5 Steps to Buying What to Wear Under Your Cap and Gown

You’ve worked hard to reach this point in your life. You’ve conquered classes, assignments, and exams to get where you stand today—you’re just one short step away from achieving the ultimate goal of graduating with a degree that will help you do what you want. It’s a special day, and it’s important to look and feel your best as you take the next step into adulthood.

Your outfit under your cap and gown is an important factor in making sure you look good as you walk across that stage. If you don’t have something planned for underneath, people might see whatever is underneath—and it’s important that whatever is underneath be appropriate for such a monumental event. Comfort is also key: there’s no worse feeling than a bunch of fabric bunched up uncomfortably between all those layers of clothing on your body. Make sure whatever outfit you select is comfortable enough so that the ceremony won’t be a struggle for mere moments after it starts.

Step 1: Determine the Dress Code

The first thing you should do when choosing what to wear under your cap and gown is determine the dress code. If the ceremony will have a specific dress code, it’s important to follow the guidelines closely so that you don’t stand out inappropriately or incur the wrath of authority figures.

If there isn’t a dress code, you may want to ask your school or look through previous year’s photos for inspiration. Many schools have FAQ pages where they talk about this very topic—and can even supply pictures from years past.

Wear what makes you feel comfortable, just make sure to be informed so that you’re following cultural norms.

Step 2: Select the Appropriate Underwear

Though it may be tempting to go commando under your cap and gown, you’ll want to make sure your clothing is as form-fitting as possible. Wearing baggy clothes will not only make you appear sloppy—it could also hamper your ability to concentrate during the ceremony. To avoid embarrassment, wear the right kind of underwear and the appropriate accessories under your dress. In general, avoid baggy or loose pant-like garments (leggings) unless they are made of fabric that allows for easy movement while accommodating all injuries that would impede mobility (think martial arts pants). Instead, consider wearing a short skirt or dress that covers most of your legs, a tank top or camisole (or equivalent), and a supportive bra. A shapewear piece such as Spanx can smooth out any lumps or bumps in the area underneath your breasts and ensure proper coverage for this important area. For more coverage, consider wearing multiple layers of clothing underneath a dress with an open back: long underwear can further cover any bulges beneath your clothes and provide additional support on top of what a bra would provide.

Step 3: Plan for Changing Weather

Students, grads, and their proud family members alike can all agree on one thing: the walk with your class down the aisle during commencement is a moment you don’t want ruined by the wind or rain. Instead of risking your ceremony outfit getting soaked in a sudden downpour, it’s best to be prepared—and even better to think ahead!

What you wear under your cap and gown depends on two things: how cold/warm you expect it to be and whether there will be any sort of precipitation. The goal here is to avoid being uncomfortable, so starting with layers that are easy to remove or add as needed is an excellent way to make sure that no matter what happens, you’ll feel at home walking down that aisle.

If the forecast says warm weather and dry skies, then there’s no need for a sweater or jacket. But if something changes and there begins to be a chill in the air (or worse), it’s important to have something that can easily be added on top of what you’re wearing. Similarly, if there’s even just a slight chance of rain, then it pays off in dividends not only having an umbrella with you but also having either a sweater or jacket (depending on how heavy they are) that can easily come off before the walk begins. These precautions will elevate your cap-and-gown experience from one marked by worry about weather conditions into one where you relish every moment of anticipation as well as each stride towards graduation.

Step 4: Be Fashionable and Comfortable

Graduation season is upon us, and the seemingly endless march of caps and gowns can be a confusing one for those entering the world of offices and jobs. During this time, it’s easy to get caught up in a whirlwind of decisions: what color cap do I choose? What size gown do I buy? Should I wear my hair down or up? My natural hair color is already sort of close to my school’s colors, so should I dye it? How will all these decisions affect how people perceive me after graduation?

The decisions made during this time are important ones with lasting consequences. College provides a rare opportunity where you can experiment with your personal style without facing negative repercussions for making bold choices. Leaving behind this freedom and entering the workforce will cause many to reexamine their fashion sense; in most offices, clothing that strays from conservative business formal attire (for men) or basic professional attire (for women) is heavily frowned upon.

