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What Parents Wear to a High School Graduation

by Kathryn Walsh, studioD

He memorized equations and wrote midnight papers about Shakespeare. You gave late-night pep talks and helped him digest "Romeo and Juliet." Your teen's high school graduation is a celebration of his hard work, but it's a celebration for you too. When you dress for his graduation, honor yourself by looking your best -- but make sure that he is the star of the day.

Plan for Your Environment

The weather on the morning of the big day might alter your clothing plans, but some considerations can be made much earlier than graduation day. The ceremony site will affect your clothing choice. An indoor ceremony is likely to be air-conditioned, unless the graduation will be held in a school gym known for being stuffy. If you'll be seated on metal bleachers for an outdoor ceremony, the sun's glare is likely to make you feel even steamier than you would on a wooden chair. Ask your teen for specifics about the ceremony site. Someone in the main office can also help you predict what the conditions will be like in the graduation seating area.

Check the Dress Code

Your graduate is probably bound to a school dress code on graduation day. While most parents will be free of such a code, some school districts do have dress requirements for ceremony guests. Check with the school's main office and study any graduation paperwork that comes to your home. If your school has a dress code, you might be barred from entering the ceremony if you're dressed in jeans or other casual clothing. If the ceremony is being held in a place of worship, you might also check with staff there to be sure you'll be dressed in a standard in keeping with the site's dress code.

Mother of the Graduate

This is not the occasion to pull out the sequined cocktail dress that makes you look 10-pounds thinner. As the mother of a graduate, you should look polished without being inappropriate or stuffy. The goal should be to let your teen be the star of his family graduation photos. Wear lightweight dress pants with a soft top and a chunky necklace, or opt for a knee-length skirt suit or a patterned summer dress. Anything you'd wear to a summertime afternoon wedding is generally appropriate to wear in this instance. Compare your chosen ensemble next to the graduation gown your teen will wear to ensure clashing won't be a problem. Perhaps most importantly, pick an outfit in which you feel comfortable and confident. Pulling at a too-tight skirt or adjusting a low neckline will pull your focus from the graduation ceremony.

Father of the Graduate

The father of the graduate has a little leeway when it comes to choosing clothes. A suit is always an appropriate look; wear a tie in the school colors to show support for your teen. For an outdoor ceremony held on a hot day, you might opt for dress pants or lightweight khakis paired with a tucked-in dress shirt and tie. If you're confident the ceremony will be fairly casual -- parents of previous graduates can clue you in to the general dress of guests -- dress pants and a tucked-in polo shirt might suffice. Shorts or jeans have no place at your child's high school graduation.

Additional Considerations

Wind and sudden rain will leave you looking frizzy and frazzled before your child turns his tassle. A travel umbrella is always helpful to have on hand, and a woman should carry a light sweater or a pashmina to use as a wrap if the day turns chilly. The mother of the graduate will also find herself struggling to walk if she wears heels to a ceremony held on grass. Flats or wedges are preferable for outdoor ceremonies, while a man should wear scuff-free dress shoes. While it's fine to wear sunglasses to fight the glare on graduation day, remember to take them off before it's time to take those all-important graduate-flanked-by-parents photos.

About the Author

Cooking, travel and parenting are three of Kathryn Walsh's passions. She makes chicken nuggets during days nannying, whips up vegetarian feasts at night and road trips on weekends. Her work has appeared to The Syracuse Post-Standard and insider magazine. Walsh received a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.

Photo Credits

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