What to Wear to Law School Graduation

what to wear to law school graduation

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Reader A is wondering what to wear to law school graduation, with hopes that she can wear it again for summer weddings — so let’s discuss! Readers, what did you wear to your law school graduation? Here’s her question:

I’m graduating from law school in three weeks and I’m wondering what to wear for graduation. I didn’t go to my college graduation so I’m feeling kinda clueless. Ideally it’d be something under $200 that I can wear again to work at my firm (preferably sleeves and close to knee length). I feel like a spring-y pattern is more appropriate for the occasion than my go-to black and white sheath. Any ideas? (Bonus if it’s something I could also wear to summer weddings for law school classmates)

We’ve talked a bit about dressing for law school, including what to wear to law school, as well as ideal law school orientation outfits — but not for graduation itself. The TL;DR advice here: don’t stress; whatever you wear will be fine. (You could always go with one of the light blue sheath dresses that are popular right now — good for graduation, work, and weddings!) Some more in depth notes, from your friendly fashion blogger who overthinks these things:


(Pictured.what to wear to law school graduation - image of women law students throwing caps in the air)

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  • I honestly couldn’t tell you what anyone wore to my law school graduation, because we all wore robes/gowns the whole time  — I know from pictures at dinner with my family afterward that I wore a black sheath dress with white grosgrain ribbon details that I got on some crazy deal at an outlet store, but that was me. I honestly don’t think it matters. Sheath dress, wedding guest attire, pants — it’s all fine. Don’t go crazy casual — keep the cutoff denim shorts at home, perhaps — but don’t stress too much.
  • Keep an eye on the ground when choosing your outfit — stiletto heels will sink into soft ground like grass and, depending on where the graduation is, you may be walking across a muddy field anyway. So: be practical, be comfortable. Don’t spend a ton on shoes that may be ruined by the conditions. Don’t wear flip flops, either, but don’t buy designer white suede stilettos just for the occasion.
  • Pockets may be a good thing, and your graduation gown/robe may not have them. If you won’t be carrying your bag with you to the ceremony itself, look for a dress with pockets so you can keep whatever your bare minimal essentials are on you — iPhone, $20, lip gloss, whatever. (The pictured dress does NOT have pockets, but it has the benefits of being affordable ($118), appropriate for summer weddings in that it isn’t too sexy or white, somewhat appropriate for work (with a navy blazer or cardigan on top), and, hey, it’s also wearable for law school graduation. This morning’s navy/pink dress would also work, as would the under-$50 blue dress we featured a few weeks ago. Here’s a plus size option that looks lovely (and has sleeves!), this one comes in regular and plus sizes, and this $128 option is very floral but very cute if that’s your thing.

Readers, let’s hear from you — what did you wear to your law school graduation (or any grad school graduation)? Did you party with friends/family immediately after graduation, or did you partake in more generic networking (which might require closer attention to your outfit)? (Taken from another direction — in general, what’s your go-to look for “wedding guest attire” — and how many dresses do you have in your closet that fit the bill?)

Wondering what to wear to law school graduation? It can feel tricky to strike the right balance between festive and professional -- and of course, it's a bonus if you can rewear your graduation outfit for wedding guest attire. Come hear our thoughts on what to wear to your law school graduation (or your college graduation or med school graduation or more!)

Comments

  1. I wore a sheath dress underneath my law school graduation robe because it was so incredibly heavy and hot (even though our graduation was indoors.) I wore a fabulous pair of heels as that is all anyone saw. My dress did not have pockets so I wore a cross body bag under my robe for essentials.

  2. If it’s an outdoor graduation and the weather is iffy, wear black! I had friends graduate in the rain (our college only pulled the ceremony inside if it was a downpour or thunder), and the men’s white dress shirts were all ruined by the not color-fast robes

    • Haha, yeah, the comment about no cutoff denim made me laugh because that’s exactly what I wore to my college graduation! We were sternly warned about the crappy quality of the rented robes.

      • I just wore shorts under my gown, b/c in DC it is HOT in the spring, so when I got out of the gown, I was comfortable. Others around me were sweateing like pigs while I just walked away with my JD! YAY!!!!!

    • Cookbooks :

      This! My law school graduation was outside. and I wore a black sheath because it was looking cloudy in the morning. Of course, by the middle of the ceremony, it was way too warm, especially under the robes.

  3. Anonymous :

    Hi ladies. I’ll have one day in Havana as part of a cruise. Under the new regs (Thanks Donald) we have to go an organized tour to satisfy the legal requirements and can’t just explore on our own. Anyone done a brief tour in Havana that you’d recommend? The offerings through the cruise ship are so overpriced.

