What to Wear to a White Coat Ceremony?

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As a medical student, choosing what to wear to your white coat ceremony is probably one of the most complicated decisions you’ll make. There are so many questions you’ll probably ask as you prepare for this moment. Surely, it’s an important milestone in your pursuit. The ceremony involves wearing a white coat, which signifies your official induction into medical school. This article answers some of the important questions on what to wear to the ceremony.

What is a White Coat Ceremony?What is a White Coat Ceremony?

Popularly referred to as WCC, the white coat ceremony is a ritual typically organized by medical and public health schools to mark students’ transition from the study of preclinical to clinical health sciences. The period when the white coat ceremony is held differs from school to school. For instance, schools that allow students to begin to meet patients at their early stage typically hold the white coat ceremony before the beginning of the first year. The ritual takes the place of matriculation in such schools.

The ritual is becoming increasingly popular by the day, with over 100 medical schools in the United States now participating in it. In fact, medical students now generally consider it a passage rite to move towards proper transitioning into their healthcare careers. In some schools, white coat ceremonies serve as a graduation ceremony from the entire program.

Some theories even purport that WCCs are gradually taking on a quasi-religious significance; hence, symbolizing the “conversion” of a layperson into a member of the healthcare profession. In this stead, it is similar to priesthood ordination, although a white coat makes it unique.

Who Gets a White Coat Ceremony?

Who Gets a White Coat Ceremony?

As explained above, the tradition, known as the White Coat Ceremony, marks an educational milestone: Entry into clinical medicine. During the ceremony, incoming medical students typically gather in the presence of their families, guests, mentors, faculty leaders, and members for the formal reception of the cloak that signifies their future profession. Every year, thousands of outstanding students across different universities get welcomed as new medical students via this ceremony. However, each school has its personal calendar and prerequisites for allowing students to participate in the white coat ceremony.

How to Dress for a White Coat Ceremony?

How to Dress for a White Coat Ceremony?

You’ve probably asked this question before now: “is white coat ceremony a big deal?” The simple answer to that is yes! Whitecoat ceremony is a big deal, and it requires good preparation. One area the students often fall short in is in what to wear. For starters, you should dress in a professional manner. Some schools have a dress code for this occasion. If your school doesn’t have a dress code, you can try one of the options suggested below.

Please, refrain from wearing any casual attire. Avoid dresses like jeans, shorts, tank tops, t-shirts, mini-skirts, flip flops, sneakers, etc. Your parents, family members, faculty officers, and administrators will attend the ceremony, and you don’t want to let them down with your choice of dress for this day.

Additionally, medicine is a pretty conservative field, so you should probably have a rethink if you were planning to whip out your sexiest cutout bandage dresses, irrespective of how fabulous they make you look.

Dress Tips to Consider

  • The hemlines of your dress should not be shorter than a few inches above your knees. On the other hand, your necklines should be high enough. People generally recommend that it doesn’t go beyond 2 inches below your clavicle.
  • The whole point of this ceremony is to put a white garment on top of your outfit, so there’s probably no point going extra to have an incredibly pretty outfit. Also, ensure that the part of your outfit that will peak outside your garment is flattering enough when the coat’s lapels get pulled together.
  • Most standard white coats are sewn to be unisex, so you’ll be comfortable in them irrespective of your gender. The sleeves are typically baggy and the shoulders wide.
  • Don’t forget to check the weather report before going to your ceremony. This will help you pick a dress that you’ll be comfortable in throughout the day.

How to Dress

Below, let’s review the different ways to dress to a white coat ceremony for men and women.

For Men: Dress Slacks & Button Down

Yes, we talked about dressing in professional attire, but that doesn’t mean you should wear a full suit, especially because you’ll probably wear the white coat on your attire. However, you still need to maintain a professional or business casual look. We recommend going for slim fit or tailored dress slacks. Pair this with a piece of a smart shirt, and you are good to go. It’s okay for the shirt to either be a button-down or a dress shirt.

