What To Wear To Graduation | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

What To Wear To Graduation

Life&Style writer Lucie Turner gives her advice on what to wear for graduation, taking into account everything from weather to photo lighting

Graduation is a day filled with questions. Will the weather be good? Did I order the right gown? Will I fall over? Will my divorced parents tear out one another’s throats or ears?? WHAT SHOULD I WEAR???

The latter is a question that I myself have hindsight on, having graduated myself last summer (I’m now doing my masters which means a winter graduation aka a whole different fish kettle).


Loud and Proud

It’s taken you three, maybe four years to make it to this point. You’d hoped to receive your scroll whilst a dimly lit spotlight gives you a luminous (not sweaty) glow, where you’d then walk down the aisle to the sounds of trumpeted fanfare, your parents beaming in the front row, showering you with love, affection and fivers. Alas, this will not be the case.

Your parents will unfortunately be in the sea of 300 other parents, who will undoubtedly all look the same to you when they’re all snotty and tear-ridden and you’re blinded by the (definitely not flattering) stage lights. My suggestion therefore is to opt for bright colours or bold patterns of dresses and ties to peek out from your gowns. Maybe even co-ordinate with your family so you both can spot one another easily (I did this with my Granny and it made for some very cute photos and lots of cooing was shared by all). A bright outfit makes anyone feel important and who cares about the odd “who’s that twat in the morph suit” comment.


Consider the weather (a pinch)

In the whole of the graduation period in the summer of 2016 it was glorious weather (yay global warming!). Campus looked beautiful, lighting for photos was on point and the temperature was just pleasant enough for the sweat levels to look more ‘dewy finish’ than ‘oil-ridden mess’. That is, every day of graduation except mine. On my graduation day it rained from start to finish, so much so that our group picture took place in a random seminar room next to Aston Webb. And the shoes I wore? Suede. My feet were prunes by the end of the proceedings and I’d also managed to splash mud up the back of my dress due to the bog-like ground next to the marquee.

Always check the weather and always make sure you, or your parents/friends/paid assistant have an umbrella in their arsenal. Also make sure it’s a golf umbrella, not a piddly, retractable, I’ll-break-with-a-mere-sneeze type one. Consider bringing back-up shoes and try not to wear anything that will disintegrate/turn mildly pornographic when wet.


The shoes. THE SHOES.

I can’t stress how integral shoes are in making your graduation outfit a success (mostly for the girls because we have way more choice, duh). I know its cliché, but they really will make or break your walk down the (academia) aisle. I went rogue with my shoe choice and opted for what were essentially two scrunchies attached to my feet. I suffered, my feet suffered and everyone witnessing my weird hobble onto the stage also suffered. So yes, buy some shoes, practice walking in your bedroom and practice steps in them too (nobody wants to be The One Who Fell). Since you’re going to be standing around in them for a long time, I’d opt for wedges or platforms with minimal heel height. If you prefer flat shoes, smart brogues or sturdy ballet flats can work just as well but do NOT wear trainers (no matter how edgeee all those nights at Rainbow may have made you).


Picture This

The graduation photos are a hit and miss affair at the best of times. You may have had too many of the free champagnes, you’ll be a bit teary at the grandiose emotion of it all and you’re probably not used to professional lighting set-ups. What will definitely make any picture worse is non-camera-friendly patterns and prints.

If you’re feeling you want to mix up your tie pattern for a clashing hound’s-tooth or maybe you’ve spotted a paisley dress in shades of orange and pink that is just ‘so you’, get a mate to take a flash photo of you in it first. Similarly, if you’re getting a picture with parents involved, make sure your corresponding outfits don’t look like you’ve accidentally entered an “Awkward Family Photos” contest. A friend of mine wore a chic 70’s shift only to be upstaged by her parents wearing matching corduroy suits. It was less ‘The Boat That Rocked’ and more Christian Bale in ‘American Hustle’.


Andrex or NOTHING

By this I don’t mean use toilet paper as your go-to bandage dress. I simply mean that it’s all well and good to have the most fuego outfit of your graduating class but if you don’t feel comfortable in it? Not worth your time. That day is going to be very emotional and full of plenty of other dramatically charged moments so you NEED to feel comfy and cool in whatever you wear.

Above all, don’t let your worry about maintaining your aesthetic get in the way of it all. Fly by the seat of your pants, dress to kill and whatever you do, do NOT rock a birthday suit.

Writer and lover of TV. Can quote Mean Girls seamlessly.


21st June 2017 at 9:00 am

Last Updated

26th June 2017 at 9:26 am

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