It's the time of year for celebrating the passing from one life stage to another, a time to recognize and applaud academic achievement. Since I work on a university campus, I am keenly aware of the anticipation that comes as April ends and May approaches. Graduation is almost upon us.
Last year, I went to a high school graduation ceremony for the first time in nearly ten years and I have to say that the young women graduating did not know how to dress themselves for the occasion. At that time I wrote a Fashion Rant about it and made some recommendations.
Here is my take: Graduation is both a formal event and a chance to show the world that you are a mature and marketable human being. It is not a time for comfort or to show off your own wild fashion sensibilities. It is also not appropriate to wear whatever you plan on wearing to the beach party or dance club after the ceremony. This is a time for stylish modesty.
For boys, dressing for this occasion is not fraught with issues. Young men wear clean and pressed pants and a clean and pressed tie. This with reasonable shoes that are relatively clean and they should be fine. Preferably they would get the shoes shined and polished to display appropriate respect for the occasion but it is usually not noticeable if they don’t.
There is one thing that I did wish they would do (or their mothers would do). Please if your child (male or female) is wearing an honor society stole, please press it. It is so tacky for these cream-of-the-crop students to show up with weird creases in their stoles, looking like they opened them in the car five minutes beforehand.
For girls, the problem is mostly concerning footwear, as your shoes are the only things that show from under the gown. You would think that this would simplify things, but it doesn’t. Young girls have such a plethora of choices in footwear that it is almost too tempting to pick something inappropriate. Even though the school told the young ladies to pick black or white closed toed shoe, almost none of them listened. I was appalled to see that out of a class of nearly 250 students only 7 young ladies had on what could be considered appropriate footwear.
Here’s the rule: Whenever you are attending an event where your middle name will be announced in public, please do not wear any of the following things: sandals, toe floss, gladiators, heels over 3 inches high, red shoes (or any other wild color), prints, metallic or shiny shoes, or platforms. Under no circumstances are any of the above allowed at such an occasion. I saw examples of all of these at the graduation event! Here are some visual representations of what to avoid at all costs.
For those merely attending the event, you may wear these but for those participating in the ceremony (and faculty that includes you) observe the rule. (Almost none of the faculty had on appropriate footwear. How they expect the young ladies to observe the rules when they do not is beyond me!)
The following categories are allowable but not ideal: peep-toes, wedges, patent leather, or slingbacks. If you get a modest shoe in a subdued color and pair it with appropriate hosiery to tone it down, you can potentially pull off one of these in-between categories.
However, if what I saw at this graduation is any indication of the overall trend, young ladies today cannot pull off in-between. They need a re-evaluation in what is appropriate footwear for public occasions. If they do not heed this advice, they will be hard-pressed to find a job, particularly one in the public sphere.
Given this, what “not” to wear is not enough. So here are my recommendations for what to wear to graduation. Shoe type: Closed-toe pumps with heels 3 inches or less, or ballet flats. Colors: Black or White (Navy, Neutral, Brown or Grey are also acceptable but only if you absolutely must.)
That’s it! If you choose a black or white pump, keeping the heel height modest or a black and white ballet flat, you will have selected appropriate graduation footwear. Last year I provided some examples of appropriate footwear from mainstream sources for under $50. Here is an updated presentation of eight great choices that I found with minimal effort and all are under $50.
Pumps: Left side top to bottom then right side top to bottom:
- Payless, Ivonne Basket Weave Pump in Black on sale for $22.99
- Payless, Unforgettable Moments Nathalie Bow Pump in White, $29.99
- Miss Me Notch-1 Pump in White, on sale for $34.95 via Endless.com
- Kensie Girl Cassie Pump in Black, $49 via Zappos.com
Flats: Left side top to bottom then right side top to bottom:
- Rockport, Women’s Go Flat Flower Flat in White, on sale for $41 via Endless.com
- Kohl’s, Mudd Burma Flats in Black, $34.99
- Kohl’s Candie’s Ginnetti Flats in Black, $29.99
- Dreams Women’s Spring Flat in White, on sale for $19.95