Dress Code for High School Graduations

Updated December 27, 2018
group of graduates

While many teens are more than happy to live in casual gear like jeans and tee shirts, graduation ceremonies are a special occurrence. Wearing career clothing helps graduates and their families appreciate the solemnity of the day. By following the dress code, they can begin to see how they'll be expected to dress and conduct themselves in the adult world.

Official Dress Code for High School Graduations

Some schools will adopt a formal policy while others will give out general guidelines. These guidelines will typically be laid out for you in your school handbook or in a pamphlet that discusses graduation expectations. Some teens may wonder why they need to bother. After all, they're wearing caps and gowns; no one will see what's underneath. However, wearing clothes appropriate to the venue tends to make you behave in a manner appropriate to the solemnity of the occasion. Some points a dress code may cover include:

  • Shoes: Dress shoes such as pumps, loafers, Oxfords, flats, etc. Most schools ask to avoid sneakers or sandals.
  • Clothes: Dresses, dress pants, collared shirts, button downs, blouses, skirts, ties, suits, etc. Gym shorts, jeans and t-shirts are typically a no-no.
  • Hair: While this may or may not be addressed, some schools may prohibit outrageous hairstyles that would be deemed distracting. Brightly colored Mohawks or neon orange hair might fall into this category.

Picture taking is one of the hallmarks of graduation. By requesting that graduates stick to a dress code, photos of the day will be much more flattering. Nearly everyone wants a picture not only of his or her cap and gown but probably in an open gown. Wearing dress clothes underneath makes for a smarter looking photo than jeans and tees.

What to Wear to High School Graduation?

Choosing what you are going to wear to graduation can be stressful. Finding the right outfit and accessories can make or break your look.


When looking for the perfect dress, you want to find something that fits you well but isn't too tight or revealing. Select something comfortable and beautiful for your pictures. Given that most graduations are in June, it's important to look for something that won't be stuffy or hot in the summer under your gown. Dresses with short or cap sleeves work perfectly. Additionally, most girls might opt for a knee-length skirt rather than a full length. Also remember this is graduation, not prom. You want formal but not too formal. Therefore, you might opt for a flowery sundress or black business style dress. Pairing your dress with a strappy pair of low heels or Mary Janes can really complete your ensemble.

girl in little black dress


A suit is also a flattering choice for both girls and guys. You might choose a suit with a pencil skirt or slacks. Black or pinstriped suits give off just the right amount of sophistication for graduates. Again, remember with summer, you might want to avoid wool suits. Pairing your suit with a snazzy tie or blouse that matches your school colors can really pull this look off. Oxfords, loafers or pumps work to set off your professionalism.

young man in a suit
Young woman in a suit

Slacks and Collared Shirt or Blouse

Girls and guys that are looking for something a bit more casual might choose to pair black or khaki dress pants with a collared shirt or blouse. A collared shirt in a muted tone like gray, white, light blue or even your school colors can be paired with a tie for added flair. Polos or button-down shirts in a variety of colors also work well. Girls might choose a loose solid blouse in a rich color like blue, gray, yellow or even purple. Additionally, blouses in floral patterns work as well. Slacks can work well with pumps, Oxfords, loafers or elegant low heels.

Woman in slacks
young man in casual clothing


You want your fashion accessories to set off your look. Therefore, look for necklaces, bracelets, and earrings that work with the colors in your outfit.

  • You might try a gold necklace with a pendant or a cross. Pearls are also a great choice for girls.
  • Earrings should be on the minimum and small hoops or stones.
  • A cuff or charm bracelet might be appealing. You might also choose to set off your wrist with a watch as well.
  • Girls might try hairpieces like headbands, combs, clips, and barrettes.

Just remember that your accessories should complete your professional look, not distract from it.

girl with a necklace


The shoes you wear can make or break your outfit. Choose colors and styles that work with the style and color scheme of your clothes. For example, Oxford dress shoes might not pair well with a flowery sundress. You might try light, airy shoes or something with a little color. Pumps and Oxford shoes look great with a suit. A skirt or dress might be paired with knee boots or even an open-toed wedge. And remember, a black shoe pretty much goes with any outfit.

men's leather shoes
High heels

What to Wear to Graduation for Guests?

While a dress code can't be enforced on the graduate's family and friends, school administrators always hope that everyone involved in the ceremony-from school staff to the graduating class to the audience can make the celebration special without dissolving into immature displays. When you are going to a high school graduation, you should aim for business casual attire. This means that men might wear slacks, button downs or polos. Women might choose a dress suit or slacks and a blouse. The thing to remember is that you are not trying to attract attention. If choosing patterns go for something that isn't eye-grabbing. Neutral tones or black is always a good choice. Women might also look at pale floral pattern skirts or shirts. Bright colors, ill-fitting or flashy clothing should be avoided.

The Right Outfit

Beyond respecting the school dress code, a graduation should encourage proper behavior as well. When teenagers forego their usual attire of jeans and sneakers and don more formal clothing, they show the world they are moving on to adulthood. So, find the outfit that fits your style while showing the world how grown up you've become.

Dress Code for High School Graduations