Grad school graduation dresses

What to wear to grad school graduation is a tricky question! You might have worn something super cute and short (and white? if that’s a tradition where you are) for undergrad graduation, but grad school commencement can feel a bit different, because you may be around your supervisors, professors, and even your own students. Here are some options I found for us for Spring 2023 graduation.

Whether you’re graduating with a masters or a doctorate you’ve earned a fun outfit for your fun day! I personally really messed this up and didn’t shop for my commencement dress until the week of and ended up with nothing (and then it snowed anyway?) so I just wore an old dress. Now I’m looking for an update as I attend commencement to cheer on my graduate students! Here are some options that caught my eye…


This green pleated dress ($220) was overwhelmingly suggested in TikTok comments. I can see why–it’s a fun dress but still professional enough for a graduation where you might run into your own students.

I tried a 6 on in this. It fit true to size. I think this is a great option if you live somewhere that will still be enjoying spring weather during commencement–if you’ll be in full summer, like me, a lighter option will be needed under those polyester robes!

I tried some statement pants with fun tops on, too, because those could be very rewearable! These floral pants would be cute with a practical taupe heel and a white top.

This blue top is quite the statement with the sleeves, so I toned it down with navy pants (comes in tall, petite and plus) that could easily transition into a workplace! I tried all these pants on in a size 6 and all tops are a medium.

I briefly entertained turning myself into big bird in this top (it does come in black). And these are the most dramatic pleated pants ever–but also oh-so-light on.

This was the best wear-again option, for me! Would be perfect for casual weekends or future vacations! I’m wearing a medium here.


Next I went to Dillard’s because they carry two of my favorite dress options, Antonio Melani and Gianni Bini. I was the only graduation dress shopper around–everyone else was there for prom!

This Antonio Melani dress is pricey ($200) but was sooo nice on. It was like a crisp cotton and I loved the structure. I said on TikTok that if your thesis was on biology, bugs, or museum curation I think you need it! This is the size 6.

Here’s another one I loved. I am wearing a size 8 here and the hips were a little tight, but sizing up would have made this dress too big in the bust. But the yellow!!! I love that this is like a professional sheath dress but with a twist.

I was less enthralled by the Gianni Bini selection but this felt like an option that was both fun and formal for going out to dinner afterward. This is the size 6. At $70 is was a better option for my budget!

Nordstrom Rack

Nordstrom Rack is often better in store than online. Here are a few options I tried!

Both of these dresses were from Vero Moda. I’m wearing a M in the first dress and a L in the second. I couldn’t find them online but they were right in the front of my store!

For $30?!?! this dress was a winner. It was VERY light on which again, is a must for me when wearing super cool doctor robes, which have not advanced in fabric technology in 200 years. I liked that the sleeves balanced out the length! I’m wearing a M.

Naturally, I got distracted by this pink suit, which would be SO fun for a thesis or dissertation defense. Here’s the pants and jacket. But more on that topic over here.

That’s round 1 of commencement dress shopping for graduate students! I’ll be back checking out more options in April 🙂

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