What to wear for grad photos
I am often asked, "What should I wear for grad photos?"
If you are still deciding which fashionable garments and costumery to adorn yourself with for your graduation portrait session, I've compiled a list of my top recommendations below to help you decide.
These recommendations come from my experience of over 600+ grad portrait sessions, having worked with thousands of outfits in varying styles. I've compiled a few tips and suggestions on what works best for each style - feel free to use this guide to help you choose your ideal outfit!
1. Wear White or Light colored outfits for a classic look
For a timeless and classic look, outfits with light colors and tones tend to work well, as they will never go out of fashion. Graduation is a joyous and celebratory occasion, so I’d aim for bright and uplifting colors to match!
One reason to go for light colors and tones is to contrast your graduation sash and apparel. Your graduation sash and robes will typically be much darker or feature intense colors – it helps to have a lighter base to contrast and highlight the school colors that you might also be wearing on top.
If you can't decide on which bright color would work best for you, you can consider wearing pure white. Wearing white is now a new modern tradition at many large universities such as UCLA and USC. If you haven't seen this trend already, you'll often find many groups of graduates in the springtime wearing white – white dresses for the ladies and white shirts with black pants for the gentlemen.
2. Wear vibrant colors for a bold and dramatic look
Feeling more colorful? You can consider wearing bolder colors for a high-contrast or editorial look. You can also consider a more dramatic outfit, such as a flowy dress. Make sure the outfit complements the location, setting, and other elements you may want to include, such as a graduation sash or specific props.
Not sure between a classic bright look or a bolder and more dramatic look? Consider having two outfits! Depending on how long your session is, you might have time to do a quick outfit change in the middle.
If you are scheduled for a daytime session, you can also consider extending part of it into the night for some ultra-dramatic night portraits.
You can also consider tones and hues similar to your official school colors to show off your school spirit. In the example below, you can see that one of my previous clients mixed a green dress and gold platform heels to create a beautifully cohesive look. These happen to be the exact school colors for Cal Poly Pomona, her alma mater.
3. Avoid busy patterns for your outfits.
If you’re deciding between a few outfit types, I suggest avoiding busy patterns or mismatched colors if you don't have a specific reason. If there is no intention behind a busy outfit, it might unnecessarily draw focus away from you as the main star. The outfit should be something that complements you and your look.
If you have a specific patterned outfit you would like to wear, consider having it as a secondary outfit or book a separate mini-session for it.
4. consider bringing your traditional or cultural outfits
If you have any personally-significant cultural or traditional outfits, I would encourage bringing them to represent your background! You can consider bringing this as a secondary outfit.
5. Bring your collegiate apparel for a quick additional look.
Bringing a school sweatshirt brings an easy additional look to your graduation portrait session. It provides a more casual, equally relevant look that can show off your school spirit.
A great thing about this look is that you don’t necessarily have to make a whole outfit change when you can toss it over your original outfit.
6. Wearing high heels? Bring a pair of flip-flops to save your feet!
If you are wearing high heels, don’t forget to bring an additional pair of comfortable walking shoes or flip-flops (most compact) for walking from location to location. Most college campuses or session locations will feature iconic spots that may involve a bit of a walk in between.
You are welcome to wear any high heels, but remember that some types are more challenging to put on and take off. Lace-up heels are a notable example of footwear that look stunning but might require quite a bit of resolve to be in them for two hours continuously if they're uncomfortable.
All in all, I would recommend choosing footwear based on comfort in addition to looks.
7. Keep all apparel and outfits wrinkle-free!
Depending on who provides your graduation apparel, you may need to do a bit of steaming to eliminate any wrinkles that might have been present in your outfit. This especially applies if you’ve just received your outfit in the mail or from the bookstore – do not wait until the night before the shoot to take your sash or robe out from the package. They will likely have prominent fold lines from having been in the packaging for so long.
The best way to ensure your outfit looks picture-perfect is to send it in for dry cleaning!
Haven't hired a photographer yet for your graduation portrait shoot? Visit my grad page to learn more about how I can help you create the best graduation photos to help you and your family celebrate the occasion.