What to Wear to Your Child’s Graduation

I’ve been getting a TON of questions like this one in my inbox:

“My son is a senior as well and we have six weeks to go! I would love to hear your ideas about what a mom should wear. I’d like to be put together and cute, but not ‘over done’. We will be attending a Baccalaureate Service, Commencement, various grad parties, and then we will be hosting a party for our son at our house.”

Wow, that is a lot of events! Our main event is Commencement, and then there may be a backyard family gathering at some point. My son doesn’t want a party, but we may throw him one anyway.

For this post, I’m focusing on dresses to wear to Commencement, but I would also wear a dress like these to a Baccalaureate Service if we had one.

one // two // three // four // five // six // seven // eight

I’m not even sure what I’m wearing yet — I haven’t thought that far ahead. I have five weeks, so there’s time, but I probably need to get on the ball. If all else fails, I’ll wear my Easter dress.

Basically, I recommend wearing something you might wear to church. Depending on your area, the level of formality may vary a bit, but around here people are pretty casual. I made my rounds to my favorite retailers to find some dress suggestions, and wow, it’s not as easy as I thought! I feel like the department stores are picked over, but I found some good options at the smaller chain stores.

For those of you still looking, here are some suggestions.

I hope that’s helpful!

As far as graduation parties go, all of ours are super casual. If it’s in someone’s home, I’d wear a fun spring top or sweater with white jeans and maybe espadrille wedges. If it’s a backyard BBQ, then a casual dress or shorts and a cute top and flat sandals.

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34 Responses

  1. Ahhh to be able to go to a graduation here in my hometown and people be dressed like this. Being from a small well redneck town, all your going to see at graduation is saltwater tees camo shirts, jeans and boots. And if you do happen to see someone in a dress it looks like something there mom would have wore to her graduation. Same goes for weddings, Barn weddings and well they dress the part even the brides with their wedding dresses and boots ugh.

    1. Ha! Me too! I recently attended my son’s college graduation and there were people wearing shorts and tee shirts 🙂

  2. YAY – happy to see that I planned well!  I have a sleeveless blue dress with white polka dots for my son’s HS graduation (and a short white sweater to wear if I get cold) and I plan to wear neutral heels.  And in reserve, should I need it is the pink lace sleeveless dress I wore for Easter.

    And here’s the shocker – I bought both at BJs for less than $40!! Both are great quality and I know I will get a lot of mileage out of the blue polka dot dress this summer b/c it’s a great weight.  

  3. If your graduate doesn’t want a party “just about me” maybe you can join with parents of other graduates – from your church, his group of friends, or from band/sports team, to give a party. I’ve been to a lot of graduation parties that honored more than one graduate. For some teens, it’s more comfortable that way – and fun!

    1. My son’s banquet and dance are in 9 days (!). One of the parents is throwing a casual appies and drinks prior to the dinner. We are all meeting at their place at 3, kids leave in limos at 5 and we meet them at the dinner at 6. Nervous and excited and trying to remember to wear waterproof everything that day! 🙂 I like the idea of the group party, as does my son as a lot of his friends are going away to college/university.

  4. Great timing for this post. We have two college graduations in the next week. One locally and one in Virginia, at VMI. I have been worried about what to wear since after ankle surgery I still can’t wear shoes with any type  of heel and need support. Because of that I’m going to wear black dress slacks and a dressy blouse. That way I can wear black patent loafers and it won’t stand out if I need the ankle brace. Not my first choice of what to wear but it will have to do this year.

  5. Often graduations are on the school’s football field so I would strongly suggest the dresses that can be worn with flats. I usually do a maxi dress so I’m comfy and won’t get sunburned.

      1. My daughters last year was on the football field and we were in the bleachers. It was also very hot with the evening sun blasting right at us. I wore Khaki shorts, a lightweight blouse and sandals. Saw a variety there but shorts or casual dresses were pretty much the norm.

  6. One graduation down ( college), and one to go ( high school!) I wore a sheath dress to the college one and will wear a different dress to the high school one. Busy time of year! I’m super excited to hear about and see you new house plans! I love everything that involves house hunting and home decor. Last summer we did a complete kitchen renovation, changed the color of our hardwoods and repainted the main level of my house. I’m in the midst of a pool reno now and am getting ready to have the exterior of our house painted with new colors! Love home improvement projects! Wishing you the very best on this exciting venture! 

  7. Looking forward to FB Live today! I hope you will be feeling up to it.

    Great roundup of dresses, my fave is the polka dot dress!

  8. Your dress suggestions pretty much cover it…When my daughter graduated from high school I wore a sleeves dress with the fuller skirt (Aline like )similar to the dresses Michelle Obama used to wear…  then for my sons high school graduation I wore a Little black dress with a ruffled bottom of white polka dots. And a cute little slip on with each one. when my daughter graduated university I wore an ivory lace dress that had beautiful colored flowers over it … I will have our sons university graduation in 3 years so we will see what the styles are then. Lol.
    We did high school grad parties here at the house it was hot so a cute little summer casual dress was perfect. The thing is not to over think it as usually you’ll see a mix of just about anything.
    And you want the be comfortable. It was more dressy attire for the university graduation as a pose to high school. Have a great day😀

  9. I love all these dress ideas. They are really cute. Dresses are very popular for college graduations. But around the greater Philadelphia area I have found that high school graduations (I’ve had 3) are very casual. They are typically held in the football stadium and most people wear capris with a nicer top. I had looked for a dress for my son’s high school graduation, but in the end wore capris and was really glad I did based on what I saw others wearing. It was much easier climbing up and down bleachers and onto the moist football field. I just wanted to add that thought for anyone in this situation. Backyard grad parties around here are very casual with many even wearing shorts, although the high school girls mostly wear strappy little sundresses. 

