Spring/Summer Fashion

What to Wear to Your Child’s Graduation

I’ve had some requests for what to wear to your child’s graduation, so I thought I’d tackle that topic today. You can pretty much find everything you need at Nordstrom. From dresses to blouses and pants, from shoes to accessories, they have it all!

I put together two outfits that I think would work well for most graduation ceremonies, but you can dress up a bit more if you want to. Here are two looks I styled for what to wear to a spring wedding that could also work for graduation ceremonies, if you need something more formal.

Paige dress (S) // Dolce Vita sandals (8) // earrings // silver link bracelet // YSL crossbody (similar for less) // similar sunglasses

In my experience, high school graduations are a little more casual than college, so I styled two looks that are similar to what I wore to my kids’ high school graduations.

The first look features a casual dress that I would typically wear with sneakers or flat sandals for errands or casual get-togethers with friends, but I think it works for a graduation too.

The drawstring waist gives it a bit of structure, and the flutter sleeves are a trendy touch. The fabric is a really nice slub jersey in a rayon/polyester blend, and there’s a subtle texture to it.

It’s cool and soft and comfortable, perfect for outdoor venues or warm climates. You could bring a white denim jacket along for an extra layer of warmth.

These wedge sandals are a great way to elevate a casual dress. I really like how this pair has the combination of sandstone leather in the back and a canvas braided strap in the front, but there are other color combinations available.

The jute-wrapped heel keeps them summery, and they should give you enough stability if you end up walking on grass or turf. These sandals they run true to size; I’m wearing the 8.

For jewelry, I kept it simple with brushed silver teardrop earrings and a silver link bracelet, and I carried a camera style crossbody bag. Tory Burch makes a similar style for less.

I like the crossbody for events such as this because you might be standing around for a while, and it’s lightweight and easy to manage.

My second look features white jeans and a navy top. If your school colors include navy, either of these outfits will be perfect for you! I didn’t try to wear school colors at either of my kids’ high school graduations, but it’s fun if it works out that way.

Wit & Wisdom blouse (S) // Good American jeans (6) // sandals (7.5) // earrings // necklace // similar bracelet // YSL crossbody (similar for less) // similar sunglasses

Peasant style tops are trending this year. This one is nice because it isn’t as long or voluminous as some, and the split neck style is flattering but not too low.

I especially like how the eyelet embroidery and blouson sleeves add texture and femininity to the outfit.

And these jeans are my Good American Good Straight with the raw hem that I can’t stop talking about.

They have good coverage and lots of stretch, and the 27 1/2″ inseam with 14 1/2″ leg opening is the perfect slim straight ankle style to go with all of your spring and summer tops.

These jeans have a high 11″ rise, so I don’t always want to tuck into them. Fortunately this shirt isn’t so long that it needs a front-tuck, so I left it out for a streamlined silhouette.

I’m wearing my regular size 6 in these jeans, but they do seem really tight when you first pull them on. I recommend giving them a little time to break in because they do give a little with wear, and I love how they shape the rear and smooth out the midsection.

These braided block heel slides are very easy to walk in, and they add interest to the outfit without stealing the show.

I wore these a ton last year, and they still look like new. I’m so glad they brought them back. They’re true to size, or size down if you typically do in slides. They also come in other colors.

I accessorized with chunky white hoops and a gold chain link necklace. I feel like these pieces look current without being so trendy that you’ll look dated when you look back at the pictures years down the road.

If you don’t have a graduation coming up this spring, these outfits will also work for church or going out to dinner, or maybe even some work environments.

All the pieces I’m wearing are classics that you can easily mix and match with other items in your closet to maximize the cost per wear potential!

As always, when you shop at Nordstrom, you get their free shipping and free returns. And don’t forget about their BOPUS (Buy Online Pick Up in Store) and contactless curbside pickup options.

And if you aren’t already a Nordy Club member, be sure to sign up so you can start earning points toward Nordstrom Notes when you shop. You also get to enjoy exclusive perks like members-only access to sales, offers, and events — like the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, which is just around the corner!

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photos: Alison Cornell

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31 thoughts on “What to Wear to Your Child’s Graduation

  1. That dress is cute but I can’t fathom wearing something so casual to a graduation? Maybe that’s a regional thing? I’m a southern girl and graduations here (even high school) tend to range from business casual at a minimum to more dressy cocktail type attire (minus the bling!). Are graduations more casual in other parts of the country?

    1. I expect region has a lot to do with it, which is why I linked the other post with dressier options. It also depends on venue. Our high school holds their graduation in the football stadium. I was warned before my son’s that it might be a lot more casual than I expected, and it was.

      1. So cute! We also hold graduation in the football stadium. It tends to be more casual and both outfits would be appropriate. Especially with the polished accessories.

      2. My first thought, with our graduations also being in a football stadium was, “I could never climb the bleachers with those sandals, and wearing that dress could be a little difficult modesty-wise”!! But, I would wear the outfit for any post-ceremony party!! I never wore our school colors to any event, it was orange and brown, great for sports teams, horrible as an outfit!! HAHA!!

