The big day is almost here, and you’re probably looking for a graduation dress that’ll stun the crowd, add some glam to your Instagram feed, and keep you comfortable and cool — because remember, graduation day is almost always on the hottest day of May or June. It just is, we don’t make the rules. And so we compiled a list of the best graduation dresses based on design, quality, price tag, and whether or not we’d dress our own daughters in them. (And if you’re looking for white graduation dresses, we have a whole post dedicated to those!)
We want to help you look and feel your best because, honestly, confidence is the first component to success. And you have so many successes ahead of you.
Best College Graduation Dresses
More of a free spirit? This boho dress has a bold tropical pattern that makes us feel like we’re on vacation. The ruffled, one-shoulder neckline adds some whimsy and a unique touch to your ensemble. It’ll certainly match with a lei necklace, but you can also accessorize. in other ways (a dainty necklace, or some shiny sandal heels will do).
Sometimes, an occasion calls for an LBD, and this one fits the bill. First, it looks more expensive than it is (the beauty of black dresses and a strategy cut). Second, while it *is* black (and black attracts heat), its flow-y skirt keeps thing cool and relaxed. Repurpose it for brunch or date night.
We dream of a tropical vacation when we see this dress. Aside from the gorgeous design and pattern (so many heart eyes for that dark, moody green!), you’ll also be purchasing an ethically made piece that is free of toxic dyes and made by happy workers. In fact, retailer Wolf & Bader highlight independent womenswear brands like Sugarhill Brighton, offering products at all price points, and you’re guaranteed to find something totally unique.
We know it’s a splurge, and we know you’re in college. But if you do have the cash (or if someone wants to give you a very generous gift), may we just say: This Theory dress is ART. The square neck and tiered bodice may look super simple, but when you turn around, you’ll surprise everyone with a bright red bow. It’s also loose and comfortable enough for long events (like graduating from college), and it’s one of those dresses you’ll be holding on to until you’re wrinkly and gray.
Want a showstopper? With low-key puffy sleeves, flirty cutouts on the side, and a color that’s best described as “Tangerine Crush,” this INC dress is IT. For extra comfort, it features an elastic waistline, and the 100% cotton material means that it’s breathable, and that you can machine wash it.
This floral jumpsuit speaks volumes. And it’s also a great solution for when you don’t want to wear a dress, but you still want to be able to feel free to move around and not feel constricted when you’re sitting for a long time. Especially if you’re a fan of the ’70s, but prefer the bright colors of the ’60s, your closet will love this jumpsuit.
Best Graduation Dresses for High School
Something floral and flow-y is perfect for grad day, which can be stifling hot. This A-line midi dress has short, loose sleeves, is slightly flared, and comes in a variety of floral colors in case this mustard yellow doesn’t speak to you.
While this cotton tank dress comes in four other colors (blue, white, and black), we can’t help but fall in love with this bright and fun orange. Since this dress is short and made from light cotton material, you can expect to stay super cool in the heat. The straps are thick, which means they won’t be digging into your shoulders, and it’s machine-washable (score).
Another floral option, this light and air-y rayon summer dress has a sweetheart neckline that dresses it up a little, and a flared skirt that’s cute and fun. We also like that it’s comfortable; with its adjustable spaghetti straps, you won’t be sitting and adjusting your dress for hours. Dress it up with some heels or sandals, or down with some sneakers.
This dress reminds us a watercolor painting come to life — or at least, our closets. A satin slip dress is simple, effortless, and goes with just about anything and any occasion. The rayon material and relaxed fit means you’ll be staying cool, which is a must on graduation day. Plus, this could be considered white if your school is going with the all-white graduation theme.
This striped spin on primary colors is a cheerful print that’s perfect for summer, and perfect for photo ops. The sleeveless dress has ruffle details, and the back has a sweet keyhole and button-and-loop closure. This is one of those dresses that doesn’t need a lot to go with it — just some cute shoes and a cute you.
We love a good polka dot dress — it feels vintage, but the design is still modern and fresh. Made from satin, this dress requires a bit more upkeep, but when you catch yourself in the mirror looking classy AF, you’ll know it’s worth it. This one is a great fit for both high school or college graduation (polka dots are timeless and ageless), but since it’s a statement piece you’ll want to keep for a while, we see this dress being worn for many more occasions after leaving your high school years behind you. (This also justifies the price tag.)
Want no-fuss and flow-y? This pretty orange maxi dress is easy enough, but still stands out with its smocked bodice, tasseled straps, ruffled waistline, and tiered skirt. Throw on a pair of flip flops and you’re done.
Comfy (it’s made of jersey knit!), beautiful (that navy!) and elegant (the V-neck and front tie!) this dress is a lovely option for your graduation day and beyond. Bonus: It has pockets, so you can keep your phone (and snacks) super handy.
Another great option for an all-white graduation, this cream-colored tiered dress has a relaxed fit, and is made with ultra soft cotton. It’s called The Weekend dress for a reason — you’ll be thanking yourself later when it’s well over 90 degrees and you’re sitting cool as a cucumber in your breezy white dress.
Best Plus Size Graduation Dresses
Modcloth is really good about providing a size-inclusive selection of clothes, and if you’re the vintage-loving type, all the better. This swing dress is the kind of thing Snow White would wear if she lived in the ’50s — it’s got an old-timey vibe with its sweetheart neckline and flared skirt. And those red fruits you’re looking at? They’re actually woven pomegranates, not cherries! Straps are adjustable and it’s machine washer-friendly.
This black and white maxi dress is big on cuteness and comfort. The tie at the front gives it a summery look that’s not too stiff, and its relaxed fit is more casual than dressed up — but you could easily posh it up with some heels.
Wear this striped summer dress to graduation, and then take it with you on vacation. It’s the perfect breezy dress with the perfect length. With its adjustable straps and pockets (!!!) this outfit is bound to be comfortable and stand out in photos.
We love an LBD! While we love the simplicity of a black dress, we can’t help but gravitate toward this one for its ruffled sleeves and it’s (surprise!) pockets. Short (but not too short), this dress will keep you cool and give you an elevated ensemble for grad day.
Tie-dye is the print of the year, and since 2020 barely happened, we considering the trend as something that can easily roll over. With details like the halter-style neckline and flattering waistline, this dress is super versatile. Pair it with some heels for graduation day, and dress it down with some flip flops when you’re on your way to the beach.