Special Events

What to Wear To Your Child’s Graduation: Outfit Ideas for Mothers

If your son or daughter is graduating soon; congratulations! I’m sure you couldn’t be prouder. All those years of studying have finally paid off for you and your child. Now it’s time to celebrate before the next chapter begins. If you are wondering what to wear, here are a few graduation outfit ideas for moms. 

1. Leave Your Jeans at Home

As with any momentous occasion, you are deciding what to wear to a graduation ceremony can be more complex than you may have thought. Here are a few things for moms to keep in mind. You may not feel like dressing up 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 or capris.

Whether you’re attending formal college or a more informal high school graduation, a pretty dress, a skirt/dress pants, and a top with a jacket or sweater that is classic with a modern twist are perfect for the occasion.

Typically,  the higher up you go, the dressier you should be. You might be OK with a cute floral sundress in the spring at a high school graduation, while you would dress more business-like or semi-formal at a college graduation. A graduate school ceremony calls for something equally or more dressy.

Mother of the Grad - Navy Dress2. Think Conservative and Ladylike

The day belongs to your child and their achievements. Don’t embarrass your son or daughter by wearing something revealing that draws unwanted attention. For example, don’t wear sexy, tight, or low-cut tops. Avoid dresses with very short hemlines.

Don’t even go near anything with sequins, sparkles, or fringe. Graduation is not a cocktail party. It’s best to err on the side of the conservative. That doesn’t mean you have to be boring, though. 

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3. Give Thought to Color and Prints

Photos are a big part of Graduation Day, so if you want to wear some color, go right ahead. Solid-colored dresses are slimming and photograph well. In spring, a cheery shade is delicate, but neon brights or odd colors will eventually date and distract from the real star-your child.

Prints are lovely, too, so long as they aren’t overpowering. 

Steer clear of edgy animal prints, small busy patterns, or anything loud and tacky. Classic neutral-colored prints you would wear to the office work well. Florals are a natural choice for the mother of the graduate dresses and always work well any year. Or, you can go for a modern, relaxed print. Elegance is the magic word when it comes to dressing for graduation.

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4. Opt for Pants

What if You Want to Wear Pants? Dress pants worn with a pretty blouse are acceptable, or you can wear pants with a top or shirt and a bright blazer for a polished mom look. Dress pants + a feminine top worn with a cardigan or jacket are also a lovely combination.


Mother of the Grad - Green Dress


5. Wear Comfy Shoes

Will the ceremony be at night in a large fancy Hall, early morning in the gym with you sitting on the bleachers, or afternoon out on the grass under a tent? It’s something you need to consider when deciding what to wear, particularly when it comes to your shoes.

A  shoe with a thin heel is fine if the graduation ceremony is inside, but if you are outdoors, flats, wedges, or block heels will be a lot easier to walk in. You don’t want your heel stuck in the grass or between patio stones.

In the winter, elegant boots may be worn with dresses. Just be sure they are in good condition and not mucked up with dirt or snow.

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6. Keep it Understated with Classy Accessories

Make a good impression by avoiding outrageous accessories that are too trendy or flashy. Polished, simple accessories in classic styles will look great.

Since you will be carrying a bag for the entire day, select one that isn’t too big or too heavy. A colored bag is acceptable, so long as it is classy. Also, avoid bags with sequins or sparkle (to evenings) or lots of hardware or ornamentation (too flashy or edgy).

A small to medium-sized purse with some structure looks more polished than a soft, scrunchy boho bag or a giant, oversized tote. Leather is always classier than canvas.

7. Be Prepared for the Weather

Graduation ceremonies are typically very dry and drawn out. You need to wear something comfortable because you will sit for a long time. They are usually held indoors in the fall and winter, but in spring and summer, graduations are often held outdoors. It can be scorching hot at this time of year, which is why many women prefer sleeveless to keep cool.

On the other hand, you never know how the Weather is going to end up. It might suddenly turn chilly, so be prepared for weather inconsistencies and surprises. It’s a good idea to bring along a sweater if it gets cool or if the air conditioning is blasting. A scarf, shawl, light trench coat, or blazer also works. And don’t forget your sunscreen and sunglasses if you are outdoors!



