15 Dresses I’d Happily Wear To My Son’s Graduation

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It’s officially spring when the questions start pouring into The Mom Edit asking about special-occasion dresses. 

What to wear to outdoor spring/summer weddings, what to wear to indoor spring/summer weddings, what to wear to garden parties, Mother’s Day celebrations, bar and bat mitzvahs, baptisms, and of course…graduations.

What To Wear To A Graduation: 15 Dresses Perfect For Mom Of The Grad

Well, I think I’ve done it. I’ve found a STUNNER of a dress from STAUD that I’m hoping is going to work for ALL the spring and summer special events, including graduations. The crisp cotton-poplin fabric is gorgeous (and MUCH fancier looking than your run-of-the-mill cotton dress), the dress comes in several beautiful colors, the style is sophisticated (but not boring), it has a nice stretchy middle, AND…wait for it…pockets!

If this stunning STAUD midi dress isn’t for you, though, I’ve found 15 other dresses that I also would HAPPILY wear to a graduation. Keep scrolling for more options.

I’ve found a STUNNER of a dress from STAUD that I'm hoping is going to work for ALL the spring & summer special events, including graduations.
The crisp cotton-poplin fabric of this STAUD midi dress is gorg, the style is sophisticated (but not boring), &...wait for it...it has pockets!

dress | bag | heels
at Saks | at Nordstrom | at Net-A-Porter | at Bloomies

What I Personally Look For In A Graduation Guest Dress

During a team meeting a couple of weeks ago, we found ourselves in a pretty lively conversation about what to wear to graduations. So many good ideas flying around the Zoom call, and then it dawned on me…these “kids on our team” (they’re actually a creative, talented, IMPRESSIVE group of grown women — but they’re decades younger than me, and closer to my children’s ages than to mine, so in my head they’re “kids.”) were talking about what they wore to THEIR recent graduations…or what they’re wearing to their friends’ or siblings’ graduations this spring.

I was thinking about what I would be wearing to my kids’ graduations…which felt quite different.  

My opinions grew stronger and stronger the further I ventured down that road of what I’d be wearing, as a mom, for my kids’ big days. Keep in mind I’m typically fairly conservative when it comes to fashion, and admit I can quickly slip into all sorts of weird requirements for myself on what is “appropriate” to wear.

I want to be clear, though. I do not judge what others wear to these events. I PROMISE. I LOVE seeing everyone’s personal styles expressed in all sorts of ways EVERYWHERE, but there are certain events like church and temple — and apparently my kids’ graduations — that I create “rules for myself.” Brace yourself…there are a lot.

Nothing too flashy or over the top, nothing that draws TOO much attention or embarrasses my kids, nothing solid black (it’s a joyous occasion), nothing solid white (often what graduates wear themselves), nothing too short, nothing too long. Not too “young-looking,” not too “old-looking,” nothing too hot or clingy, not too dressy, not too casual… I can continue if you’d like.

Welcome, you guys, to my spinning tornado of a head. Aren’t you glad you were invited?

Sophisticated, But Not Boring…The Best Dresses For A Graduation

For my kids’ future graduations, it basically boils down to this: I’m looking for a below-the-knee dress that has a sophisticated vibe, but isn’t boring. Classy but with personality.

In my top 15 picks, I included some higher-end dresses from La Ligne (they are GORG!), some dresses under $200 from Anthro, some picks in solids, some in prints, some with sleeves, some without, some 100% natural fibers, some stretchy-sculpting synthetics, but all of them hitting that mark of sophistication with personality.

15 Beautiful Midi + Maxi Dresses To Wear To Your Kid’s Graduation

These are the 15 dresses I would HAPPILY wear to my sons’ future graduations. Hoping there’s a little something for everyone. BONUS…all of these dresses would work equally as well for other special spring and summer events as well!

I found 15 graduation guest dresses I'd HAPPILY wear as mother of the grad. A li'l something for everyone, from midi to maxi, smocked to puff sleeves. Celebrate in style!

