Last Updated on January 30, 2024 by Jessica Reid
Having trouble deciding what to wear for your graduation pictures? If so, I can help. I have taken part in several graduations, including my latest law school graduation, and have witnessed all the do’s and don’ts of graduation apparel. More importantly, I have learned what outfit works best for graduation pictures.
Plus, I have a bunch of picture examples to help you figure out what to wear for your graduation pictures!!
Let’s dive in.
Know the Length of Your Graduation Gown
Before you go shopping for the perfect outfit for your graduation, it’s super important to know the length of your graduation gown.
Because you don’t want your dress or the sleeves of your outfit to hang awkwardly outside of the gown and be a distracting pest when you take your graduation pictures.
I mean, just imagine your mom saying before every picture, “Okay honey, you look great but can just tuck in that sleeve there…” or
“Bring the shoulders of your gown forward some more so it hides you hem of your dress…it’s poking out.”
So to prevent that, know your graduation gown length.
Luckily, gown lengths are pretty standard across the board in America and should be standard in every country (if you live in another country, be sure to check what the standard length is for your country.)
As such, if you do not want your dress or outfit to fall lower than your graduation gown, make sure that it hangs no lower than a couple of inches past your knees.
Also, the sleeves of the your graduation gown will meet at your wrists!
So if you are wearing an outfit with sleeves and you do not want them to show in a picture, they should come down past your elbow but before your wrist.
What to Wear For Your Graduation Pictures (Spring & Summer):
Now, that you know the length of your graduation gown, let’s talk about what you should wear for your graduation pictures.
And because most graduations are held in spring and summer, we’ll talk about the best outfits for those seasons first!
Are you praying that it doesn’t rain on your big day but it’ll be a perfect sunshiny day? Me too.
However, perfect sun-shiny graduation days in spring and summer (*think months May through August*) also means that it’s likely going to be stupid, sticky hot!!!
And unfortunately, your graduation gown isn’t made with the best fabric for a hot and humid day. They don’t even make Mulberry Cleaners’ list of “Best Fabrics to Wear in Hot and Humid Weather.”
They are made of polyester fabric.
So you’ll need to pair this very unfriendly fabric with something that will help you breathe and stay cool during the warmest weather.
According to Mulberry Cleaners, the best fabrics to wear in hot and humid weather are (the top being the absolute best):
- Cotton (absolute best fabric for hot and humid weather)
- Linen (super-breathable cloth)
- Rayon (which is a mixture of cotton, wood pulp, and other natural & synthetic fabrics)
- Denim (go figure!)
Therefore, make sure your graduation outfit is made up of one of the fabrics from this list.
Graduation Outfit recommendation:
For your big day, I highly recommend that you wear a dress!
Because it’s a formal event and everyone takes “gown on” and “gown off” pictures, so make it super special by dressing up!!
Wearing a dress is the easiest way to let the world know, regardless of whether your gown is on or off, that you are celebrating something special.
Plus, you won’t want to stay in your gown the entire day.
As I shared above, gowns are made up of the best fabric so you may get really hot after a while and want to take it off.
But what if you still want to take a bunch of fancy pictures??
Well, that’s where a dress comes in!
Thirdly, while you may be perfectly fine walking into a restaurant with your gown on (cuz your proud and everyone should know it’s your day), you may not feel as comfortable walking into a store with it on if you have to make a quick stop.
The perfect solution to this problem is to wear a beautiful dress with your cap on, so you can let everyone know in the store that it’s your graduation day (if that’s important to you) without sticking out like a sore thumb.
What kind of dress should I wear?
I’m glad you asked!
Honestly, you can wear whatever you want, but my recommendation is to keep it casual. Go for a casual sundress or something equally light that falls just past your knees.
Casual dresses like a sundress are usually made up of mostly cotton which will keep you cool under your gown when you are taking pictures under the warm hot sun.
And I suggest “just past your knees” so that if you decide to take a picture in your gown with your hands or pose jumping in the air, your gown won’t come up too much and show your dress.
As for sleeves, that’s totally up to you. You can go “no sleeve” “short sleeve,” or “long sleeve.”
