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Why do so many young women wear white to graduation?
At some schools, like Spelman College, white attire is required for events like orientation and commencement. At some public New Jersey high schools, girls wear white gowns and carry bouquets of roses instead of the usual cap and gown, according to The New York Times. And, at many other schools, women just choose to wear white.
The tradition traces its roots back to the mid-1800s, when many schools (mostly single-sex at the time) wanted a more uniform look when it came to all of their female graduates, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Then, in St. Louis around the 1980s, young women started wearing gowns resembling wedding dresses at graduation ceremonies.
White is also an important color for women's history.
Luckily, the little white dress happens to be a great wardrobe staple for summer. So, you can wear that dress all summer long, pairing it with everything from ballet flats and loafers to sandals and sneakers.
We’ve rounded up 12 options for every budget.
Affordable White Graduation Dresses
Fashion Union Cami Sun Dress, $51, Asos
These wrap and tie details make this white dress look like it took forever to fasten, but really it's just zipped up the back.
Asos Design Off Shoulder Sun Dress, $24, Asos
Make a breezy off-the-shoulder silhouette feel more tailored by choosing a soft jersey fabric instead of more intricate lace or eyelet.
Asos Curve Mini Cotton Smock Dress, $35, Asos
This dress is like a shirtdress, but not entirely. It looks crisp and can flatter most body types, even though white tends to be seen as unforgiving.
Embroidered Dress, $80, H&M
The slightly longer sleeves on this dress make it look sophisticated enough for any graduation or party.
Higher End White Graduation Dresses
Juliana Lace Turtleneck, $149, Urban Outfitters
Go for a vintage vibe with this mock turtleneck shift dress.
Free People Embellished Mini Dress, $148, Shopbop
Want to try a bohemian look? This lace-inset mini will help you look effortlessly chic all summer.
Thelma Dress, $198, Reformation
There’s nothing like a midi silhouette, especially when it’s as transitional as this one. Button it all the way from top to bottom, or leave one or two open at the base for a little more movement.
Expensive White Graduation Dresses
Yumi Kim Class Act Dress, $228, Shopbop
This refined silk Swiss-dot style will stun people at any fancy reception.
Milly Wrap Dress, $385, Shopbop
The ultimate garden party look comes together with this ribbed dress with waist wrap.
Cinq a Sept Ashton Dress, $385, Shopbop
A T-shirt silhouette with a ruffled texture feels unexpected, looks crisp and fits comfortably.
Joseph Davey Cotton-Poplin Midi Dress, $445, Net-a-Porter
An easy, below-the-knee silhouette that nips in at the waist with a ribbon or tie looks like a special occasion dress but can feel as comfortable as a beach cover-up.
Very Expensive White Graduation Dress
Zimmermann, Lovelorn Broderie Anglaise Cotton Mini Dress, $795, Net-a-Porter
This is a splurge, but it might be worth it for a special occasion. No one does an intricate eyelet and lace dress quite like this design house.