As exciting as graduation day may seem on the surface, consider how you’ll feel when all you want to do is unbutton your collar but you can’t. While your friends are taking spontaneous photos out in front of the campus buildings wearing jeans and hoodies, you’re standing nervously in line at Dunkin Donuts having an employee take numerous photos of you while strategically holding your tie so that it doesn’t show your company’s logo. Perhaps even worse are those who have invested so much into their look beforehand only to have their cap fly off as they walk across stage. Good thing there are ways to prepare for any potential scenario!

Step 5: Consider Wearing Your Graduation Outfit in Advance

The first thing we recommend learning about your gown is the fit. If you’re wearing a fitted gown, first make sure that after you put on your dress your body will still be able to fit through the holes (or slits) in the bodice without any difficulty. These are called “mother-of-the-bride” or “extra length” seams, and they are usually located on the bodice where the bust and waist meet. When putting on a fitted gown, start at those areas and slowly work your way up past those areas to make sure you can get into it with ease—and then make sure that there are no lumps or bumps that may show even more of a problem than what you already see.

The next thing we recommend doing is trying it on a day or two before so that you can see how well it fits under clothing underneath. If it feels uncomfortable when combined with whatever other clothing you’ll be wearing underneath, don’t worry! There’s no need to buy multiple dresses; just try this one out as an alternative to another one (which could work!) and go from there if it works for both outfits.

Finally, ask someone who knows what they’re talking about to choose some jewelry for you so that everything looks cohesive. And if all else fails? Ask us at our store! We would love to help!

Getting dressed for graduation is as much fun as preparing for the big day.

Like most major life moments, going to college graduation is a momentous occasion that’s not to be taken lightly. When you’re sitting in your cap and gown, waiting for the ceremony to begin, the last thing you want is to feel underprepared or uncomfortable. This doesn’t mean that you need to spend hundreds on getting dressed and accessorizing, but it does mean thinking about which outfit will help make you feel like a success instead of a failure as you walk across the stage.

When I started my first year at college, I wanted to get everything right; so naturally, I went out and bought over $100 worth of new clothing for the occasion. Once I actually got down to dressing up for commencement, though, I wasn’t sure what would work best with my poncho-style gown (the kind where there aren’t any shoulder straps). Regardless of how much care and consideration I put into picking out this special attire (I’m pretty sure it was just Laura Ingalls Wilder’s house dress), it just wasn’t working with my body. The damn poncho kept slipping off my shoulders!

After failed attempts at keeping it in place by safety-pinning it into place while also wearing an ill-fitting bra underneath, all I could do was mournfully think about all the money I had spent on a garment that didn’t even fit properly. My mom offered some wise words: “It doesn’t matter what you wear under your cap and gown; no one will notice anyway!” That might not have been true—looking around at the other graduates made me think that they probably won some contest for best-dressed—but she did bring up an important point: this was just something we were doing for fun after finishing our studies anyway. It was time for a change in strategy.


Congratulations, you’ve made it. Whether you spent four years at college or went through a short program in a matter of months, your hard work is about to pay off. If you’re graduating from an academic institution, you deserve to celebrate this milestone with pride and joy.

And by “dress for success,” we mean dressing for the weather: it’s been known to take unexpected turns as the spring days wither away into winter ones. It doesn’t matter what your dress code is—you should be prepared with layers that can be taken on and off depending on how passageways are heated. Even if there’s a strict policy against wearing shorts (maybe even flip-flops), there’s always room to add or remove a jacket or sweater once you get where you’re going and need to shed some extra fabric.

In terms of colors and fabrics, stick to basics like black, grey, navy blue, white, browns and earth tones if possible—they’ll go with any outfit combination without breaking up your coordinated look too much. Stay away from bright colors so as not to stand out; if anything, stick with accessories that shine a light on your personality instead of articles of clothing that do so (it’s important everyone gets their own moment in the spotlight). The less material you have in each article of clothing—the less likely it is to get snagged while walking down hallways or running across campuses!

Oh yeah—if you’re getting married after graduation ceremonies are over… don’t forget to wear something under those robes!

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