Just make sure that it doesn’t meet your wrist.
Keep it an inch and a half above your wrist to play it safe.
Do you get cold easily and worry about feeling chilly in your graduation auditorium?
Then wear a dress with loose long sleeves that go just past your elbow for warmth.
Next, avoid wearing anything too formal. Like a long, ballroom gown dress.
This isn’t prom and you’ll be super sticky, hot, and uncomfortable.
Also, avoid a dress that flares out at the sides.
You’ll get plenty of eyeballs from people asking their friends, “What on earth is she wearing under there? Something weird is bulging under her gown…”
The last suggestion I’ll make about dresses is unless you want the collar of your dress to show, make sure the dress you wear has a v-neck.
This is my opinion but seeing someone’s dress or shirt collar sticking out of their graduation gown isn’t a good look.
Just a huge distraction.
Anyway, if your the modest-wearing type (as I am) don’t worry. The dress doesn’t have to have a deep v-neck as the collars on the gown is quite high.
Just make sure the collar of your outfit is low enough (about an inch and a half deep) to hide underneath the gown.
If not, you could find yourself adjusting your gown every two seconds to capture perfect shots on your big day.
Want to go rogue and wear the complete opposite of what most women wear for graduation pictures? Want to keep it fun and light?
Then, by all means, go for it! You don’t need my permission or any of your family and friends permission for that matter.
It’s YOUR day!!
If you want to roll up in a sleeveless top and long denim jeans (or shorts) and take fun, chill pictures with your friends, go for it.
YOU worked hard for that day.
Plus, you’ll remain super cool on your big day so that’s a win-win in my book!
Read Next: College Bucket List: 50+ Things You Should Do For the Full College Experience (Psst!…have you done all 50?? You still have time to check these off)
What to Wear For Your Graduation Pictures (Winter):
Depending on where you live, you may not have the sun to worry about but may have to face equally scary or uncomfortable weather conditions: snow, hail, chilly wind, frigid rain, etc.
So what on earth do you wear for your graduation pictures then?
My suggestion, go for a long sleeve v-neck thick dress with black thick stockings or tights underneath, and close-toed shoes.
Or add sleeves by wearing a long sleeve v-neck thermal shirt under the dress you plan to wear.
Then arrange for your pictures to be taken mostly inside against a beautiful backdrop like a fancy law library or something so you are kept warm.
According to Kelly’s Dry Cleaners, the top five warmest fabrics in winter weather are:
- Faux Fur
Of course, as I mentioned above, if you want to go rouge wear something completely different from what everybody else is wearing, you can totally show up in jeans and a wool sweater.
I beg of you a favor though.
If you decide to wear jeans, make them skinny jeans, please!! ‘
Don’t go with the flare 70s disco look.
It will look super TACKY underneath your gown.
I promise and you won’t look good in the pictures.
Everyone will be super distracted by what’s going on beneath your graduation gown, and it won’t be because your shoes look pretty.
Let’s Review What to Wear For Your Graduation Pictures:
- Keep your outfit (dress or otherwise) below your knees but above your ankle to avoid it sticking out from under the gown.
- Wear a v-neck collar
- Keep your sleeves 1.5 inches above your wrist to keep them from showing.
- Wear an outfit made of cotton, linen, rayon, or denim if it’s a spring or summer graduation.
- Wear an outfit made of wool, faux fur, nylon, and hemp if it’s a winter graduation.
- Keep your outfit semi-formal since graduation is a formal day.
- Sundresses and other casual dresses are perfect for summer/spring graduations.
- Wear stockings and a long sleeve dress for a winter graduation.
See the picture below to see the outfit I highly recommend you wear for your graduation pictures:
Alright, so now you know what to wear for your graduation pictures!!
Before you go, be sure that you check this college bucket list: 50 things you should do before you graduate. Trust me, there is still time to do many of the things on this list. In fact, I did #52 during my last week of senior year.
P.S. Have you signed up for my newsletter yet? If not, sign up here! Once a week, I send the BEST stuff on all things college like college relationships, how to get A’s, and even make funny post like this one so we can both have a good laugh! Just think of me as your go-to-girlfriend for college advice!