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15


1. La Ligne Celina Printed Smocked Dress

The La Ligne Celina dress, with the pretty puff sleeves, smocked bodice + fabulous tulip skirt, has pockets & a 2-way zipper.
Image: La Ligne NYC

at Nordstrom – Dot Print | at Nordstrom – Poppy | at La Ligne – All Colorways

La Ligne NYC dresses are my top brand pick if they’re in your budget. Beautiful materials, sophisticated look, and designed with playful elements that are interesting and unique. FAR from boring, for sure.

The Celina dress, with the pretty puff sleeves, smocked bodice and fabulous tulip skirt, has pockets AND a two-way zipper. Comes in four colorways: this navy dot print, a modern floral, poppy and black. Amazing!


2. SOVERE 1-Shoulder Smocked-Waist Dress

This 1-shoulder dress from SOVERE completely achieves the whole classy-but-with-personality thing.
image: Anthropologie

at Anthropologie | similar

This one-shoulder dress from SOVERE completely achieves the whole classy-but-with-personality thing. Made from cotton, fantastic two-tone neutral pairing, nice drape on the top and…POCKETS! Love!


3. Maeve Cassandra Maxi Dress

The Maeve Cassandra maxi dress is lovely to wear for a variety of occasions.
image: Anthropologie

Cassandra at Anthropologie | Somerset at Anthropologie

This Maeve Cassandra maxi dress and Somerset’s maxi dresses are crowd favorites at Anthropologie. Lovely to wear for a variety of occasions, fantastic color options, and many pattern choices as well. I’m drawn to the black-and-tan print, but there are plenty of spring colors to choose from as well.


4. Maeve Sleeveless Shirt Dress

This modern sleeveless shirtdress also comes in black with white detailing, but the orange is so striking.
image: Anthropologie

at Anthropologie

This modern sleeveless shirtdress also comes in black with white detailing, but the orange is so striking. Cute dressed up with heels or with flat sandals, and I love how it’s styled with the contrasting bag…more colors to choose from in this cool leather bag here.


5. La Ligne Floral Vivian Dress

The smocked bodice + cap sleeves (that can be worn both up or down) are charming on this 100% cotton A-line midi dress from La Ligne
image: La Ligne

at Saks | at Nordstrom | at La Ligne NYC

The smocked bodice and cap sleeves (that can be worn both up or down) are oh-so-charming on this 100% cotton A-line midi dress from La Ligne…especially in this sophisticated floral. I warned you these La Ligne dresses were gorg! Available in plus sizing.


6. Gap Puff-Sleeve Metallic Floral Midi Dress

I would wear this black-and-white floral midi dress from Gap with simple nude heeled sandals or comfy wedges.
image: GAP

at Gap

Gap does a fantastic job of creating budget-friendly dresses for a variety of occasions. I would wear this black-and-white floral midi dress with simple nude heeled sandals or comfortable wedges and my Clare V. Pot De Miel bag. (Check out this playful off-the-shoulder dress as well for another budget-friendly A-line midi that makes even more of a statement. )


7. Reformation Tagliatelle Linen Dress

This Reformation dress feels like a great fit for a graduation outfit.
image: Reformation

at Reformation

Shana and I are both HUGE fans of pretty much everything in Reformation’s linen line. The Tagliatelle dress in particular, though, feels like a great fit for a graduation. This dress comes in many colorways, but I love the brown-check pattern that feels especially sophisticated.


8. La Ligne Floral Jamie Dress

I love the way the dark lines in the print + border of this La Ligne dress add a modern, sophisticated element.
image: Saks

at Saks | at La Ligne NYC

Gah! This La Ligne Floral Jamie Dress is probably at the upper limit for me in terms of bold color and pattern (for a graduation), but I couldn’t NOT include it. SO freaking cute. I love the way the dark lines in the print and border add a modern, sophisticated element. Comes in a beautiful solid poppy colorway as well.


