The best graduation dresses, according to fashion experts | CNN Underscored (2024)

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Fashion / Women's Clothes

By Marissa Miller, CNN Underscored

Published 4:47 PM EDT, Thu May 16, 2024

What’s in this guide

  • How to choose the perfect graduation dress
  • What shoes to pair with your graduation dress
  • Best white graduation dresses
  • Best print graduation dresses
  • Best bold color graduation dresses
  • Best midi graduation dresses
  • Best graduation jumpsuits
The best graduation dresses, according to fashion experts | CNN Underscored (1)

There’s no better way to commemorate several years of hard work and late nights cramming for exams than by searching for the best graduation dresses to make you look and feel your best. But with so many fashion-forward options out there — from midi dresses to jumpsuits and printed dresses to bold, monochromatic types — choosing the perfect style of spring dress for your last academic hurrah can feel more stressful than it needs to be. We tapped the pros to find out exactly how to make the process seamless.

How to choose the perfect graduation dress

When it comes to dress code, there are a few overarching guidelines to keep in mind. While it’ll largely depend on the school you go to and perhaps the venue administration has selected for the event, “Traditionally, the graduation dress code is usually semi-formal or formal,” says Keily Hernandez, fashion expert and brand manager at Azazie. And while you may have found your dream minidress in a stunning on-trend tiered silhouette, be sure to dress for the season, Hernandez says: “For warmer weather, opt for lighter fabrics and colors and shorter lengths. For colder weather, opt for jumpsuits or dresses with sleeves.”

While trends are certainly worth consulting — lots of bright hues and standout bold prints that make a statement are popular, according to Laura Thomson, head of creative at White Fox — your personal comfort takes precedence. “Always choose a dress that you’re comfortable in,” says Catherine Seaton, fashion expert at Windsor. “You’ll be wearing it for a long time and will be in front of a large audience and want to feel good when you walk across the stage.” She recommends that high school grads be especially mindful of any school-specific dress code requirements, especially when it comes to hem length.

While it’s totally a personal choice, you don’t need to feel bound to your school colors or matching with your cap and gown, according to Hernandez. If you feel compelled to pay homage to your school, Julie DuRocher, design director at Jovani, recommends coordinating with your friends or incorporating subtle nods to your school colors in your choice of accessories or other details (a school-themed mani anyone?). “Ultimately, the focus should be on selecting a dress that makes you feel confident and celebrates your accomplishments,” DuRocher says.

Whether you take the tried-and-true plain black or white route or opt for bold prints, DuRocher recommends opting for a color that not only suits your complexion but photographs well. Seaton also suggests selecting a color or print you genuinely love and plan to wear again, which can make investing in your dream grad dress more of a budget-friendly process. If you do plan to go for a twinning look with your school colors, Thomson says white dresses are an obvious and easy option for a flawless look.

What shoes to pair with your graduation dress

It’s not a perfect graduation outfit without the right shoes. While it can be tempting to invest in heels as sky-high as your grades, “just be aware of how much standing and walking the graduation program will have,” Hernandez says. “If you really want to wear the high heels, wear them but pack an extra smaller-size heel or even flats in case there’s a lot more walking and standing than anticipated.” If your graduation ceremony is taking place on a grassy area like a football field, she recommends a wedge or flat shoe for ultimate comfort and stability. According to Thomson, you can “opt for ballet flats, which are having a major moment right now while offering both comfort and style.”

Best white graduation dresses

Giving all the First Lady vibes, this ultra-sophisticated sweater dress gets its glam from gold-toned hardware at the front and pockets as well as a textured knitted fabric that makes it so much more interesting than your standard LWD (little white dress).

Between its easy-breezy linen fabric that’ll keep you cool under your gown to its sultry off-the-shoulder neckline to keep it looking current and festive, this lightweight beauty is a fresh look you’ll be thrilled to rock on and off the stage.

You’ll be the prettiest little thing in this airy and lightweight skater dress with puff sleeves that balance out the mini silhouette. The crinkled material on the tiered skirt is perfect for a full day of both running around for photo ops and sitting pretty at the ceremony since it’ll hide any wrinkles.

