Congratulations. If you’re reading this, that means you’ll be walking across the stage soon. Four or so years of all-nights, Sunday scaries and awkward group projects have led up to the moment where you’ll make the Holmes Convocation Center your runway.
Here’s everything you need to look your best while grabbing your diploma. From styling your cap to what goes under your gown, we’ve got you covered from top to bottom. This goes for both commencement and for pictures you take before the big day.
How to style your cap
Styling your cap is a chance to be proud of any organization that meant a lot to you during college, represent your heritage, display a quote with a special meaning and more. Start by picking a theme for your cap. It doesn’t have to be too clear cut, but consider these questions when deciding what to base your design on:
- What are your career aspirations?
- What is your favorite aspect of your major?
- What motivated you while earning your degree?
- Do you want your cap to be funny or serious?
After deciding your theme or a collection of interests to display on your cap, you’ll need several craft items depending on your design, including but not limited to:
- scrapbook paper.
- Hot glue gun, scissors, tape, X-acto knife.
- Stickers (Letters, specific designs, etc).
- Scrapbook embellishments (Paper flowers, rhinestones, sequins, buttons, etc).
- Stamps and ink.
Once you have all you need, it’s time to start your design. To preserve your cap, start with a scrapbook paper base. Choose your paper, and face the cap downward on the paper with the stretchy band facing up. Trace the shape on the side of the paper without a design and cut it out for the perfect match.
You’ll need to make sure the circle button at the top of the cap will be visible with your design and ready for a tassel. Take the paper piece you just cut out and hold it down on the top of your cap. Feel for where the button is, and do your best to draw a circle that matches.
Holding the paper slightly in half, make a small cut with the tip of your scissors in the middle of the circle you just drew. Once that incision has been made, you can use more of the scissor blade to cut out the circle perfectly.
Don’t worry if you mess up at first. Make sure you have enough copies of your favorite paper to be able to make mistakes.
You can now tape the four corners of the cap-sized paper to your cap. Painter’s tape, washi tape or any kind of secure tape that won’t leave damage is best.
With your background paper on your cap, you are free to design it however you’d like with any extra embellishments you purchased. It’s best to make a sketch of your design to base your cap off of before going in.
If you aren’t the craftiest person, there are also premade options for your cap. There’s a great selection of graduation cap toppers on Etsy, including a Megan Thee Stallion-themed topper and one customizable to your heritage.
What goes under the gown?
Whether you go for a dress, a jumpsuit, a shirt and pants or any other option, there’s a certain dress code graduation requires. Typically, graduate wear can range from business casual to semi-formal. Here are pieces to take inspiration from while shopping for your grad day fit.
If you’re wearing a dress, you’ll want its silhouette to be very narrowly cut. This white dress from Windsor with a sweetheart neckline will go perfect under your gown and your many accomplishments. Any puffy sleeves or skirts will distract from the gown and your regalia. The sleeves on this A-line animal print dress drape down perfectly on the shoulders.
Make sure the design of your dress centers from the front, so it can be seen with your gown on. This may mean no open or ruffled backs, halter dresses that need to be tied, etc. This floral dress has an all-over print with a simple enough cut to be worn under a gown.
Also consider the length of your gown and how it fits on you. Do you prefer the gown to be longer than the dress or vice versa? There’s no correct answer — just what you prefer.
Yellow can certainly be an option for your dress. This yellow satin dress with a bit of a plunging neckline and this terry cloth cutout yellow dress are just a few of the many yellow dresses available.
Jumpsuits are a bit harder to find in more formal patterns. This plaid flannel-print romper jumpsuit has the right amount of coverage and is breathable for the spring. This jumpsuit featuring a cowl neck It seems basic at first, but it’s high-cut at the knees for a mesmerizing walk across the stage.
For two-piece graduation wear, you can go for a matching set or just a different top and a bottom.
Sets are a different approach to formal wear that can have the qualities of both a dress and a top/bottom combination. They’re unique and usually kept for special occasions other than everyday wear. Keeping them in the same pattern is ideal.
Something like this pant and top set has the coverage for formal wear and the pattern is minimal, yet tasteful.
Graduation tops should stay in those formal fabrics like silk, chiffon, organza and nothing too distracting. A shirt sitting nicely on the top of your body will have a good cut, like this v-neck dolman sleeve top. A classic button-up blouse is always a safe choice as well.
A masculine shirt for graduates can include polos, button downs and simple sweaters. This yellow polo or this turtleneck are good options depending on the weather that day.
For bottoms you can play with patterns in either skirts or pants. A midi pencil skirt or flare pants will even out your silhouette if you have a tighter top under your gown.
Shoes for the stage
If you can handle the heels — be my guest. Since App State’s gowns are black, here are some heeled shoes to match. These high heeled platforms are a good staple to have in your closet, even after graduation. If you’re looking for some easier shoes to walk in, these sandals are the perfect color. You can also choose to wear them in nude for a simpler look.
Depending on what you wear underneath your gown, you may want a pop of color for your footwear. Graduation gowns purchased at the University Bookstore will have an embroidered crest in gold, sosome shoes to complement our school’s colors could be these yellow floral block heels for a good statement shoe.
Of course, you don’t have to let App State’s colors limit you. Many have worn shoes outside of the black and yellow range. These green platform sandals are sure to have you stand out amongst the rest.
Straying away from Mountaineer pride, these blue velvet loafers would pair nicely with any other blue you may wear in May. For more masculine shoes, they tend to stay closer to the ankle at graduation. Some Dr. Martens loafers are a consistent slip-on shoe with tassels on the front to keep your commencement spirits high.
A brown Oxford shoe is a classic and always a good choice. You can also wear a shoe with more coverage like Chelsea boots. Brown and black are good neutral shoe colors for graduation.