What to Wear for High School Graduation: Graduates & Guests

Don't stress if your school doesn't have a set graduation dress code. We've got you covered with the basics!

Published April 19, 2024
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While many people are more than happy to live in casual gear like jeans and t-shirts, graduation ceremonies are special. Your high school graduation dress code is mostly about wearing something worthy of this major milestone. The right clothes help graduates, their families, and their friends appreciate the solemnity of the day. After all, it's kind of a big deal.

Official Dress Code for High School Graduations

If your school has a formal policy for what to wear to high school graduation, you're all set. These guidelines will typically be laid out for you in your school handbook or in a pamphlet that discusses graduation expectations. However, a lot of schools give out general guidelines or don't really have a set policy at all.

You'll be wearing caps and gowns, but underneath, what you wear should match the expectations of your school or the importance of the event. Here are some basic guidelines for a graduation ceremony dress code:

  • Shoes - You can't go wrong with dress shoes, such as pumps, loafers, Oxfords, flats, etc.
  • Clothes - Wear dresses, dress pants, collared shirts, button downs, blouses, skirts, ties, suits, and other nice clothing.
  • Accessories - It's a good idea to keep your accessories simple so the cap and gown can be the focus of your outfit.
Quick Tip

Picture-taking is a big part of any graduation. If everyone sticks to a dress code, photos of the day will be much more flattering. You'd be surprised how many pictures you'll take on this day, and wearing something nice will matter when you look back on them.

What to Wear to High School Graduation: Dresses to Suits

Choosing what you're going to wear to graduation can be stressful, but we've got you covered. Find the right outfit and accessories with these tips.

Related: 9 Graduation Nail Ideas With Cap & Gown Glam

Graduation Dresses

Girl with cap and gown celebrating graduation

A dress is always a good choice for graduation, especially if you feel confident in it. Keep a few things in mind as you shop:

  • When you're looking for the perfect dress for graduation, you want to find something that fits you well but isn't too tight or revealing. Bonus: you can wear it to tons of events over the years.
  • Pick something you feel great in. You want to be comfortable and beautiful for your big day and all the pictures.
  • Given that most graduations are in June, it's important to look for something that won't be stuffy or hot in the summer under your gown. Dresses with short or cap sleeves work perfectly. Many people opt for a knee-length skirt rather than a full-length.
  • Also, remember this is graduation, not prom. You want formal but not too formal. Opt for a flowery sundress or black business-style dress.

We love Madewell's smocked sleeveless midi dress, which is the perfect length and style for graduation. Even better, you can wear it all summer to other stuff, so it's worth the investment.

Suits for Graduation

graduate students in mortar boards and bachelor gowns

A suit is also a flattering choice for anyone, and it's a good thing to have for college and job interviews. You might choose a suit with a pencil skirt or slacks. There are lots of options out there. Think about a few tips as you choose:

  • Black, navy, or pinstriped suits give off just the right amount of sophistication for graduates.
  • Remember with summer, you might want to avoid wool suits. They can get pretty stuffy under a cap and gown.
  • Pair your suit with a great tie or blouse that matches your school colors or just feels very you.

We're all about Calvin Klein's slim fit suit separates because you can mix and match to find pieces that fit you perfectly. Plus, the style is modern, and it will look great for years to come.

Dress Pants and Collared Shirt or Blouse

Graduation Day

If you're looking for something a bit more casual, you might want to choose to pair black or khaki dress pants with a collared shirt or blouse. There are lots of options, but there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • A collared shirt in a muted tone like gray, white, or light blue is perfect, but you can also go with something in a brighter shade that shows your personality.
  • Polos or button-down shirts in a variety of colors also work well.
  • A dressy blouse in a rich color like blue, gray, yellow, or even purple is a great option. Blouses in floral patterns work as well.

Anything colorful with a subtle pattern is a great bet. Try the Dokotoo summer smocked long-sleeved tunic top, which comes in lots of great colors and would look perfect tucked into a pair of great-fitting pants.

Accessories for Graduation

woman at school graduation

Great fashion accessories can really set off your look. Opt for ties, necklaces, bracelets, and earrings that work with the colors in your outfit.

  • Try a gold necklace with a pendant. Pearls are also a great choice.
  • Earrings should be pretty simple so they don't compete with your cap and tassel. We're all about small hoops or stones.
  • A cuff, charm bracelet, or watch can be perfect too.

While anything simple can work for graduation, we totally love the idea of a special necklace that commemorates this important moment. The Zealmer compass and world map necklace is all about going places, which is perfect for high school graduation.

Related: Every Graduation Tassel Rule You Need to Know

What to Wear to Graduation for Guests

What the graduate's family and friends wear to graduation matters, too. When you are going to a high school graduation, aim for business casual attire like slacks, button-downs or polos, dresses, and blouses.

Quick Tip

Choosing what to wear to a high school graduation if you're not the graduate is kind of like going to a wedding when you're not the bride: The thing to remember is that you're not trying to attract attention.

  • If you're going to be in photos with the graduate, think about how your outfit will look with what they're wearing. Keep it simple if you're not sure since you don't want to be the one clashing in stripes next to their bold pattern.
  • Don't stress too much about this. If you would wear it to a business casual workplace, you're good to go.
  • Remember that it might be hot, so layers are your friend. We like a cardigan or light jacket for chilly air conditioning, but it's good to have the option to take it off if it's hot.

The Right Outfit for Any High School Graduation

Beyond respecting the school dress code, a graduation is a special day. Ultimately, knowing what to wear to high school graduation is about finding an outfit that fits your style while showing the world how important this moment is to you.

What to Wear for High School Graduation: Graduates & Guests