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Enjoy! More Picture-Perfect Graduation Dress ideas are here. P.S…Did you see the fabulous Graduation cards you can get to announce the graduation?


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44 thoughts on “What to Wear To Your Child’s Graduation: Outfit Ideas for Mothers

  1. Hi Deborah, is a solid royal blue sheath dress too bright for a mom in her 50’s, who’s daughter is graduating with a white dress, black robe?

  2. Hi. My son is graduating from college in a few weeks. I have a lovely Boden dress I would like to wear, but am unsure if it’s too bold. https://www.bodenimages.com/productimages/productlarge/21wspr_w0705_ivo.jpg (No, that is not me in the photo! Ha ha!) I am 5’10” tall and can’t wear heels due to an injured foot. What style and color shoe would you recommend to make it dressy? I have very fair skin, if that helps with shoe color.

    Thank you for any advice you can provide.

    1. I love it, Jan. It’s beautiful, and although it’s colorful, it is a shirtdress so more classic and businesslike than a ruffle-tiered dress which would be way too much. I would stick to a nude/natural color shoe, so the dress is the focus. For the style of shoe, you could go with a genuine espadrille as shown but flat:https://rstyle.me/+2dAbr2Evih-1OJZAMymQJQ

  3. Hi my son is graduating in May from University and I’m a plus size and have not idea what to wear :’( help please

  4. Hi. I’m going to my son’s first graduation. I’m pear-shaped and looking for a flare dress. The ones I’ve seen are personally not for graduation. I don’t want to overpower him on my outfit

    1. Hi Karen, It’s hard to suggest a one look suits all for a grad or anything else because it not only depends on the how formal the graudation is, but your style personality and body shape too. Many women prefer a very conservative look. This dress is lovely because it can be dressed up and down with jewelry and is great for pear shapes. This would work https://rstyle.me/+7Z0-l_XWl0-08rbYNItNrQ

  5. It’s my son’s High School Graduation at the football field in June.
    I am having difficulties finding a nice outfit.
    Not sure what would be an appropriate outfit for this event. Please I need advice.

    Thank you,


  6. Thank you so much, it’s my 1st Graduation Ceremony & I was lost, didn’t know what was appropriate, but thanks to your site I have the perfect ensemble that doesn’t clash with my son’s cap/gown.

  7. Help me, please. I am going to a family member’s graduation she is getting her master’s. The graduation will be in October 2018. I don’t know what to wear. Should I dress up? I don’t want to wear jeans. Should I wear dress pants and a blouse or pantsuit or can I wear a jumper? I have plenty of clothes. I have a brand new dress in my closet. I am in great shape. I am tall slim think Namoi Campbell. Just not as endowed in the breast area. I am thinking of wearing a cream-colored dress with different colors in dress and satin wedges and a clutch purse. I am not sure if going to dinner after the event or if she is having something at home. Will this be okay? I also have a couple of new pantsuits I can wear.

    1. Hi Lady J, No need to worry. The best advice I can give you is to think of this as a classy business networking event. You want to look polished, pretty, and on the conservative side. It’s not a cocktail party, so no glitz, low-cut tops, or short skirts, and it’s not a casual get-together so no jeans or street wear. I like the idea of a classic dress such as a sheath dress or a fit and flare dress like you seem to be talking about. Satin wedges sound like they are going to be too dressy- more for a wedding. I’d go with a lovely suede or leather pump instead. Yes, you could also wear a pretty blouse with dress slacks and some jewelry or a pantsuit is appropriate too with dressy shoes. Here’s an article that might help:https://www.fabulousafter40.com/what-to-wear-over-40-kids-graduation/ It’s a summer post but the suggestions are sound. Have a great time!

  8. Hello, I am going to my son’s high school graduation soon and I am so worried I am going to look bad. I am very insecure because I have recently gained about 50 pounds. I am 39 about 5’5 and weigh about 185 pounds. Can you please give me some examples of dresses that will slim me and also some slimming wear that doesn’t show underneath and smooths and slims.

    P.S. Did I mention this was my high school, years ago in 1996, and I moved away and this will be the first time I have been back since I was in my early 30s and skinny! I don’t want to steal the show but I am so worried and don’t want to feel insecure or bad. Small town people talk… gossip and judge which is why I moved away.

