How To Dress For Graduations And Church - A Body Language Expert's Opinions

Last week I went to my friend's MBA graduation ceremony at Kennessaw University. My friends and I were so proud and excited to see our friend earn his MBA after two years of hard work and while working full time at his corporate marketing job.
The ceremony was wonderful. I will post on my speech coach blog my thoughts on the speeches. I wanted to share with you my thoughts on the way people dressed for the graduation.

It was 98 degrees in Atlanta on the day of the graduation. Standing in front of my suit closet I couldn't imagine putting on a silk blouse and suit even though the ceremony was going to be inside. We were parking with over a thousand other friends and family of future graduates and I assumed we would need to hike in from a distant parking lot. That ruled out high heels for me as well. I would have loved to have worn a dress, but I am five feet tall and I look like a little girl in a dress without high heels.

I wanted to show my honor and respect for the graduates, so I chose a white linen jacket and pants. Why am I detailing my struggle to dress appropriately for the event despite the heat and walking distance? Because my friends and I, in our respective dresses, felt like a Mayberry, Brady Bunch, time traveler from another Galaxy when we got there. There were fellow students and hundreds of parents wearing shorts, blue jeans, t-shirts and even flip flops for a college graduation. Perhaps they all thought they were being videotaped for a possible guest on "What not to Wear." Perhaps I am being to critical. After all I know I have dyslexia and can't see spelling and grammatical errors. Perhaps there is a disorder that keeps you from seeing your fashion mistakes.
Out of the two thousand or so audience members I would say half were dressed very nicely, but my friends and I were shocked to see the rest. Was I crazy to think that you should dress nicely on that one special day celebrating so much hard work and persistence on the part of the 800 or so graduates? I was a nerdette in high school and I still may be one today writing about the proper dress for a graduation. What did my friends wear? The other women wore dresses and the guys were all wearing crisp long sleeved button down shirts and nice crisply pressed pants. They were so handsome. It looked like they called each other to dress as they had a nice assortment of colors from pink, to blue to grey and white shirts.

Here are my rough notes from a journalist request on the topic of
Dressing for Church,
My response to a journalist request.
I am a body language expert and I live in Atlanta. I love that churches now have a casual dress service. With a casual service more people feel comfortable going to church as they don’t have to “dress up.”. I also believe that overdressing for church is more about appearance, looking good for other people rather than honoring God. On the other hand flip flops, slogan t-shirts and caps show a lack of respect for others in the congregation. You are going to church not Disney World! I also know as a body language expert that how you dress affects your behavior. Research indicates that formal business attire formalizes your communication and interactions. You are more guarded and distant in a suit and tie, that’s why you take off your tie the minute you get around friends and that it is also just more comfortable. In the workplace casual dress codes increase morale but do not increase productivity. Observing the effect of dress on behavior as a body language expert, I think casual dress relaxes behavior, both good and bad behavior. I included research finding on business dress below my sig line.

Patti Wood, MA, Certified Speaking Professional - The Body Language Expert. For more body language insights go to her website at Also check out the body language quiz on her YouTube Channel at