What to Wear Under the Graduation Gown?

What to Wear Under the Graduation Gown?

Photo by Chichi Onyekanne on Unsplash.

Preparing the outfit for the graduation ceremony? Here's some tips for the Dos and Don'ts for looking & feeling great on the big day with no regrets! 

General Considerations

As a rule of thumb, we recommend the following:

  • Prepare in Advance. If you're reading this, you're already on the right path! Other than taking good care of your cap and gown, get your inner layer laundried and ready to wear is equally important. Don't think no one will see inside your gown- most likely, at least part of the clothes will show (like your pants or shirt collar) under the gown, and you will be taking the gown off at some time to take pictures during the day. 
  • Color and Style Coordination. Graduation gowns are meant to make you look accomplished and professional, so too many clashing colors or cartoony prints may not be the best matching choices. Consider wearing the base layer with a neutral tone that will match just about anything. Adding some small accessories for a bright touch, like a colorful graduation stole or a set of honor cords, that represents your school, your accomplishments, and the organizations you belong to. 
  • Comfort > Styles.  Forget anything that you would not want to wear for a whole day! Choose well-fitting (not too tight, not too loose) clothes with comfortable fabric to wear inside the gown. Think twice about the new shoes that need breaking in, or the heavy earring that you have never worn before. While they may be great in style, they could make it hard to smile. 

To dress properly and comfortably for one of the most memorable day in your academic experience, there are also many other details to take into consideration, including the type of graduation, gender, and weather conditions:

Type of Graduation

  • Elementary, Middle & High School

For K12 schools, the dress code may vary vastly from school to schools. Some schools require students to wear their school uniforms, while others may have graduation t-shirts made for their students in advance to wear underneath the gowns. 

  • College (Associate, Bachelor, and Post-Graduate Degrees)

Dress codes generally gets formal at the college graduation ceremony. Most graduates are already becoming professionals of their field with internships or jobs lined up, and therefore you should dress to reflect your readiness to head into the real prefessoinal world. 


  • Female Graduates

<span>Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/@nikolasnoonan?utm_source=unsplash&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_content=creditCopyText">Nikolas Noonan</a> on <a href="https://unsplash.com/@nikolasnoonan?utm_source=unsplash&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_content=creditCopyText">Unsplash</a></span>

Due to the low-neckline of the graduation gowns, female graduates usually wear a scoop-neck or v-neck or dress, or scoop/v -neck blouse with pants or skirts underneath the gowns. This way there won't be any additional fabric and colors showing above the neckline of the gown, which gives students a clean and uniform look. 

It's okay to stand out a little, too! If you do wear a blouse or dress that will show, consider a matching color with your gown or neutral color (such as black, white, or grey) and a simple design (maybe leave the paisley or cheetah prints for another time!) not to clash with your gown. 

  • Male Graduates

<span>Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/@rizsam?utm_source=unsplash&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_content=creditCopyText">Muhammad Rizwan</a> on <a href="https://unsplash.com/s/photos/graduation?utm_source=unsplash&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_content=creditCopyText">Unsplash</a></span>

Just like many other important occasions in life, a man cannot go wrong with dress shirt and pants with and a nice pair of dark dress shoes. If you want to dress down a bit, you can also go with khakis or slacks, or even solid dark-wash jeans instead of dress pants. However, you will want shirts that look good buttoned-up showing above the gown collar, and it's the best not to take the casualness too far and keep it business casual. 

In terms of the colors, it's common for the male graduates to wear a collared dress shirt, usually in white or other light colors in contrast with the dark gown, such as navy or black. Similarly, black or other dark color shirt would also work well if your graduation gown is a bright color, such as royal blue or red. 

Ties are generally not required. However, you will look extra sharp with one that compliments the outfit! We recommend a different color from the gown so it doesn't blend in on photos. You want to make sure the shirt fits perfectly, showing a small gap between the neck and the knot; and the tie knot should be fully revealed above the neck line of the gown. 

Weather Conditions

Depending on the climate and how thick your gown is (i.e. our doctoral gowns and deluxe master gowns are made with thicker fabric than the one on regular caps and gowns), you will want to coordinate the layers inside.

  • Spring Ceremony

Most graduates have Spring ceremony in May and June, usually held outdoor. In most part of the U.S., that means your shirt and pants inside the gown are plenty and any additional layer such as a suit jacket could make the day very, very sweaty. Dress light especially if it's gonna be a sunny day!

  • Winter Ceremony

The winter ceremony is usually held in December or January and indoor. It would be a smart idea to consider what you would normally wear in that specific building or event venue to get an idea of how the climate control is for your own comfort zone. For example, if you have been keeping your jacket on when attending winter events in that ballroom, wear a jacket inside your graduation gown would keep you warm while sitting through the hours-long ceremony.

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