Graduation day comes fast, especially when a global pandemic cancels a portion of your college or university experience. It’s easy for your last year in school to sneak up on you when you spent two to three semesters staying in bed to attend your online Zoom lectures and subsequently desperately trying to catch up for all the lost time by attending in-person events like a maniac — but there’s a new adventure calling your name and degree, so let’s close out this chapter in your life with your best dress and step forward.
Every student should wear what they are comfortable with for this big day. There’s no question that your styles may inevitably change, but the most important thing to do today is to remain true to yourself. Fight against the pressure to conform; don’t look back at your graduation photos with regret because you chose an outfit that everyone else was wearing versus the one that you wanted to. You worked hard for this day and degree, so what better way to celebrate your hard work than wearing an outfit you can feel just as proud of?
As a general guideline, most graduation ceremonies will have a formal dress code or business casual attire. Men and masc generally wear dress slacks and a button-up shirt and tie. Women and femmes can pair their trousers with a blouse or day dress. Standard colors to opt for are white, black, and cheery pastel colors like lavender, and light pinks, but don’t shy away from bold reds, yellows, and blues as these can be classic statements, too.
For femmes, here are nine last-minute graduation outfits to shop for your big day, listed from lowest to highest price.
- White Mini Love Square Neck Split Midi Dress
First of all, the fact that this dress is under $30 blows my mind. It looks a lot more expensive than that and makes for a quintessential, timeless, and enduring graduation look. Not to mention, white will go with any cap and gown color. Beyond this, the dress comes in many different colors — baby blue, black, forest green, dark red, red, and navy — though prices may vary.
- Dokotoo Women’s Spring Ruffle Dress
So many colors to choose from with this dress, but I would suggest solid colors like black or solid beige. It transforms a simple V-neck design into a more sophisticated (and arguably Bohemian) look with ruffles and balloon sleeves.
- Wrap Front Mini Dress in Navy
This one is for the petite girls out there who want to look both strong and feminine. The solid, dark blue with the plunging neckline is almost an ode to the power pose. ASOS makes great clothing for women on the shorter side because the clothes are tailored perfectly to be flattering — I say this from personal experience, being five feet tall. However, reviews recommend ordering a size down!
- Dusty rose Jacquard Sleeveless Midi Dress
For those who want a bit of a longer dress that still has some modest flair, go for this dress. The dusty pink and overall cut of the dress is very chic!
- One-shoulder seamed midi dress with high leg split in aubergine
If there was ever a time to dress up, this is it. This dress is glamorous and cosmopolitan without any reserve — you could be walking down the steps of the stadium to pick up your degree or strutting down the red carpet in this dress.
- White Lace Off-the-Shoulder Midi Dress
You can never go wrong with a white, lace dress. The V neckline and off-the-shoulder cut-out remind me of a Disney princess design from Aurora in Sleeping Beauty. It’s a pleasant twist on an otherwise classic look.
- Out Tonight Red Two-Piece Jumpsuit
This deep red jumpsuit is perfect for hot weather and statement-making. The overall design of the outfit can also create a very flattering silhouette. The great thing is it comes with both the top and bottom, so all the stress in making a combo is alleviated!
- Amira Dress in Chamomile Yellow
Wearing this dress is like reminding everyone you have a bright future ahead of you! You’ll be a cold glass of lemonade for graduation, showing you took the lemons on the pandemic and turned it into something sweeter.
- Embellished Cami Dress in Turquoise
Some people just love sparkle, and this dress is perfect for that. Simple and classic fit — plus, cami dresses are in — but the embellishments bring the entire look to a new level. Pair this with some chain earrings and metallic heels and you have a daring ensemble ready for the stage.
For nonbinary and more masc looks, here are five last-minute blouses and button ups to shop for graduation day, ranked from lowest price to highest price. In my own white coat ceremony, I opted for a lawn green colored sleeveless chiffon/top, and black trousers from LOFT. I paired these pants with simple black heels. I would recommend any trousers that are beige or black colored to be perfect for graduation occasions, but feel free to go for bolder colors, especially if they match the top!
- Threadsoft Wrap Top
Big fan of Rey from Star Wars? All jokes aside, this is for those who want a relaxed, soft, and comfy top with all the same elegance as a button-up, I highly recommend this wrap top from the Banana Republic. And if you have arm tattoos, what better way to show them off than with this top?
Banana Republic, $24
- Satin Classic Shirt
High gloss and highly refined, this shirt is exactly what it sounds like. Perfect for any formal occasion beyond just graduation and a way for modest yet nonchalantly-savvy students to show off their personality through clothing. The shirt comes in multiple colors — navy, black, latte, and “snow day” (a bit off-white) — and sizes, from regular sizing to petite.
Banana Republic, $32.49
- Dundarave by Peau de Loop
Maybe you’re graduating from Pepperdine University, Miami University, or the University of Hawaii and want to hit the beach immediately after graduation! Look no further than this casual button-down collar with gender-neutral plant patterns in a calming blue. The company Peau de Loop specializes in making high-quality button-downs for bodies with curves. Even if you don’t have any, who can resist the fact that there’s a hidden inside-pocket over the left breast, large enough to store cash, cards, and even your phone? You’ll be able to shake the hand of the dean and hold your degree without any hassle.
Peau de Loop, $68
- The Empower Piped Sleeveless Button Up
The olive green (among other colors and patterns) gives off a down-to-earth vibe, while the white outline on the collar and center are crisp and clean. Wildfang is a queer-owned brand for gender-neutral professional wear and has donated to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Q Center, and more. They also make other button-ups, such as the one listed below.
- Sketchy Floral Short Sleeve Button Up
The design is phenomenally seasonal with a tailored fit. The purple hues will stand out great against any standard trousers or skirts. With 201 reviews and 4.5 stars, you can’t go wrong with this relaxed yet sturdy choice.
Whatever outfit you choose, you will look incredible as long as you show up with that inner confidence. Remember, you earned this moment. The last few years full of midterm and final exams, presentations, conferences, meetings, and more have been difficult, but you still found a way to rise above all the challenges. Graduation serves as a testament to show that when you put your mind to something, you are able to succeed. As one can expect, life is difficult and there will be future obstacles to overcome, but in the midst of a pandemic, you completed your education. Nothing can stop you now. Congratulations to the class of 2022!