11 July 2014

Mission Impossible: Finding Something to Wear for Graduation

Next week is Graduation Week at the University of Leicester. Each day has a morning and an afternoon ceremony where hundreds of students from each subject sit in a large hall, waiting until it's their chance to walk up some stairs, shake a man's hand they've never seen before, and sit down again. Graduation is the culmination of your educational achievements to date, it's where you officially get what you came to university for, your degree, and yet it's not really the most exciting part of the day.

For most students the exciting part is what you wear. I'm sure next week my Facebook timeline will be flooded with people posing for photos with family and friends in gowns and mortarboards (those hat-things people wear). Of course, I'll be doing the same myself and I'm not criticising people who do, I'm just saying that's the bit everyone really looks forward to. That's why choosing the right thing to wear is very important. I'm sure by now most people have already got their outfits sorted but just in case you've left it to the last minute, hopefully this will help.

Firstly you need to find out what sort of hood and/or gown you will be wearing. This is dependent on what sort of degree you have done. Here's the list if you're at Leicester, I don't know if it's the same at all universities but you definitely need to find out when planning your outfit. Having done a BA, I'm going to be wearing a black gown with a white and red hood, like the picture. This immediately ruled out some colours for me (pink, green, red and blue).
The guidelines on what ladies can wear are quite vague, 'A smart top or blouse with skirt or formal trousers. Alternatively a suitable dress may be worn with formal/smart shoes', which doesn't really help. I don't want to wear a blouse, I've had 5+ years of that at school/college already and a dress gives you a lot more options so that's what I've decided on. 
A friend who graduated a couple of years ago was also really helpful. She explained that if you're wearing a dress you need to pin your hood to it and they can be quite heavy. She advised against wearing lightweight, thin materials like silk or chiffon as the pin could rip or leave a permanent whole. This is very sensible advice but it's not exactly easy to find a thick dress in the middle of summer! 

On Wednesday (with a week and two days to go) I went shopping for the perfect graduation dress. In my mind I had a good idea of what I wanted, either a dark purple dress or a black and white dress with geometric panels. I wanted them to be quite fitted and suitable to wear for other occasions such as weddings or at work. As this is a serious event my usual go-to shops like New Look, River Island and Topshop were off the list and instead shops like John Lewis and Karen Millen were on it. This was also quite a good time to go shopping as most places had summer sales. 

First up was Karen Millen, not somewhere I've ever shopped before, and after a bit of browsing I found two similar dresses with black, white and grey panels in quite a stretchy material. These were quite close to what I had been hoping to buy, however, I very quickly realised that finding the right dress that fitted was going to be a lot harder than I thought. Being 5 foot 3 inches (or 160cm) can make sizing a problem sometimes, especially having a short top-half of my body. In these dresses I had a problem where if the bottom-half of the dress looked nice, the top and shoulders looked baggy and if I tried on a size where the top-half fitted nicely, the bottom-half was far too tight for a formal occasion.

I had the same problem in Marks and Spenser (and quite a few other shops). I found a nice black and white dress, geometric panels and shaped - exactly what I wanted - but when I tried it on I had the same issue. I tried to capture what I meant by it being too big over my shoulders and around my neck in this picture. 
Even in John Lewis with a petite section, the style of dress I wanted was too big over my shoulders. I was starting to have a serious panic about not being able to find anything at all! Everywhere was either selling lightweight summer dresses or didn't fit me properly. My best possibility so far was a white dress I'd tried on in Lipsy, not exactly that formal looking and I couldn't wear white to a wedding but at least I had one option now. 

As a distraction from all the stress I decided to buy some really nice, soft brown sandals from Office (only £28!). Obviously nothing to do with graduation but I needed sandals.

Finally, after at least four hours of searching with no breaks I found a dress that I liked! I decided if I wanted something that fitted well I would have to give up on my imagined style of dress. I went into a shop called CC which is paired with Viyella (owned by Austin Reed). Although I was probably the youngest person in there I had given up caring by this point. I was on a mission to find a dress for graduation and that was all that mattered. I picked up anything that was black and white, and went to try them on.

This is the dress I found: 
It doesn't look as good on the hanger so I decided to model it as well. I think this shape looks much better than the ones I was trying before. I like capped sleeves, oval neckline and that it kicks out after my waist. It's made from for 98% cotton and 2% elastane with a polyester lining. It feels quite thick and hopefully won't be damaged by the pin. Overall all I'm happy with this dress. Although it wasn't what I had in mind originally, I think it looks nice on and is appropriate for the occasion. I'm going to wear it with some gold heart-shaped studs I bought from Accessorize and plain black pumps which I already have. I'll probably wear my hair down and straightened so that it doesn't get in the way of the hat. 

I hope my experience helps any last minute shoppers and that readers can relate to my difficulties! 

Good luck!

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