      3. We are on the other side of PA and attending a graduation this year, I think it’s pretty casual here as well; glad to see the cute white jeans/pants as that’s what I plan on wearing, not sure of the top yet.

    2. It’s the same in DC when my kids and niece graduated from their private schools. Everyone was dressed up and most of the fathers were in suits. I think it is also influenced by the venue – my daughter’s graduation was held in the National Cathedral and there were sit down dinners held the night before the event. It would be interesting to see if Covid changed all that – my youngest niece graduates in 3 years. The college graduations weren’t casual either but since they are so large, you saw more variety.

    3. My stepdaughter graduated last year here in small town Midwest. It was held in the gym instead of the football stadium as planned due to heavy rain storms. Between the rain and the rickety bleachers, I wore jeans, rain boots, and an umbrella with a cute top and utility jacket. Some were more dressed up than I was, but they fussed with their skirts and shivered from getting wet. Most were dressed similar to me. Even if the weather had been good and the original venue were utilized, I would not have dressed up much more. Very similar to when I graduated in Southern California. I’m surprised there are places that dress up so much for a high school grad!

  2. This post is timely as my first born graduates high school in June and I was wondering what to wear. I have a white eyelet dress with 3/4 balloon sleeves I was thinking of wearing. It’s somewhat conservative but shows some leg. Is that something that would be appropriate? Our ceremony will be at the stadium but I like to err on the side of dressy as I’ll be captured in pictures. I think those espadrilles would look really good with a white dress. Are they comfortable and easy to walk in? They have some negative reviews on Nordstrom’s website.

  3. Love the cute navy dress, you showed how it can be dressed up with proper accessories. Those wedges are so cute!

  4. I really like both of these looks and they would be perfect for graduations in my area. I have a question for the Saturday Q and A: Are kick crop jeans going out of style? I just purchased a pair and am now wondering if they will be out of date by next year.

  5. I really like both outfits for high school graduations, but in certain regions. Here in the midwest (Colorado), both would be too elevated to wear. Our graduations are outdoor so you have the Rocky Mountains in all photos and the sun just pounds on us since there is no shade. Everyone wears tank tops and shorts including the kids under their gowns. Anything else is way too much and too hot.

    Am curious if you are having any quality issues with your Nordstrom purchases. I have had significant issues with tees lately from them that are so thin, they end up getting holes within 2 hours of wear. Hole in the sleeves, hole in the stomach area after I had a seatbelt on, etc. Bought 4 and returned them all since they couldn’t even make it a half of day. Even bought various brands (Paige, DayDreamer, etc). What brand of tees do you recommend? Otherwise, I will have to buy Lululemon since I have not had quality issues with them yet. They offer a great military discount if you didn’t know.

  6. Thank you for this post as my oldest graduates in June! Do you think the Good American jeans are see through? The reviews seem to be mixed.

  7. Both outfits look so nice on you and appropriate for so many events. I can agree with your comments on the G.A. jeans stretching just enough to be comfortable in the tummy area, after wearing them a bit. I have added the W&W top, in lavender to my Nordstrom wish list. Since I have some Nordy bucks to use, I will probably order it. It’s very wet and expected to get really bad later today, so enjoy your sunshine.

  8. I’ve been agonizing over what to wear when I travel from OH to CA for my son’s law school graduation. I ordered several dresses but they haven’t yet arrived. My son said it’s somewhat casual but, it’s law school! I have to look good! 😆 It would be funny if I end up wearing pants.

  9. Thanks for this post! My youngest stepson is graduating from college next month (yay!), and I had planned to wear navy and white, so it looks like that is a good choice. I do prefer to wear comfortable shoes and pants due to climbing stairs and being at so many of the pre-graduation activities. The last graduation I attended I felt bad for the women who were wearing dresses (with probably Spanx) and high heels. I would love to see what outfits you would recommend for Easter Sunday. Here in Kentucky it’s usually still on the cool side so it can be challenging to figure out something that looks like “Spring” but still adds enough warmth.

  10. I ordered the dress when you first showed it in the medium. I loved the dress but it was too big. I am returning and have purchased the small before it sells out.
    I also wanted to say that I wore my Paige Mayslies that I got last year, yesterday and still really like them. I will be wearing them a lot.

  11. Love the dress. I just ordered to wear at my Daughter’s graduation. After that, I’ll also be able to wear it to work and out to dinner with friends. Thank you for making shopping so easy!

  12. I did my graduate work at Syracuse, and they have mid-May commencement. One year it snowed, which was a bit of a problem because the women packed nice spring dresses for the occasion.

  13. If I had legs like you I would love to wear that dress even just for a casual event. Since I don’t have your legs I’m more of the white jeans with a pretty blouse. Thanks for showing both options.

  14. Hi Jo-Lynne! Can you please tell me the brandxand name of your nail polish? That is exactly what I am looking for! Thank you!!

  15. Love this dress on you! It’s a great length. I’m a bit taller so I wish it was a smidge longer for me but it’s perfect for you!

  16. I ordered the Paige dress. It’s very flattering. Did your dress have a raw hem look on the flutter sleeves? Mine has a few threads hanging out because it isn’t hemmed.

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