What to Wear to a Graduation Ceremony

** Thanks to Talbots and LTK for sponsoring this post!

I’ve been getting a lot of requests for what to wear to a child’s graduation ceremony and the surrounding events. I guess that’s a reflection of the stage of life we’re in!

I’ve had two high school graduates, and I’ll have a college graduation to attend this spring, so I’ve already put some thought into this question, and Talbots has some great options!

Nantucket Slub Eyelet Yoke Dress c/o (S) // Saylor Woven Metallic Espadrille Wedges c/o (8)

Talbots carries this Nantucket Slub Eyelet Yoke Dress in two pretty shades of blue; and it comes in a wide range of sizes including misses, petite, plus, and plus petite options.

The eyelet yoke and tie detail at the waist are both nice details, and it hits at or right above the knee, which is a classic and flattering length for almost every woman.

This 100% cotton slub knit fabric would be great for those attending outdoor graduations in warmer climates because it’s lightweight and breathable, and it’s both dressed-up and effortlessly casual at the same time.

I love this Deep Sea Blue, but the Indigo and Violet Rose are really pretty options too.

Nantucket Slub Eyelet Yoke Dress c/o (S) // Saylor Woven Metallic Espadrille Wedges c/o (8)

Metallics are having a moment this season, so I paired this dress with silver wedge sandals.

I love a gold or silver shoe in the spring and summer because it goes with practically everything. No color, not even nude, is more versatile. If you prefer gold or a lower heel, these are another great choice.

The woven metallic leather strap on these espadrille sandals is such a pretty textural detail, and the wedge heel keeps them stable and walkable even on uneven surfaces.

They have a memory foam footbed with arch padding for extra comfort and support, and whereas some wedges can be stiff or heavy, these have a flexible outsole for improved stability.

College graduations tend to be a bit dressier than high school, but they can also be a lot longer, so you want to be sure to be comfortable. If it’s held outside, you’ll need to take the weather into consideration. If it’s indoors in a climate-controlled environment, you have more options, but the key is to look neat and polished.

My son is graduating college this spring, and this luxe knit sheath will be perfect for that. It comes in black and navy, and I chose the navy because it’s not quite as harsh as black, and I have so many black dresses already.

Luxe Knit Dress c/o (6) // Saylor Woven Metallic Espadrille Wedges c/o (8)

In a season full of ruffles and frills, this structured sheath looks classy and elegant. It has a bateau neckline and faux buttons down the side of the skirt, and it’s fully lined and made of thick rayon/nylon blend with just a hint of spandex for added comfort.

As far as sizing goes, I tried the 6 regular as well as the 8P and 10P, and would you believe it? I think I need the 8 regular. The 6 is a little snug, but the 8P and 10P were too short for my liking, and it’s intended to be knee-length.

All that to say, this dress runs true to size, as I’m usually an 8 in dresses. (I can often size down in Talbots, which is why I ordered the 6 and the 8P.)

Luxe Knit Dress c/o (6) // Saylor Woven Metallic Espadrille Wedges c/o (8)

In addition to these two dresses, Talbots has lots of other great options for high school and college graduations this spring that are classic, timeless, and put-together.

And if you aren’t a fan of dresses, dress pants and a pretty blouse or lightweight sweater are perfectly appropriate. Just leave the jeans at home, and you’ll be fine. I’ve rounded up some more options for you below, and many of them are on sale!

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photos: Alison Cornell

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22 thoughts on “What to Wear to a Graduation Ceremony

  1. I am waiting on the second dress to arrive—I ordered that in navy. I think I like this first one better. I normally wear an 8P but my weight is up a little right now and those are a little snug. I plan on losing the 5-10 pounds, but it takes me awhile. I hate to purchase the larger size at that price and then have it not fit if I manage to lose weight.

  2. Love both dresses on you. I really like the button detail on the navy dress. Does David have after graduation job plans? What was his major? Enjoy this time. It all goes so fast then empty nesting.