    Thanks, Erika

    1. Hi Erika, The best dress is going to depend on where you carry your weight. If it is in the hips, bottom and thighs then consider a pretty fit and flare dress. If thick through the middle and straight all the way down then a shift or sheath dress would be good. If you are an apple with all your weight in your bust and stomach then a dress that is loose and flowy such as a trapeze style would be nice. As for undergarments, I like the Thinstincts open bust one piece from Spanx underdresses:https://rstyle.me/n/c7yz8cb52f7 I find it really helps. As for the color/print of the dress- choose a solid color or medium print-a print with a dark color background is more slimming than a light color background. Nude shoes elongate your legs and make you look taller and slimmer. I hope that helps and have a wonderful time!

  9. Graduation day can be very long! My son had to check in at 7:30 a.m. to pick up his robe and for the band warm-up. With 550 graduates, it took three hours from start to finish, then another hour to get out of the parking lot of the hockey rink (which is where most graduation ceremonies are held where I live in Canada). It was snowing, and you are correct to think that I wish I’d worn winter clothes.

    But it wasn’t over! The banquet was held later that same day, so it was home with only a few hours to rest and get ready for the formal event. Two summery outfits for a snowy day. Did I mention the heel broke off my new shoes? Fortunately, I had taken an extra pair in the trunk car, along with a roll of masking tape. Yes, my hem caught on one of the chairs, so tape saved the day.

    Definitely get lots of rest before the big day, be prepared for lots of standing and walking on concrete floors. And consider the color of your graduate’s school robe. Bright red was the color for my son’s school., definitely harder to work with than the royal blue robe for my own graduation back in the day.

    Enjoy, Deborah! High school graduation is once in a lifetime.

  10. My ex’s new wife decided to wear a bright red dress with bright red lipstick, exactly what my daughter, the real star of the show, was also wearing. Then to top that she sauntered over to where I was sitting, thrust out her
    gnarled hand as if she expected me to kiss it, with no eye contact or smile exclaiming ‘Hi, I”m Jude’. I very nearly quipped back ‘Yes, it rhymes with rude’ but thought better of it as pointing out somebody else’s bad manners is the epitome of bad manners. I guess all I can do is pray she doesn’t decide to wear white or off-white when my daughter gets married.

    1. Uuuuggghhhh!! I’m having to deal with the “sidechick/fiance” next month at my daughter’s college graduation. I’m praying God gives me the strength to simply ignore her existence. My daughter wants me to wear white, but the graduation is outside on the lawn. I found a cute strapless white eyelet dress and thought that might work with a cardigan and some wedges, but I’m still on the fence about it.

      1. Hi Joanna,
        I think a white eyelet with a cardigan would be lovely. Wedges are perfect for a lawn. You’ll look fab and feel confident at this happy but stressful time. Best wishes!

  11. Thanks. It’s a year too late, but surprisingly, I wore a floral fit and flare dress similar to those shown here. I chose royal blue suede peep toe wedges as my shoe, to match the flower color of my dress and a faux leather jacket in royal blue. It was a cold day, barely above freezing, and the event was held in a hockey arena. Of course, the ice was gone, but hockey rinks are always chilly, so I wore the jacket throughout the ceremony.

    You can’t go wrong with a swing dress (aka fit and flare). Dress for the occasion, then consider the location. I’m sure no one dresses like this for hockey games, but the size of the crowd made the venue appropriate. BTW, we had some snow mixed with rain that day, which is why graduation ceremonies never take place outside in my part of the world.

  12. I recently lost 80lbs and am very proud of this…would like to wear something very flattering yet stunning ? My son graduates same day as my step daughter so do not want to outshine her day but would love to be the hottest mother there for once…”lol” I’m finally smaller than her mother!! I’m normally not a dress type but anything for my girl and she wants me in a dress. Any suggestions would be welcome!!! I am 6′ tall with short medium brown highlighted hair would need a L or XL depending how it’s made

    1. Congratulations on your weight loss Anissa! You deserve to look fabulous. The best kind of dress for graduation would be something pretty but conservative. Many mothers like to wear floral fit and flare or sheath dresses. Lace is also popular if the graduation is dressier or just a solid-colored dress with simple lines and some nice jewelry. Stay away from anything too fussy, too bright, or loud. Here is an article that will help you best wishes! https://www.fabulousafter40.com/what-to-wear-over-40-kids-graduation/

