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How to dress up for graduation?

The end of school year is soon coming to an end again. So it is time to take a look at how to dress up for graduation party. As there for sure are many who are at the moment looking for the right outfit, here is a list of the most important things to take into consideration.

This is a post I originally wrote for a few years ago. But because this is a theme that never gets old, I have updated it every spring season since. This year I thought I would add some thoughts about "what would I today wear for graduation".

Dark blue suit with gray tie for graduation

What would I wear for graduation

I graduated from high school in 2005. On my graduation day I wore a black chalk stripe suit with button-up shirt and a white silk scarf. I wanted to be a bit "different". On the other hand during those days I lived in a small town and we did not have very many options in terms of stores to go through and buy clothes. And the possibilities for online shopping were also much more limited. Still I looked good wearing that suit though. Today I would definitely not wear the same attire. But as I have said before, it is just natural that your style can change and evolve. And my personal style is for sure different now that it was 13 years ago.

If I was about to graduate today, my choices would be a little bit different. I would wear what you see in the pictures of this post.

  • dark navy lightweight wool suit
  • white soft collar button-up shirt
  • gray wool tie
  • white linen pocket square
  • brown calf leather penny loafers

Simple, refined and comfortable

The suit in the pictures is the oldest suit in my rotation. I bought it around 10 years ago and it was my first "expensive" suit. It is a suit made by Caruso which cost around 800 euros (on sale) if I remember correctly. Still today it is one of my favorite suits. The fit is perfect for a ready-to-wear suit. The fabric is quite lightweight and therefore the elbows of the jacket must have been repaired a few times. Otherwise it is still perfect. The cut of the suit is very classic and the softly tailored construction has been made and finished with quality and care. This is the kind of suit I would invest my money if I was 18 or 19 again.

To make a difference and to stand out in a crowd you don't need to wear bold patterns or colors. You can also make it with discretion. Pay attention to the fit, to the materials and to textures.

And then to those tips.

Blue suit with white shirt and gray DLA wool tie

How to dress up for graduation - 8 simple tips

First of all, it is good to remember that these tips are not only for those who are looking for answers to the question how to dress up for graduation. In fact these simple basics will keep you covered through almost any summer party from weddings to birthdays and cocktail parties.

1. Buy a (dark) blue single-breasted suit made of wool / cotton

It doesn't really matter where you buy your suit. And remember it does not need to the be the most expensive one. The most important thing is that you choose and buy a suit that suits you. And fits you. Go for classic colors, patterns, and styles. Make sure that there is no colorful contrast stitching or extra button holes on the collar of your jacket. Also avoid all funny and fashionable details. Finally pick a suit that's made of lightweight wool or cotton. Avoid shiny synthetic fiber fabrics.

2. Make sure your suit fits you correctly - take it to a tailor

Every (young)  man should understand that there are only handful of people to who ready-to-wear clothes are perfectly fitted without any alterations. A well fitting suit does not just look better on you. It also feels better on you. Remember to have at least to get your jacket sleeves and trousers fixed. And when you are buying your suit, make sure it fits you from the shoulders. Sleeves and trouser length are easy to fix but restructuring the shoulder line is much more complicated and expensive project. And to make sure that your tailor have enough time to do the alterations, don't leave the purchase to the last day. See the link to read the basics about how your suit should fit.


3. White button-up shirt - keep it simple

Make sure that the shirt fits you well. Especially pay attention to the collar, chest and sleeve length. Make sure the shirt is not too tight on your throat.

In terms of buying a dress shirt for a party the most important things to pay attention are color and fit. White is always a safe choice. One can not go wrong with white. For a casual summer party you can consider other colors or shades as well but I would be careful with those. If you want to wear for example a pink shirt, that's basically alright. However forget colors like yellow, lime green, bright pink or bright blue. And as you are looking for a shirt for summer party, I don't recommend any dark shades either.

Good fit is not just about aesthetics. As already said, a well-fitted shirt or a suit also makes you feel better. And more comfortable. When the shirt fits you right you don't need to pay attention to that. In fact you don't even notice you are wearing one.

Dark navy blue suit with gray tie for summer parties

4. Dark blue or gray - it is recommendable to wear a tie

Tie is not necessary for a graduation party. But I strongly recommend to wear one. But forget Hawaii prints and other boldly patterned options. Instead acquire plain, high-quality silk or wool tie. And learn how to tie a nice four-in-hand knot. The width of your tie should be in balance with your shirt and jacket collar width. It also should be in balance with your own body type. If you are looking for something a bit more relaxed and casual, knit tie is a good and appropriate option.

Click here for DLA ties

5. Choose appropriate accessories - keep your outfit in balance

Accessories are one way to bring up your own personality. Or add a little variation to your outfit. However again I want to emphasize that even with accessories going with the simple choices is most often the best choice. If you are not sure what your are doing go for a white linen pocket square. Or a pocket square that features restrained pattern and that matches your tie and shirt. But never go for matchy-matchy combination with tie and pocket square featuring the exact same pattern.

If you wear a suit trousers with belt loops, choose a leather belt that matches your shoes. And make sure the belt buckle is simple, small and restrained. Another option is to wear your trousers with braces. This is something I highly recommend. So when you take your suit to a tailor, ask him or her to add buttons for braces inside your trousers.

With black shoes go for black or dark blue socks. In terms of blue choose a shade that is darker than your suit. With brown shoes I recommend to go with dark blue socks.

6. Dress shoes - prefer black oxfords or go casual with loafers

In the end it all comes up to your shoes. Good and high-quality shoes are the cornerstone of good style and dressing up. On the other hand poor quality shoes can make otherwise perfect outfit to look bad. So pay attention to your shoes when dressing up for graduation party. By investing in a pair of quality shoes you will make sure that you belong to the best dressed 10% of your class. Cap-toe oxford is the most formal shoe type there is. And that is my suggestion to wear with your suit. If you want to go fully formal set-up, choose black color. Though for a graduation party dark brown shoes are also appropriate.

Read more about black oxfords or penny loafers.


7. Polish your shoes - and remember to wear them before the party

Remember to make sure that you have polished your shoes before the shoes. But even more important than the shine of your shoes is that they are comfortable to wear. So if you buy new shoes for your graduation party, remember to wear them at least a couple of times before the big day.

Read more about how to take care of your shoes.

8. Stand with your back straight and chin up

Last but not least. It does not matter how expensive suit or shoes you are wearing, if you don't wear them with pride and comfort. So keep your back straight and chin up. In the end it comes up to the fact how a man can carry his clothes. Therefore this is the most important thing to remember when thinking about how to dress up for graduation.

And finally - have fun, it’s time for a celebration.

Blue suit with vintage omega seamaster

You can find the original post written in Finnish at

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