9. Anthro Cecily Fit & Flare Sweetheart Dress

The "magic fabric," only available at Anthropologie, of this sweetheart dress is made to sculpt as it stretches.

at Anthropologie

Another FABULOUS design from Anthropologie. The pink-and-orange geometric print is the colorway I’d choose, but the green-floral and solid-black dresses are also quite stunning. This “magic fabric,” only available at Anthropologie, is made to sculpt as it stretches. Available in standard, petite and plus sizing.


10. Frank & Eileen Rory Woven Long Dress

Made from 100% linen, this airy Frank & Eileen maxi shirtdress has a relaxed look worn loose, but I love how adding a belt elevates this dress to graduation-worthy status.
image: Revolve

at Revolve | at Frank & Eileen

Made from 100% linen, this airy Frank & Eileen maxi shirtdress has an easy and relaxed look worn loose, but I love how adding a belt (I’m thinking white leather as shown, white patent or a matte gold) instantly elevates this dress to graduation-worthy status. Effortlessly elegant.


11. STAUD Jackson Midi Dress

This midi dress from STAUD is truly mom-of-the-graduate perfection!
image: Saks

at Saks | at Nordstrom | at Shopbop | at STAUD

This midi dress from STAUD is truly mom-of-the-graduate perfection! Comes in navy, black, white and poppy. I’m wearing an XS in the photos (I’m 5’2″, 138 pounds for reference), but it’s a little snug going on, so I probably would have done better with a size S. The waist is nice and stretchy, though, so the XS works. 98% cotton, usable REAL pockets, and an absolute dream to wear.


12. By Anthropologie The Peregrine Midi Dress

This cool print dress from Anthropologie says spring to me — without saying Easter egg.
image: Anthropologie

at Anthropologie

Not surprisingly, Anthropologie’s selection of interesting and pretty prints in dresses is stellar. This cool print dress says spring to me — without saying Easter egg (which unfortunately sometimes happens when I try to wear spring colors). Available in solids and prints…and, yes, Anthro was especially kind and added pockets for us pocket-lovers. Available in standard, petite and plus sizing.


13. Madewell Ruffled One-Shoulder Midi Dress

This lightweight cotton midi dress from Madewell comes in true black + eyelet white, but I'd likely wear this olive-khaki to a graduation.
image: Madewell

at Madewell | at Nordstrom

I love when Madewell does a piece that’s fabulously glamorous, but in that understated unfussy way that Madewell does so well. This lightweight cotton midi dress comes in true black and eyelet white, but I’d likely wear this olive-khaki to a graduation.


14. Boden Button-Front Jersey Midi Dress

This button-front midi dress from Boden has a wrap-dress vibe without being an actual wrap.
image: Boden

at Boden | at Nordstrom

I used to be the HUGEST Boden-dress fan when I was working in an office. Boden has wonderful prints and the comfiest stretch-jersey fabric that hugs the body, but not in that terrible clingy-squeezy-huggy way that some jerseys do. This button-front midi dress has a wrap-dress vibe without being an actual wrap — so no worrying about keeping the wrapped bodice in place. Comes in petite and regular sizing .


15. FRAME Gillian Puff-Sleeve Cotton Dress

FRAME's 100% cotton dress with a belted waist + dramatic puff sleeves is both elegant & playful.
image: Nordstrom

at Nordstrom | at FRAME

Hard to not include FRAME in the lineup when we’re talking about sophisticated style. This 100% cotton dress with a belted waist and dramatic puff sleeves is both elegant and playful. I would do kitten heels with this FRAME dress and an interesting structured bag or clutch.


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What other retailers and designers are your go-tos for beautiful special-event dresses? Anyone want to share specifically what they’re wearing to a graduation? We love hearing your suggestions, so keep those reader questions coming!

-Linzi

I found 15 graduation guest dresses I'd HAPPILY wear as mother of the grad. A li'l something for everyone, from midi to maxi, smocked to puff sleeves. Celebrate in style!