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What to Wear Under Your Cap and Gown


Comfort is key

It’s time for graduation!
And that means it’s time for the traditional cap and gown.

Question is since you can’t JUST wear a cap and gown to graduation (don’t even try that), what’s the appropriate garb to be worn underneath?

In case you didn’t know, one of the historical reasons for high school and college caps and gowns was to homogenize the look when it came to handing out degrees. This way graduates who couldn’t afford nicer clothing were able to appear before the graduation audience in the same dress as their richer counterparts. When it comes to a degree it doesn’t matter how rich or poor you are. All recipients are equal. So, the idea here is to not stand out when it comes to your dress.

For your top

Keep in mind that the neck on a graduation gown is actually fairly low, so the shirt you are wearing underneath is going to show. So, for men, you should wear a collared dress shirt. Adding a tie would be a nice touch, but it’s not required.

For women, because of the low-cut neckline, a scoop-neck top with a modest cut, or a collard blouse is suitable attire to wear under your graduation robes.

For the bottom

Women can wear dress pants or a skirt underneath their gown. Just keep in mind that a full-length skirt will probably make your outfit look heavy, given the length of the gown. Bright colored bottoms can distract from the formality of the graduation ceremony, so stick with dark-colored skirts or slacks.

Men should either wear khakis or dark-colored slacks.

Dress for the weather

Unlike winter ceremonies, spring ceremonies often take place outside. So, you need to dress accordingly. Do not wear clothes that are going to have you sweating uncomfortably. Stick with a light fabric. Now, if your graduation ceremony is taking place in the upper part of the country, where temperatures can still be cool in the spring, you may want a heavier fabric.


In case of rain, put on shoes that while dressy can also stand to get a little wet if they have to. Rain boots are a no-no.

For indoor ceremonies, both men and women should choose closed-toe dress shoes. No sandals or sneakers. For women, high heels can make it difficult to walk in, so shoot for more medium-height heels. Also, if the ceremony is outdoors you’ll probably want to go with wedges or platforms. You don’t want your heels sinking into soft soil.

Hairstyle and accessories

Given the tight-fitting nature of the graduation cap, hairstyles are limited. It’s best of you just wear your hair down. Up-dos, such as a bun or twist are probably not going to fit. Guys, just wear your hair as you normally would. Just clean, brushed hair is fine.

For accessories, students can wear a school class ring if they wish. Women should limit their earrings to simple and elegant options and you’ll want to stay away from tuck-clunky or quirky necklaces.

Additional Resources

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