Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Dressing for University Commencement III


Earlier Drafts:
Anne-Marie proposed looks for her brother's commencement here and here.

embroidered white strapless dress (White House, Black Market)
black cardigan (NY&Co)
black faux patent belt (Forever 21)
black t-strap sandals (gift from friend)

Like Anne-Marie, I got to celebrate my younger sibling's undergraduate graduation this spring!  We traveled to the Midwest this past weekend to watch my sister graduate with her BS in Nursing from the same undergrad institution I attended.  It was fun to help her celebrate the end of her hard work and helped me to think about how far I have come personally and intellectually since my own graduation six years ago.

For this event, I was excited to have the opportunity to wear this white strapless dress again.  I was married on the east coast near my home, but since I grew up on the west coast, we had a second reception in my hometown.  This dress was perfect for this occasion, but I hadn't yet found a way to re-wear it since I avoid wearing white to other peoples' weddings.  Plus, I like the idea of this dress having been worn to two important events in our lives.  I'm kind of a sentimental dresser.

The forecast called for highs in the low 60s, and completely strapless felt a little bare for a college commencement, so I put the black cardigan over the dress and belted it to accentuate my waist.  Using these accessories to draw attention to the black embroidery on the dress also meant I could wear these t-strap sandals I love, which were perfect for a day that required us to walk all over campus. I was really pleased with how the look came together, and I thought it was appropriate for a commencement.  While there were some people there in jeans and concert tees, I subscribe to the belief that we should celebrate important accomplishments by dressing up.  My sister worked hard for that degree, so I felt an obligation to show up in a look that demonstrated how much I cared.

As I sat through the ceremony, though, I realized that I hadn't thought much about functionality.  This is a great strapless dress because it has a little bit of plastic boning that keeps me from having to hike the top up repeatedly... but that boning was very uncomfortable for sitting on bleachers in a gym for an extended period of time.  Next time I attend a graduation I'll be sure to give the dress the sit test.  At least I could take the sweater off when I started to get hot!

I also wanted to add that my sister paired her Jessica Simpson red patent stilettos with her cap and gown.  I thought this was a great way to infuse her firecracker personality into an otherwise un-stylable ensemble that is notoriously unflattering.  They looked great for photos, and I loved how the pop of red flashed as she walk across the stage to collect her diploma.  Congratulations, Vickie!!

  • Do you remember what you wore to important events or is that unimportant to your memory of these events?
  • How would you feel if your family showed up to your graduation in casual attire?  Am I alone in thinking that dressing up shows we care?
  • Do you have any other suggestions for styling yourself while wearing the cap and gown combo?  I'm walking in my MA graduation Friday, and I'd love some suggestions!


Dorky Medievalist said...

This is a lovely dress and ideal, I think, both for a wedding celebration (your own, I agree with you on not wearing white to someone else's wedding) and for an important family event (also may be good for a shower?).

Anyway, I don't have any advice on the cap & gown combo, as I have never attended any of my convocations. They are usually held in the fall and I am always somewhere else by that time and I know precious few colleagues (Canadian) who attended their own. Perhaps they are a bigger to-do in the US? My brother would never even consider coming to a convocation ceremony for me, but I admire the support you and A-M have afforded your siblings (consideration of dress, travel, etc.). I like the celebration of the accomplishment and I think it should be celebrated, but somehow that doesn't seem to be part of the culture here, as far as I am aware.

In any case, since I've never worn a cap & gown, I can't say for sure, but it seems to me that good shoes are key (I would wear a deep red), and definitely something peeking out the top of the gown, or the bottom of the gown (pants?), lest you look naked underneath. Unless, of course, this is the look you are going for. Congrats on the MA.

Rad_in_Broolyn said...

Yes, congrats on the MA. I am forced under the sanction of administrative disapproval to fork 45 dollars to Jostens every spring and sit in Madison Square Garden and look bored for a couple hours. Ah, professorial obligations! The students are happy to see you, so I guess it's OK. For underneath, I treat it as a rebellion. I like to wear ridiculous and short things under that robe originally designed for chubby clerics (that's right, right DM?). One of my radder colleagues wore pajamas underneath.
The dress is lovely. If want more wear out of it, have you considered dying it? The lady from Young House Love dyed her wedding dress and it turned out awesome. You can google home dying DIY. There's loads of tutorials out there.

Dorky Medievalist said...

Absolutely, academic robes are for chubby clerics, and probably for hiding all manner of, erm, sins (many medieval scholars talk about female hagiography as a kind of monastic porn. Ha!). And doesn't Virginia Woolf in A Room of One's Own make fun of a beadle flapping about the quad in one? Anyway, academic robes are kind of silly, but Harry Potter wears one. I like the idea of jim-jams under the robe, but I suppose it depends on how seriously or not you are taking ceremony. I am invited to my students' convocation every year where I am expected to wear the robes from my university (what, I'm supposed to OWN them?) but neither I nor my colleagues go, so far as I know.

Interesting that the US places more value on this than we seem to in Canada. I don't believe we value education less, though our students do pay fewer dollars for their education, I believe. I wonder if the ceremony, and the decorum (through dress and otherwise) takes on its necessary gravity when it is (more) financially hard-won.

Brooke said...

I love this dress - it is gorgeous. I'm a sentimental dresser too - I even have sentimental shoes (I'm so sentimental! ugh).

I remember EVERYTHING I wore to important events: shoes, jewelry, clothes, hair style. I was justifying my new graduation dress purchase to my mom the other day by detailing the bargain basement dresses I wore to my two previous graduations, and then I started in on all my dresses throughout high school (needless to say, she gave up).

No suggestions for graduation, but I'd love to know what color you plan on painting your fingernails. I'm doing red fingernails and similarly-shaded red toenails. Hope it isn't red overkill!

Scholar Style Guide said...

Thanks for the comments, ladies!

DM, I'm really interested in the difference you suggest about attitudes toward graduations. I do feel a little silly about attending my MA graduation, actually, since I'm continuing onto my PhD immediately. But I kind of think that in a profession that can be discouraging at times, I might benefit from stopping to celebrate the different milemarkers along the way and relishing the feeling of pride and accomplishment that everyone will share that day.

I wonder if the timing of the Canadian ceremony contributes to the apathy toward it. Am I understanding you correctly in assuming that the commencement and the convocation are combined in the fall? I wouldn't return to a campus to attend a ceremony, either. And my husband, who finished his MS in December, had no interest in participating in the ceremony they held for all graduates in May.

My best friends and I wore swimsuits under our gowns to our high school graduation. Everyone else thought it was awesome, which, when you are in high school, was the ultimate achievement. I take these graduations more seriously, though, so I feel like I should dress like a proper adult. : )

Brooke, I haven't decided about nails!


Scholar Style Guide said...

First of all, I love Vickie for wearing red stilettos to her graduation!

I bought a cream colored dress with a black floral pattern to wear to my college graduation, but it was too cold, so I wore black pants and a black blouse. I wore the dress to my honors symposium and to the receptions held by my major and minor departments. I really love that dress, and I should start wearing it more.

I always remember what I wear to important events. And I do think it matters if your family dresses up. My parents dressed up for my college graduation, and they made my siblings wear nicer clothes too. I have a few great family pictures from that day that I love because we all look so nice. I think that's part of it too - with the immortalization of those moments in photographs, you want everyone to look put together.