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Emma Watson graduation dress
1 year, 11 months ago  |  Get Dressed

The Rad Grad

May is the month for graduation ceremonies of all kinds — high school, college, religious confirmations, you name it. These rituals pre­sent their own set of wardrobe challenges… i.e., how to play out your own style while still playing by the rules of appropriateness. This goes just as much for grads as it does their attending families, friends and other assorted posse members.

For high school and college grads, a casual-yet-pretty day dress is the best route. That can mean almost any length you prefer. (Although, if it’s a maxi dress, I don’t recommend anything too hot; you’re going to be wearing this under a robe, remember!) Short is fine — as long as it’s not too short — and knee- or midi-length are arguably the chicest options, since you can then go straight from the ceremony to basically any type of celebration afterward.

Silk and linen are both tricky; if you’re going to be sitting in the hot sun for a while (a distinct possibility, since so many cere­monies are held outside), they can get wrinkled and sweaty easily. Cotton and spandex blends hold up great, as do polyester and rayon. These are all well represented in this season’s feminine sundresses, wrap maxi dresses, body-con midis and cool asymmetrical numbers — and they range from bohemian to preppie in attitude.

Let your personal preferences shine through, but just remember: The pictures will be rolling even after you take off the robe, so avoid anything you don’t want to see yourself memorialized in a frame above the family mantel two decades from now. If you love it, wear it. If you’re on the fence, drop it and move along.

Moms, aunts and grandmas don’t have to worry about the robe issue, and are lucky to have a slew of easy, feminine styles at their fingertips this spring. Everything from Zara’s crossover-neckline printed floral dress ($69.90 at to the bright, flowy knee-length pieces by Marimekko, in bold, tangerine-hued prints such as the Eline Dress ($325 at All in all, the important thing to remember is hitting that balance of celebration, but with an ever-so-slight hint of seriousness. Cutout dresses may be all the rage, but unless you’re looking to cause a stir — especially if the graduation is a confirmation ceremony — it’s probably best to save it for that summer barbecue next month.

Ready to get dressed and ready to face the rest of the world after graduation? Next week, we’ll be tackling what to wear to your first job interview.