild patterns, animal prints, edgy silhouettes, or attention-grabbing details that say look at me distract from the real star- your child. Don’t even think about anything with sequins, sparkles, or fringe. Graduation is not a cocktail party. It’s best to err on the side of the conservative.
For example, florals are a natural choice for the mother of the graduate, or you can go for a modern, relaxed print. Elegance is the magic word when it comes to dressing for graduation. Don’t try to upstage the grad.
shop the post
5. Dress Respectfully
The day belongs to your child and their achievements. Don’t embarrass your son or daughter by revealing clothing that draws unwanted attention. For example, steer clear of anything tight, very short, or low-cut that show that shows off a lot of skin. Avoid dresses with very short hemlines or high slits. This isn’t the time to try and prove how sexy you are. Think modest and classy.
6. Keep it Understated with Classy Accessories
You’ll also want to avoid outrageous, trendy, or flashy accessories. Polished, simple accessories in classic styles will look great.
Since you will be carrying a bag for the entire day, pick one that isn’t too big or heavy. It can be neutral or colorful, so long as it is classy. A small to medium-sized purse with structure looks more polished than a soft, scrunchy boho bag or a giant, oversized tote. Leather is always classier than canvas. any kind of bag with sequins, sparkle, or with heavy hardware(edgy) or a lot of embellishment (too formal and flashy).
Shop these outfits
Where to Buy Graduation Dresses for Moms
Some of my favorites stores:
- Anne Taylor – I love this retailer for graduation. Professional, colorful. Classic!
- Nordstrom– A great selection of dresses and pants that fit the occasion.
- Talbots – From High school grad to college, Talbots has classic, appropriate choices.
- Dillards – Very good selection of top brand names dresses for grad.
- Macy’s – Lots of price points and brands to choose from.
- JC Penney – Budget-friendly, pretty dresses for Mother of the Grad.
Remember, you’re there to celebrate your child’s achievements, so dress respectfully and appropriately for the occasion while feeling comfortable and confident.
Enjoy! More Picture-Perfect Graduation Dress ideas are here from some of my readers. P.S.S…Did you see the fabulous Graduation cards you can get to announce the graduation?