While this unique swing wrap dress will look stunning as you saunter across the stage in either of its several colors, the white option will match all kinds of grad gear the graduating class needs to wear and do a better job of concealing any potential sweat stains.

Best print graduation dresses

Whether you opt for the dress in a taupe magenta or orange print, you’re sure to stand out from the pack of other students. The cinched waistband creates a lovely silhouette while the high mock neck lends the look extra coverage.

As far as tank dresses go, this one is conservative enough to wear in front of all your professors while still feeling ventilated. Plus, you can’t go wrong with that eye-catching, undulating greenery pattern for a smart pop of color.

This puff-sleeve minidress is so stunning with its luxurious and Baroque-inspired jacquard material with a subtle metallic sheen that’s as bright as you are. Nonslip strips top off the look so your sleeves stay put all day.

Far from your grandma’s average floral pattern, this geometric beauty offers a fresh and modern take on a traditional motif. It packs in nearly every color under the sun and features a unique back tie and a cowl neck appropriate enough for your graduation day glamour shot.

Best bold color graduation dresses

Don’t sleep on nap dresses: Not only are they comfortable enough to sleep in but they’ll look incredibly chic peeking out from under your gown. Unlike its popular ribbon-free counterpart, this coquettish option with a floral lace texture is fully lined so you won’t need to pair it with a bodysuit or underskirt.

Both the Clean Line Green and Pink Iris colors of this maxi dress give a bit of whimsy to an otherwise professional silhouette. You’ll love its crossover detail at the waist, high crew neck and side pockets for plenty of convenience. Plus, it comes in both regular and tall sizing to accommodate even more heights and heel choices.

Sunny yellow is having such a moment right now, but if you’d prefer to go in another direction, the coral and sage green colors on this gorgeous pleated dress with a tie-back detail are equally honor roll-worthy.

Paired with an asymmetrical one-shoulder neckline boasting two swaths of drapey fabric, the orange hue of this body-hugging dress is bold, beautiful and begging to be topped off with a cap and gown.

Best midi graduation dresses

This ruffled fit-and-flare chiffon dress proves you don’t always need bold prints to make a bold statement. Simply opting for unique textures and cuts can do wonders in scoring a standing ovation once your name is called.

There’s no better pairing for your cap and gown than a cap-sleeved midi dress with an elegant mock neck. The ruched detail above the slit gives it that on-trend Y2K aesthetic while its midi length that hits above the ankle ensures your shoes are on full display.

The high-low hem of this grad-friendly dress provides both visual interest and ventilation. Ruffled sleeves add coverage in the most elegant way while a touch of stretchy spandex makes it comfortable enough to wear all day.

The shoulder pads and classic round neck in this cinched midi dress give it CEO vibes that are sure to help you channel your dream job post-graduation.

Best graduation jumpsuits

From its crisp white hue that coordinates effortlessly with whatever type of cap and gown your school has thrown your way to its elegant lace details at the sleeve and back that lets in some much-needed ventilation, this pretty yet professional jumpsuit is the perfect way to usher in a new era of adulthood.

Paint your grad red in this powerhouse of a jumpsuit that’ll have you earning top marks in the fashion department. Its wide legs are bound to feel super comfortable and breezy under your gown while pockets are a perfect place to discreetly stash your phone (on Do Not Disturb or Airplane mode, of course).

Make the graduation stage your runway in this satin pleated jumpsuit with such a unique texture you can forgo any busy prints. The tie-back detail gives it a party-in-the-back kind of look that’ll feel cooling under your gown. If the plunging neckline isn’t working for you, you can always fasten it with a discreet safety pin.

One word: pockets. Given the minimalist nature of this lined crepe jumpsuit, you can take extra liberties with statement earrings, bangles and shoes. Cinch it at the waist with a belt or keep it looking as relaxed as you are and you’re bound to be the most comfortable of your classmates all ceremony long.

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The best graduation dresses, according to fashion experts | CNN Underscored (2024)


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