    1. Hey Janet, thanks. I didn’t think about that, so I appreciate your perspective. Maybe I’ll wear that striped maxi dress from yesterday since all my capris and cropped pants are denim.

      1. I think the striped maxi dress will be perfect! Sometimes it’s very warm at graduation so having some air flow (?) is nice – ha!

  10. Such a good post for this time of year; except it made me laugh that your said “child”in your heading. I know it’s a hard reality but these seniors are no longer children 😌
    Three years ago, I was so focused on what my daughter was going to wear and what shoes she would be able to walk in across the stage…that I didn’t think enough about my outfit and wore a dress that was not flattering so I didn’t like myself in any of the pictures. So yes, moms dress is just as important. 

  11. Great suggestions. I think it’s always hard to decide what to wear to these occasions and we end up making it way more complicated than it needs to be. (speaking from experience. HA) Of course I also look at my sons college graduation pics from last year and wish I’d been wearing something else. I took a cute new dress and the weather totally flipped on us and I ended up wearing an old Old Navy dress I’d thrown in at the last minute. UGH.

  12. Jo-Lynne- My stepdaughter graduated from the University of Alabama Saturday. I wore the dress you wore for Easter with a blush jacket from WHBM. Wore the jacket because I don’t like my arms and am cold in air conditioning. Love the dress. It’s very comfortable and looks great. Also purchased the bone Loeffler Randall satchel you showed in earlier posts. Have received many compliments on the bag!!  Everything went together beautifully. I broke my ankle in January and was laid up until March. Really appreciate your posts. Was able to have everything delivered to my home vs hobbling through the mall. Thank you!!!

  13. Thanks for the timely post! I’ve been on the hunt for a couple of outfits for upcoming high school and college graduation for the past two months and it’s been very challenging! I can certainly use today’s suggestions! Good news – I was able to snag a gray and white Casual Maxi Dress you styled last week! We have a prison in our town and the inmates wear the black and white pants and top so I didn’t want the dress in black and white 🙂

  14. I have a graduation coming up too! I was wondering if you could feature a few jumpsuit options. My graduation isn’t until the middle of June and it will be very warm out then. Thanks!

  15. I found several dresses on your list that I really liked. Especially the white eyelet dress from Talbots’s. I do suggest that you may want to take a cardigan or jacket with you as it can get a little chilly in an auditorium. Also, I was reminded today that Security is increased at many graduations so taking a small bag may get you through the line a lot faster. 

    1. Yes, good point, Marcia! Especially colleges are limiting the size of the bags or even requiring clear ones. So either don’t take one or check for regulations. They sent regulations to us when my daughter was graduating from the University of Arizona, and many women were being turned back to their cars to put their bags away. They’re very serious about enforcing this.

  16. Hi Jo-Lynne,
    I’m excited to hear all about your new house. Yes, count us in!

    I love this post about what to wear to a graduation because it truly is one of those events that we don’t dress for frequently…unless you’re a teacher! I did a similar post about what to wear to a college graduation a few weeks ago, and it seemed to strike a chord, too. I think we have to consider whether the event is inside or outside. Here in Arizona most high school graduations are still held outside because, well, why not? Except it can get very chilly, so you definitely need a jacket or sweater as the evening goes on. And my kids’ college graduations were outside, too. And I think a lot of those are across the country. Also at a college graduation, you generally have to do a great deal of walking, so you need to choose an outfit with which you can wear fairly comfortable shoes.

    Anyhow! Great choices you have featured here. I just love dresses, though!

  17. Great options. :). When you share on your new home could you take pictures inside and out of the home you are in now? Just for fun comparison?  Just a thought. I have followed your blog over 3 yrs and have only seen your bed and where you put your Christmas tree. 🙂 Oh wait your office space too. Look forward to Live today but I have to watch later.  

    1. Great suggestion about the house photos! I’d like to see that, too, and I’m sure we’re not the only 2 readers who feel that way! 🙂 

    2. Yep! I actually thought of that already. I do have pix of most of my rooms from past blog posts when I shared makeovers but I’ll try to go through on Saturday before inspection when it’s all clean again and take pictures of how it looks now.

  18. I just bought a jumpsuit and returned it after both my mom and daughter hated it. Then I went on a second shopping trip and bought a dress for my son’s graduation. It’s a tough event to dress for, especially since the pictures will be looked at for years to come. lol 
    Fingers crossed, I’m hoping my dress works! I also have a senior banquet and baccalaureate service to attend. No idea what I’m wearing to either of those events. 

  19. Love the classic Talbots dresses!
    For our graduations in Chicago few years ago…
    Dress perfect option!
    Now I’m moving on to picking the dress for
    wedding shower and wedding!
    Years move fast after graduation!
    Can wait to see House decor😁

  20. Hi Jo-lynne! I love your blog and look forward to it every day. I just bought the green dress for a wedding this summer. It’s gorgeous!! Thank you for your help! 

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