Graduation Top Tips

So summer graduation season is officially upon us and, as the big day looms, we wanted to share our top tips for navigating a day that can be simultaneously daunting, exciting, happy, sad… you get the picture!


1. Think about how your hair and make-up will work with your mortar board

The majority of universities in the UK require graduates to wear a graduation cap, or ‘mortar board’, for their ceremony and for photos, so think about how you can style your hair to work with it. For those with longer hair, loose, straight styles or a low bun or chignon tend to work best, as the cap will cover most of your head. High buns or ponytails are to be avoided! For those of you with natural hair, the caps can be tricky to master but check out YouTube for some great DIY hacks, using combs to hold it in place. Luckily Churchill Gowns deliver your graduation sets two days before the ceremony, which gives you plenty of time to practice getting the look just right. Our mortar boards also come with a handy elastic inside, which grips it in place, although it’s always worth having a couple of spare hair grips to hand, just in case!

As the front of the mortar board sits across your forehead, it’s also worth considering how you might do your makeup for the big day. Some suppliers will charge hefty fines if a cap comes back smeared with foundation on the inside! If you are planning to wear makeup, we would recommend applying it as usual, then dabbing your forehead with some oil absorbing blotting paper and, finally, using a setting spray across your whole face (it’ll stop your mascara running too… if things get emosh!) If the worst comes to the worst and you do get marks on your cap, Churchill Gowns won't charge you a fortune in fines; just the difference between the hire and purchase price.


2. Practice walking in your outfit

We’re not going to lie, there’s a lot of potential for embarrassing mishaps at a graduation ceremony. Anyone who organises them will tell you that every year, without fail, there’s a tripper!


There’s only one way to make sure you’re not the next person topping the ‘graduation fail’ charts… practice! On the day, you’ll likely be navigating a flight of stairs up to a stage in heels or slippery new shoes and wearing a long, loose robe - all whilst hundreds of people are watching you. Make sure you wear-in your shoes so they don’t slip, try on your gown in advance and practice walking up and down stairs in the full outfit. Your Churchill Gowns graduation set will come two days before your ceremony, so make the most of the opportunity to get some practice in. You may look a bit odd strolling around campus in your robes two days before the event, but it means you’ll feel more relaxed and confident on the day!

3. Master the hood

We’ll admit, academic dress was not designed with practicality in mind. But don’t blame us - blame the medievals! By far the most challenging aspect of the outfit is the hood, so if you want to look slick on graduation day prepare for safety pins to become your best friends!

If you are wearing a shirt or blouse with buttons down the front then your life will be slightly easier. Start by putting on your gown, then locate the loop on the underside of the front of your hood. Place the hood over your head and put this loop over the button in the middle of your chest. If you are wearing a tie, this should then go over the hood at the front.

The hood is still quite heavy so you may well find that it starts tugging your shirt upwards. If this is happening we would suggest safety pinning the bottom of your shirt to the inside of your trousers or, if you are wearing a skirt, you might have to pin it to your underwear. Pinning the shoulders of the hood to the shoulders of the gown should also help keep it in place, just make sure you use the folds of the hood fabric to disguise any pins.

If you are wearing a dress or top with no buttons then follow the same procedure but use a safety pin in the place of a button.

The key here is, again, practice before the day. That way you’ll have a plan in place and aren’t getting flustered minutes before the ceremony. If you can get a friend to help, even better, as they will be better placed to straighten out the back of your hood before you head up on stage.


4. Keep cool!

If, like most students, you’re graduating in the summer months there’s a decent chance (even in the UK!) that it’ll be pretty hot. Not the kind of day you would normally choose to be wearing a long black gown, hood and cap! This is compounded by the fact that most universities require men to wear suits beneath their robes. Try and find an outfit to go under your gown that’s made of as light a fabric as possible. The one saving grace is that the gowns are no longer made of the heavy woollen fabrics they once were, and they are designed to be loose-fitting, so if you’re wearing something underneath that’s a bit breathable you’ll thank us!

There can also be a fair bit of waiting around at a graduation ceremony, so it’s worth bringing a bottle of water and even a handheld fan to keep cool - especially if you have a willing parent or friend who can hold onto them while you’re up on stage.


For most people this day only comes around once - so you want to make the most of it! The more prepared you are, the more relaxed and confident you’ll feel at the ceremony and you won't resent your parents for having the photos on the walls for decades to come!

Best of Luck!

Team Churchill Gowns