    Thanks!!!

    • We elected to take a tour through the cruise ship as we were concerned the regs were likely to change. However, on another traveler’s advice, I ordered British Pounds from my bank for use in Cuba. Though you can exchange USD for Cuban Pesos, there is a 10% penalty and a 3% financial charge. Pound and Euros did not have the same fees.

    • Havana Oh Na Na :

      Old Car Tours. My husband and I did this in January when we were in Havana for the day. You can book it online at oldcartours.com. They wait for you not far from the cruise port. Our three-hour tour was 1/3 of the price of the two-hour “Classic Car Tour” that the cruise line offered, showed us more of the city than the tour through the cruise line, and also brought us to the best pina coladas that I’ve ever had. “Leo” was our guide, and he was incredible.

      • Anonymous :

        This car tour sounds awesome! Do you know if it meets the people to people requirements under the revised regulations?

  4. Anonymous :

    Check with your school about requirements–doctoral robes are open in the front and your outfit will show a bit, so the school may care what you wear underneath. My law school announced a week or so before graduation that we were all supposed to wear white tops and black pants or skirts.

    If the ceremony is outdoors and you will be on grass at any time, even under a tent, wear wedges or flats. It poured at my graduation and the tent flooded. I ended up walking in the flip-flops I’d worn in the car instead of my pointy heels.

  5. Don’t worry about pockets–just throw on a small crossbody bag. It won’t be visible through your gown and you can reach into it through the gown’s pocket hole. Signed, an academic

  6. It was incredibly hot the day I graduated, so I wore the lightest-weight summer dress I had in my closet. I think it was a silk jersey knit and it was a couple of years old at that point.

    This is another way of saying that you should wear something comfortable for you.

  7. Choose a color that won’t clash with the “hood” and keep in mind the hood may have two colors (purple for law as is custom + one of your school colors). I didn’t take this into account and I wish I had. Also choose a lightweight breathable fabric- my robe was polyester as was the vintage sundress I chose to wear under it and I was sweltering.

  8. I wore some professional dress. I think it is totally possible to wear the dress you pick at your firm. I don’t think those are the dresses I’d wear to a wedding. Maybe a wrap dress could hit all three, but that is probably too warm.

  9. +1 that you should 1) Wear what’s comfortable for the weather and 2) No one is going to notice because you’ll have this giant gown on.

    It was 45 degrees and drizzling when I graduated and we had to sit there for hours. There were women in tiny sundresses who were super miserable and wet. I looked at the weather and wore waterproof pants, several layers, and flats. And no one saw a thing under my gown.

  10. I work in law school administration, and have worked graduation (robing and ushering, lining students up) for the past 5 years. I see a lot of good and bad choices this time of year, on this topic.

    Mostly it’s the shoes: pick shoes that you can walk in, and stand for long periods of time in, and do stairs in…but that are nice enough looking. I was perplexed to see a lot of 4.5″ heel clubby type shoes in the past few years, which–to each her own!–but they looked devastatingly uncomfortable during the inevitable hour’s long line up, march in, get seated portion of the ceremony. Personally, I like a shoe with some zip and personality, but that won’t make all your graduation photos look like a mullet: party on the feet, serious business on top.

    Also, pay attention to how your hair will look best with the tam or cap on. A lot of awkward flattening of hairstyles, or weirdly placed hats that cut ladies faces off at weird angles.

    Obviously, do you. They are your photos! This is your day! If you want to flip flop it, or Jimmy Choo it, do it! It is one day to cap off a lot of hard work and achievement!

  11. Need a new handle :

    Those robes are hot – wear something light underneath! Also I’d recommend wedges or flats for the walking, standing, etc. I wore a floral sundress I think. I had the full doctoral robes but no one could see what anyone was wearing underneath. Congrats!

  12. Biglawanon :

    I wore a knit purple and black dress with cap sleeves, black patent leather Jimmy Choos. It was about 100 degrees outside and incredibly sunny. If you live in a sunny climate, wear sunglasses and sunscreen.

    Our robes were not open in the front. Our school said we should wear business formal but I was not having that in that heat.

    I carried a small black clutch for my phone, money, car keys, etc.

  13. I wore this dress to my law school graduation in 2016: https://shop.nordstrom.com/s/eliza-j-floral-print-faille-midi-dress/4318430. I loved it for the graduation (especially since it was in my school’s colors), and I also wear it to work all the time with a navy blazer or cardigan. I wore it with wedges for the graduation (easier to walk outside/on grass), and I wear it with nude or navy pumps for work.

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