IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

15 graduation dress ideas for high school and college 2019

We figured out the history of white dresses and found some options in every budget!
Women graduate in white dresses and matching white caps.
Women graduate in white dresses and matching white caps.Getty Images stock
/ Source: TODAY

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.

White graduation dresses
Women in white marching in New York City for women's rights.Getty Images

The suffragettes — a women's empowerment group of the 1900s — famously wore the color.

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 15 options for every budget.

White Graduation Dresses under $100

  • 1. Sequin Hearts Off The Shoulder Sheath Scuba Dress, $59, Nordstrom

It doesn't get much more classic than this sheath dress for graduation. The off-the-shoulder ruffle detailing would look great under the gown.

  • 2. Superdown Anabelle Tie Strap Dress, $62, Revolve

This sweetheart neck dress features adjustable shoulder tie straps, a hidden back zipper and an allover eyelet fabric. Reviewers praised it for being opaque, which is a huge accomplishment for a white dress. Style it with chunky nude heels for a look you can re-wear all summer, even after graduation day.

  • 3. Short Flounced Dress, $40, H&M

Combine comfort and style combine in this flirty dress made from thick jersey fabric.

  • 4. ASOS Design Ladder Trim Mini Smock Dress, $48, Asos

This dress can just as easily fit in at graduation as it can at the beach. The longer, loose sleeves and frill trimming add to the breezy feeling.

  • 5. UO Claire Ruffle One-Shoulder Mini Dress, $50 (usually $89), Urban Outfitters

One-shoulder dresses are so popular right now. The single puffed sleeve and fun hem will help you look effortlessly chic.

  • 6. City Studios Colorblocked High-Low Dress, $69, Macy's

The contrasting black trim ups the drama of the double layer high-low skirt on this dress.

  • 7. In the Meadow White Embroidered Backless Mini Dress, $74, Lulus

We particularly love the open back with crisscross straps and the tie back sash of this dress.

  • 8. Plus Size Open Shoulder Mini Dress, $24 (usually $35), Forever 21

This form fitting dress can flatter every body type, despite white's reputation for being unforgiving.

  • 9. Boutique Lace Midi Skater Dress, $35 (originally $70), Boohoo

There’s nothing like a midi silhouette, especially when it’s as airy as this one.

  • 10. Leith Deep V-Neck Jumpsuit, $59, Nordstrom

Really hate dresses? Try a jumpsuit instead. The v-neck and flattering leg shape make it look sophisticated enough for any graduation or party. It's also available in a plus size version.

White Graduation dresses under $200

  • 1. Ali & Jay Got Potential Faux Wrap Dress, $118, Nordstrom

This slip on dress offers all of the style of a wrap dress with none of the tedious tying and untying.

  • 2. French Connection Whisper Light Sheath Minidress, $148, Nordstrom

Keep it simple with this French Connection dress that can easily be layered with jewelry and accessories.

White graduation dresses under $300

  • 1. Fame and Partners The Briella Dress, $249, Shopbop

This pleated, ballgown-inspired dress will stun people at any fancy reception.

  • 2. Reformation Marabella Linen Dress, $248, Nordstrom

Want to try a more bohemian look? This smocked dress with puffed sleeves works dressed up or down and is available in regular and plus sizes.

Splurge white graduation dress

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.

For more of our favorite things, check out:

To discover more deals, shopping tips and budget-friendly product recommendations, download the new TODAY app and subscribe to our Stuff We Love newsletter!