Can I Wear Shorts Under Graduation Gown?

woman portrait on her graduation day

Your graduation ceremony announces the end of an important chapter of your life. Whether it’s your first degree or a second Ph.D., it’s a momentous occasion that’ll attract your family and friends. Deciding what to wear under the gown isn’t always straightforward, but should you wear shorts?

You can’t wear shorts under your graduation gown. Many schools mandate graduating students to only dress in corporate wear on graduation day. Even in schools where there are no laws against it, any student wearing shorts will draw negative attention from the rest of the public. 

This article will cover all you need to know about wearing shorts under your graduation gown. You’ll also learn top tips on how to dress for your big day.

Why You Shouldn’t Wear Shorts Under Your Graduation Gown

Your graduation ceremony is a prestigious event. With many dignitaries present, including friends and family, you’re expected to be on your best behavior all around. Your graduation day isn’t the right time to show your charming “personality” with your dressing. Therefore, wearing shorts under your gown is a sure way to attract judgmental stares from everyone around you.

fall in line students wearing graduation gown

Graduation gowns don’t cover you up completely. Your legs showing behind the parting is a sure way to paint yourself as unprofessional. Some of your classmates might object to having you in group pictures, and you may be denied other privileges (such as coming up on stage for a handshake).

Therefore, it’s best to avoid wearing shorts completely, regardless of gender.

Appropriate Clothing To Wear Under Your Graduation Gown

Since you can’t wear shorts under your graduation gown, what should you wear?

Female Graduating Students

Graduation gowns often feature a low neckline, so female graduating students should wear V-neck or scoop-neck dress underneath. V-neck or scoop neck blouses on skirts or pants also work well. The result is a clean and uniform look.

Avoid colors that’ll clash with your gown when choosing the dress or blouse to wear underneath your gown. Stick with simple designs or neutral colors such as black, gray, or white.

Male Graduating Students

The default clothing to go under your gown as a male graduating student is a dress shirt and pants, with a nice pair of dark dress shoes. Instead of pants, you can wear slacks, khakis, or dark-wash jeans. However, your shirts should always be standard button-up types that show above your gown collar.

When choosing your shirt, go for colors in contrast with your gown. White is popular if your graduation gown is navy or black, while a black shirt will work best for brightly colored gowns (red or royal blue).

You don’t have to wear ties, but you can look sharper if you find the perfect fit that complements the rest of your attire. Avoid wearing a tie that’s a similar color to your graduation gown, as it’ll disappear into the background in pictures. Your tie knot must also be fully revealed above your gown’s neckline.

Other Tips To Keep in Mind

Pay Attention to the Weather Conditions

You need to consider the predominant weather conditions and the thickness of your gown when choosing what to wear underneath.

For spring ceremonies held in May and June, wearing extra layers such as a sweatshirt or a suit jacket will leave you very sweaty. Dress formally but keep it light if you’re headed out on a sunny day.

You don’t have to overdress for winter graduation ceremonies held in December and January, either. Most of the ceremonies within this period are held indoors. Think about how you’d normally dress in the venue. Do you typically wear your jacket in this room? Retain it under your graduation gown to stay warm throughout the ceremony.

Mind Your Shoes

You should pay attention when choosing your shoes. Only choose options that are comfortable enough for you to walk and stand in over long periods. Wearing uncomfortable shoes can ruin your big day. 

Most importantly, your shoes have to fit your professional/business attire. Put your sneakers, iffy-looking sandals, and over-the-top stilettos away for some other time. Wearing flip-flops is arguably worse than wearing shorts.

Don’t Wear Heavy Jewelry

Your graduation gown will feature added sashes, pins, and ropes. Adding heavy jewelry to the mix is a little over the top. If you must wear jewelry, stick to simple rings, stud earrings, and a cute wristwatch. Your smartwatch also works. Your graduation day is not the time for statement jewelry or the best time to match your attire with every bit of jewelry you can find.

Avoid Short Dresses

Just like shorts aren’t great to wear under your gown, keep your short dresses for your post-graduation parties. If your dress would anger family members (especially the older ones), it’s inappropriate for the occasion. Pick dresses that are at least knee-length. They’re more appropriate.

Jeans Are Borderline

Jeans aren’t as provocative as shorts or mini-dresses. However, they can also draw some angst from guests at your graduation ceremony. They’re just too casual, and you’ll look unprofessional in pictures. It doesn’t matter how much it costs you to buy the pair; you’re better off choosing a more professional outfit.

Watch Your Hair

If you’re sporting any unorthodox hairstyles, consider changing into a more formal look. This is a touchy point, but let’s be honest, some hairstyles just aren’t appropriate for a professional or ceremonial setting. Will you be happy to see your hair in those pictures in the future? Always err on the side of the conventional if you’re considering hair styles.

girl gratuate smile happily

Final Thoughts

Your graduation ceremony is a big day. It’s one of the few days you have to put on a professional appearance. Therefore, it’s not the best day to wear shorts under your gown. Stick to a professional outfit on this day. The pictures are forever!

If you don’t want to dress in full-professional attire, you can step down to business casual. It’s important to avoid going full casual with denim and mini-skirts. You’ll look unprofessional, and you may be denied some privileges depending on the institution.

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