Anyone who’s worked through tough classes for years knows how important graduation day is. While you take pictures with loved ones and stand proudly with your classmates, your graduation dress can be just as important. You may be wondering how to find the perfect dress for such a memorable day, but don’t know where to start. By knowing graduation dress basics, complementing your body and keeping the occasion in mind, you can shine as you shake hands with teachers and professors.
Party 1: Figuring Out the Basics
1. Look at dress codes.
Some schools may prohibit strapless or spaghetti strapped dresses. If this is the case, don’t look for graduation dresses that would violate the dress code. Check with a teacher, professor or prior graduate, if you’re unsure of where to find a handbook.
2. Pick the right fabric for the season.
- If you graduate in the spring, you may not want to wear a wool, sweater dress. Besides that, you may get toasty in the graduation auditorium with loads of people. Cotton, silk and rayon are all light weight fabrics good for spring. If you happen to be graduating in the fall, choose thick cotton or cotton blends, which will still breathe under your robe.
- Linen is a great fabric for extra hot humid months, because of its superior breathability.
- Wool is great in cold weather, because it will insulate yet breathe.
3. Decide on a budget.
You will find a huge variety of places to shop for dresses. This includes everywhere from discount chain stores to specialty boutiques that sell wedding dresses too. You can find the right dress no matter where you shop, but keeping your budget in mind can help narrow down the playing field. Remember that different department stores have different prices.
- Look at discount stores, like Forever 21 or some online shops, such as eDressit, tbdress, if your budget falls below one-hundred dollars.
- You can look in department stores, if you have a budget of up to three-hundred dollars.
- Boutique dress shops are for when money is no object.
4. Choose the right length.
Most dresses are going to look best right above or below the knee on graduation day. If you happen to have a formal dinner or celebration after the ceremony, you may look at longer dresses, but make sure they are not too long. You wouldn’t want to trip on your way to the stage.
5. Compliment the color of your cap and gown.
Keep your graduation colors in mind as you shop for dresses. Just because most of it will be covered, doesn’t mean hemlines or necklines can’t peek out. Choose a color that will match your school colors, so it will look nice in pictures and with or without the robe on. Do not wear a hot pink dress with an orange cap.
6. Match your dress to your shoes.
In all actuality, it will be your shoes that will be seen the most on your walk to stage. Pick your shoes out first and match your dress to them. Make sure you can walk comfortably and match not only the color of your dress, but the style to them. Wedges may match with a light-colored, flirty dress, while black, leather pumps may be better with a sheath dress.
Party 2: Shopping for the Perfect Dress
1. Start the hunt early.
Don’t stress yourself out by shopping for a graduation dress at the last minute. Start looking as soon as you can, preferably a few months ahead of time. You’ll be able to weigh your options, stay on budget, and find one that perfectly flatters you.
2. Take along a trusted friend or relative for opinions.
Sometimes it’s hard to decide on important things like a graduation dress on your own. A close friend or relative can tell you what looks good and what doesn’t. Use your own judgement first, but they can point things out about fit and colors you may not normally notice.
Take along fellow graduates, if you can. This will prevent you from choosing the same dress.
3. Consider online options.
Online dress shops often have a wide selection. Use filters to narrow down your choices. Filter by choices like style, cut, print, length, or occasion. Some online shops even have selections specifically for graduation day. Review the return policy before you buy in case you don’t like a dress, after you try it on.
4. Find the right print and color.
The time of year you graduate is going to play an important part in choosing a print and color. Light-colored floral dresses are appropriate in the spring, while dark gingham is more appropriate in the fall. This is just a guideline though! Let your personal style show through above all else.
5. Remember you’ll be in front of family and teachers.
Flatter your figure to your heart’s delight, but remember too much body hugging fabric may be inappropriate on graduation day. Skip the clubwear and opt for a semi-formal or casual dress that is cute, yet leaves room for the imagination.
6. Remember the after party.
Graduation day rarely includes just a graduation ceremony. You will probably at least go to dinner with close friends and family. Wear a summer dress for an outdoor graduation party, or a dress you can take out on the town to dance the night away.
Party 3: Choosing the Best Style
1. Flatter your figure.
The style of dress you decide on is going to have a lot to do with what looks good on your body type. You can minimize areas you’re self conscious about, or emphasize parts of your body you’re proud of. Show off your hourglass figure with a belted or cinched waist. Choose an empire waist, if you want your dress to flow loosely around a mid-section.
- Play up curves with ruched fabric around the bust and hips.
- Down-play your bottom half with a dress fitted from the waist up and flared out below it.
- Offset broad shoulders by wearing an A-line dress that flares out slightly at the waist.
2. Choose a neckline.
Necklines of dresses come in as much variety as the cut. If you have special jewelry for graduation day, like your grandmother’s pearl necklace, you definitely need to decide on a neckline. You may want a scalloped or v-neck to show it off. Choose no neckline at all with a strapless dress and wear a statement necklace.
- Go conservative with a high neckline.
- A little cleavage is fine, but don’t go overboard
3. Show off your personality.
The best way to feel good in what you’re wearing is by showing off your style and personality. Be feminine with ruffles and bows. Be chic in something simple and dark. Be glamorous with touches of sparkle or sequins. Wearing a dress that helps express your individual style will keep you glowing on graduation day.
4. Alter your dress.
Sometimes you may find the perfect dress, but need the waist or bust taken in. The fit of a dress is important. Make sure you go to a well reviewed seamstress for measurements and alterations. They can put the final touches on a dress to help you feel your best.
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