  13. I realize this is a year old, but graduation season is here….advice needed. my son is graduating college this year in Fairbanks Alaska (brr) so I still have the Calvin Klein sweater dress I wore to his high school graduation-it was a cold rainy day so I was glad I had it…and I want to wear it again mostly because it’s hard to find warm dresses for up here. I kind of would like another dress to wear however….so I’ll keep looking for another warm one to wear. if I can’t find one I guess I’ll wear this one again. It’s lovely, but shows all curves since it’s a sweater, but knee length, long sleeved, fold over collar, very tasteful and classy otherwise. So will it be horrible to wear again?

    1. Hi Ruth, There no harm in wearing a dress if again. Stars do it all the time now. If you feel confident in that dress, that is the most important thing. It will come shining through!

  14. Hi Deborah
    It’s my son’s graduation in November in Edmonton, the ceremony will be in the morning at the College and
    dinner in the evening. I have no idea what to wear since will be very cold up there, any suggestion?? Thanks

    1. Hi Marisela, Congratulations on your son’s grade. Yes, Edmonton is cold in November and it could even snow but the grad will be indoors so you really just have to make sure you have a nice warm coat and gloves. As for what you will wear, you can wear a nice dress – something pretty but conservative with shoes or dress boots, or a pair of dress pants and a pretty blouse and dressy booties or shoes. I’d suggest your dress or blouse have sleeves but sometimes that is hard to find so if you have a sleeveless dress you may want to bring a light wrap too. All the best!

  15. Your selection of dresses are beautiful, but when commencement ceremonies are held in the football stadium, these outfits will not do. I need something polished, yet casual. Help!

    1. Hi Brenda!

      I’ve have 2 college graduations one in the football stadium and one in the Field House and another one this weekend. I have worn conservative one colored dresses and wedge open toed shoes to both. And a majority of the mothers were dressed exactly like me. My advice is to not dress down due to football stadium. All the pictures you will take are huge life event pics that last forever. Dress up conservatively. Four hours in the football stands in a dress wont kill anyone. Just make sure you can sit in it. You’ll be very happy you did!

  16. Hello I have a huge delema
    I’m 5ft 2ins and a size 24 .
    It’s my son’s graduation in July and don’t want to let him down . I haven’t much money but have you any surggestions on what I could wear .

    Thank you
    Kind regards
    Joy Riddell.

    1. Hi Joy,
      I’m going to refer you to two bloggers/style experts who specialize in plus size as they will be able to help you better. One is Georgette from Grown up and Curvy. Here is feature I did on her. Check it out and you will find the link to her blog at the end of the post: https://www.fabulousafter40.com/style-ideas-curvy-woman/
      The other is Carol from Evolve Your Image: https://www.fabulousafter40.com/dressing-curvy-body/ The link to her post is at the bottom of her feature.
      They will know much better what would work for you. Wishing you all the best and thanks for stopping by. Cheers, Deborah

    2. Joy, I’ve noticed that a flattering hairstyle (no longer than at the shoulder, some light layers can add motion and liveliness), neutral-shade make-up, and a smile, are the BEST things to wear! For us, an above the knee sleeveless shell in a brighter solid WITH a complimentary short-sleeved lightweight snazzy jacket (you could even use a tailored blouse left open), low heeled sandals – don’t go for skinny strappy, we are actually flattered by more substantial straps and accents, small earrings and substantial (there’s that word again, because we want to look balanced) necklace or a nice scarf (wrap your neck about 2 in lower than avg models). You’ll be beautiful!! Congrats! (I have found consignment shops, goodwill, etc. have some things to work with when finances are a consideration. I’ve even gotten dresses and skirts and shortened them myself!)

  17. Your outfits are very beautiful and I don’t wear tight or low-cut tops. i also wear clothes that make me feel comfortbale an dlook cool like these!

  18. I’m having difficulties finding a dress to wear to my neice’s wedding. I’m not in the wedding and it will be in the afternoon but the party will continue into the evening. So stressed!

xo, Deb

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