Why Do People Wear White for Graduation

Why Do People Wear White for Graduation? Answered (2023)

Last Updated on May 22, 2023 by Kimberlee Johnson

One of the defining characteristics of graduation ceremonies is the attire worn by graduates, including wearing white for many. But why do people wear white for graduation? 

As someone who has attended in several graduation ceremonies and spoken to students, teachers, and administrators, I can tell you that the choice of white is rooted in both tradition and symbolism. 

So today, let’s learn why it remains a popular choice for graduates and what it symbolizes. Keep reading. 

Why Do People Wear White At Graduation Ceremonies?

Woman Holding White Dress

One possible historical cause for the widespread use of white dresses during graduation is to create uniformity among women instead of wearing the traditional cap and gown. 

Second, white clothing has also been associated with innocence, purity, and fresh beginnings, which makes it a perfect color to symbolize the shift from one period of life to the next. 

Lastly, white garments unite graduates, emphasizing their collective success [1] and companionship. But what’s the reason why people wear leis at graduation?

Is White The Traditional Color For A Graduation Ceremony?

Yes, white is a color that has been commonly used for graduation ceremonies for a long time.

It’s likely because of the symbolism of white, which is often associated with a new beginning and a fresh start.

“Never use pure white; it doesn’t exist in nature.”

Aldro T. Hibbard, American Painter

When graduates wear white to their ceremony, it is seen as a symbol of the knowledge they have acquired and the successful completion of their academic journey. 

Moreover, white is often considered an empty canvas, signifying the countless opportunities and possibilities available to graduates as they move forward.

What Other Colors Are Acceptable To Wear To A Graduation?

While white is a traditional color typically worn to graduations, other colors such as black, royal blue, or gray are popular options for those who want a more formal look.

Meanwhile, those who wish to create an impression often prefer bolder hues like red, green, or yellow. 

Some graduates also opt for colors that have special meaning to them, such as the color of their school or the hue associated with their major. 

“White at graduation is not just a color; it’s a canvas for the future, a blank slate for new beginnings and limitless possibilities.”

Howkapow Gift Site

But no matter what color you decide, it is important to ensure that the outfit is appropriate and that the graduate feels confident and comfortable.

Also Read: What Percentage Of Invited Guests Attend Graduation Parties?

What Color Should Guests Wear To A Graduation Ceremony?

Woman Wearing White and Beige Outfit

Guests should choose neutral colors such as ivory, cream, or beige when attending graduation. 

These colors exude elegance and professionalism while still not drawing too much attention from the graduates. 

Comfort and respect for the occasion should be considered when considering the clothing to be worn, with semi-formal or business casual usually being the best choices. 

But adding subtle pops of color through accessories or patterns can bring a personal touch to an outfit while maintaining the event’s sophistication. Know how to dress up at graduation as male guests here.

Does It Matter What Color You Wear To A Graduation?

What one wears to their graduation ceremony is entirely up to them. 

Even if white is traditionally worn for such occasions, it is unnecessary to stick to this tradition if it does not reflect the individual’s style or preference. 

On this momentous occasion, the graduate must wear an outfit that screams self-assurance and makes them feel proud of themselves. 

Hence, the focus should be on the achievements and accomplishments of the graduates, and the color of their attire should not be the main focus.

Read: Outfit Ideas For A Basic Training Graduation


What colors are given to students who graduate with honors?

Colors such as gold, silver, and maroon are typically used to denote honors graduates. But how do you remove wrinkles from a graduation gown?

Is it alright to not wear a dress to graduation?

It is perfectly acceptable not to wear a dress to graduation; many schools offer more relaxed attire for their graduation ceremonies. 

For individuals who do not feel comfortable in a dress, opting for an outfit such as dress pants and a blouse or a nice suit can be an appropriate alternative.

Can you wear sneakers to your graduation?

No, wearing sneakers to your graduation is usually not appropriate. Wear a polished pair of dress shoes or sandals that appear formal but are still comfortable.

What to avoid wearing to a high school graduation?

Avoid wearing anything too revealing, such as tank tops or clothing that is too short or tight-fitting.

Also, do not wear clothes with offensive or disruptive messages or images. Check out these simple outfits for parents to wear at graduation here.

Does wearing heels affect the graduation gown?

Not really. Wearing heels [2] can make walking in a graduation gown easier, as the extra height gives more clearance for the fabric.

But note that it can also make walking in a graduation gown more difficult, as the extra height can cause the fabric to bunch up and drag on the ground.

Wrapping Up

Ultimately, wearing white for graduation is a tradition deep-rooted in history and culture. It symbolizes purity, innocence, and a fresh start as one embarks on the next chapter in life.

So, as you prepare for your graduation, consider the significance of your attire and what you want to communicate through your outfit. 

Whatever color you wear to your graduation, remember that this is a moment to rejoice in your accomplishments and anticipate the future with optimism and a sense of wonder.


Kimberlee Johnson
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