    1. He’s a history major, and he’s been applying to some internships and other jobs. He isn’t necessarily staying history-focused, but more or less just putting some feelers out there and see what comes of it all. Exciting times!

      1. I have my Bachelors degree in History and then a Masters in Business Administration. It took a few years because jobs are limited in the museum field, but I have been the executive director of a county historical society for 11 years. I love my job! Whatever David decides to do internships are important and graduate school is worth looking into.

  3. I love both dresses, especially the navy one which looks so comfortable and polished. I still like dresses especially for special occasions, so ladylike.

  4. I’ve been to many graduation ceremonies over the years and I agree, dresses are so appropriate. The venue also dictates clothing choice and also consider what you will be doing afterwards (lunch? party?) This is my pet peeve but get your husband, boyfriend or partner to dress appropriately as well; the event may be on the football field but he’s not attending a game. A smart shirt and a blazer looks so much classier!

  5. Love both of these dresses for a graduation, comfortable and practical for an outdoor event but still stylish and appropriate for the event. Congrats on David’s graduation! If I remember correctly, the pandemic upended his college plans for a bit but good for him for sticking it out! I’m sure he and your girls have big things in store, enjoy getting to be a proud mama!

  6. I like the navy dress! Nice detail! I do have a question. My son’s graduation is a bit different because parents also attend the graduation dinner & dance. Each family gets their own 10-place table to invite family members to their table and then the grads all sit together at the main table facing the audience. They are only 18 grads as we live in a small town. So I am not sure how fancy we as parents have to dress up for the occasion.

  7. The turquoise dress is pretty. Wish it had a V neckline. Last year I attended my eldest son’s HS graduation, and we were on the bleachers. It was probably about 90 degrees and we had to face the sun! That made it hard to dress so that I wasn’t a big ball of sweat by the time it was over. I noticed a lot of the parents wore shorts or other very casual wear. I wore a white cotton eyelet dress (it was lined) that swung away from the waistline a little bit (but still had shape) so that I didn’t have something tight on me showing my glow, lol. I could literally feel myself sweating while I was sitting in the bleachers, but I don’t think it was noticeable to anyone else. I also wore the DV Pailey heels which are the most comfortable heels ever. Oh, and I also wore a straw hat because sun. Although I felt slightly overdressed, I didn’t care because it was a special occasion and I wanted to look my best in pictures.

    1. I’m so glad you said that about the DV heels. I ordered the ivory color and the cafe color. I’m glad to hear they are comfortable.

  8. I also like to wear dresses to graduations. Pictures will be taken that will last a lifetime. Plus, i think it’s fun to dress festively for milestone events. I’ve never regretted dressing up a bit. The trick is to wear clothes that are also comfortable. Outdoor graduations can be long and brutal, depending on the weather, the venue, and the number of graduates. I usually pick something light and airy, if I can. Shoes are another consideration. Sometimes a lot of walking is involved, so shoes need to be comfortable while also fitting in with the outfit.
    Congratulations to your son!

  9. I love that navy dress! Congratulations to your son! I finally (accidentally) found my dress for my son’s graduation. It’s a beautiful meadow green sheath from J.Crew! I had it in mind that I wanted a pink dress, but finding that proved to be some kind of unicorn lol. But this green is lovely and looks very elevated.

    1. I forgot! There are over 400 students in his graduating class, and the ceremony doesn’t start until 7:00 pm. So we are having his party the next day, either at our house (praying our hurricane repairs are finally done then) or at our church building. We are having a crawfish boil (yay for life in Southwest Louisiana!) so very casual. I ordered the cashmere tee from Quince, and plan to wear it with white pants for that. (I should not wear white pants for a crawfish boil but…c’est la vie!)

  10. My son’s graduation is this afternoon (June 4). We live in RI where the average temp for this time of year is 70 but it is going to be cloudy, very windy and a “feels like” of 49. There are plenty of examples of what to wear to cold weather graduations in winter but not cold weather graduations in spring! I feel like this is a super common thing that maybe you could address sometime? Certainly there must be thousands of ppl in the northern states who experience this every year! Thanks!

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