Caps and gowns are as much a graduation tradition as the playing of "Pomp and Circumstance." The gown and other accoutrements are customs that have been passed down through generations, dating back to the early days of academia. Colors, stripes, positioning of graduation tassels, and the shapes of sleeves and hoods all may offer information about graduates and the degrees they earn.
Graduation attire ensures grads look uniform and professional. Although there's little variation in how to wear the cap and gown, graduates do have flexibility with regard to the clothing they wear beneath their ensembles. It may be tempting to go casual beneath a cap and gown, but grads might regret that decision when taking post-ceremony pictures.
Some graduates think it doesn't matter what they wear beneath the gown, feeling the gown will cover everything anyway. But that isn't true, as grads can expect at least a portion of their attire to be peeking through their graduation gowns. Many such gowns end at the knee or slightly below, making it easy for everyone to see graduates' pants and shoes.
Both male and female grads can benefit from wearing something classy beneath their gowns. A crisp collared shirt can look sharp for men and women alike. Guys might want to wear a tie for that extra touch. Graduation gowns tend to be solid colors and may be quite bland, so a shirt with a splash of color can make a statement that is neither bold nor silly.
Remember to wear something form-fitting or slim cut under the gown. The graduation robe is voluminous enough without adding any extra girth from bulky clothing. Graduation gowns fall short of form-flattering, so wearing many layers beneath a gown will only add to the volume.
You may not have time to change between the ceremony and the after-party or dinner, so it's important to wear something that is appropriate for the next venue. Save time and embarrassment by wearing clothing that will seamlessly transition to a family dinner or after-party.
Consider the bottoms worn as well. Men can choose khakis or solid-colored slacks. Avoid wearing pants that are the same color as the graduation robe, as you want a little contrast. Women who wear skirts or dresses that end above the knee and will not show beneath the gown hem have more freedom. Avoid long skirts or dresses that can make the outfit look weighed down when paired with the gown.
Graduates' shoes will be on full display come the big day. Therefore, wear new, clean shoes that are presentable and formal. Avoid sneakers or flip-flops, which are too casual. Keep in mind the location of the ceremony and the forecast. If you will be trekking across a muddy football field, wear a closed-in, durable shoe, as heels or open sandals may cause you to trip or sink into the turf. Dress appropriately for the temperature, too. A summer graduation may be hot and stuffy, especially outdoor ceremonies under the blazing sun. Wear lightweight clothing and plenty of sunblock to stay comfortable and safe. Dress in layers if it is chilly so you can remove layers as necessary should temperatures fluctuate.
The style of the graduation cap will affect hairstyles and other accessories, including earrings. Clean, brushed hair is most suitable for both men and women. Updos are impractical. If you want your hair off of your face, consider a braid. Keep earrings simple and tuck any chunky necklaces under the gown to maintain an elegant and streamlined look.
Graduation attire can set the tone for the ceremony and life after school. Dress appropriately because all eyes will be on you.