You can get any color of shirt for this purpose, but white shirts are usually the best considering the clean, classic, and crisp feel that it gives. For the dress pants, dark colors are perfect for the occasion. It’s okay to wear black, but most people prefer grey, navy, or charcoal because of the life they bring to the white coat outfit. Get suitable footwear for this combination, and you are good to go.

For Women

Women can opt for any of the three white coat ceremony dress options reviewed below.


While picking a dress for this ceremony, women generally have to think about style, color, and comfortability. As explained earlier, the white coat itself is straight cut. Therefore, wearing an extra-voluminous dress under the coat may cause unfavorable bulges to the coat’s bottom. Our top three recommendations include fit dresses, flare dresses, and wrap dresses. All these options will create a flattering silhouette under your coat. For necklines, we recommend either a bateau neck or a round neck for this occasion.

Many people consider dark colors like baby, black, and charcoal to be very stylish. Nonetheless, you can decide to play with the colors a little. For instance, pastel colors like blush, peach, and petrol blue are generally beautiful under white coats. While choosing colors, just maintain caution, so you don’t go extremely loud! We usually advise students to avoid choosing a full-on white dress, considering the “samey” look that can be created when you throw a white coat over it.


It’s common to see women choosing pantsuits as more comfortable options for a white coat ceremony. If this is your choice, you’ll still need to be aware of some basic rules. Well-fitted pantsuits are a great idea, especially if they are slim fit. The bottom half can either be pants or a skirt. It’s often better to choose a pencil skirt, considering the flattering silhouette effect that it creates under your coat.

When considering color, many people go for dark colors like black, charcoal, or navy. But it’s also okay to throw some adventure into the color selection. Deep colors will generally look great against the stark white of the coat.

Chiffon Blouse & Choice Skirt/Pants

A third option that women can opt for as their white coat ceremony dress is pairing a blouse and a skirt or pants. While you can opt for several different types of blouses, we generally prefer chiffon because of the elegant feel it brings to the mix. It can be other short or long sleeves. You can even opt for a sleeveless, as long as you can play around with style. Bow tie neck collars are generally classy, so it’s not surprising that many people go for them.

While choosing your skirt, we recommend a matching pencil skirt. You can also match your chiffon top with a pair of slim-fitted pants. Depending on the color of your blouse, you can maintain a more subtle color for your skirt. The goal is for the colors of both pieces of dresses to match appropriately.

What Should Parents Wear to a White Coat Ceremony?

What Should Parents Wear to a White Coat Ceremony?

A few years ago, a complete suit would have been a perfect dress for a white coat ceremony. However, things have changed, and people hardly wear full suits these days unless they are going for a medical interview. Therefore, we’ll suggest that your parents probably drop their suits for this occasion. Instead, they can wear something that’s good enough for a Sunday brunch. For instance, a pair of khaki pants combined with a polo or a short-sleeve button-up will be good enough. After all, those short-sleeve button-ups tend to look better on the older generation than they do on young adults.

In their case, mothers can get a matching attire with their husband’s dress. Remember that irrespective of what a parent is wearing, they should target being comfortable for the one and half hours that the ceremony will hold. The weather should also play an important role in the decision of what a parent will wear.

If you want, you can look up pictures online. Many med schools publish photos from the ceremonies on their websites, so you can take a look to see examples of styles from parents in the pictures.

Wrapping Things Up: What to Wear to a White Coat Ceremony?

One of the most difficult decisions you’ll make while preparing for your white coat ceremony is what to wear. Unfortunately, there’s very limited information about this online, so most people struggle to pick the best white coat ceremony dresses that will fit them. To help, we’ve done the needed research and provided tips on what to wear and what to avoid.

Remember that the ceremony’s whole purpose is to wear a white coat for the first time on your way to becoming a medical professional. So, irrespective of what you choose, you’ll put a garment over it. Seeing that you’ll cover most of your dress, you don’t have to go out of your way to get what to wear. Just ensure that whatever is left to peek out underneath your white coat is both professional and flattering. Go over the article again to make your final decision on what to wear.

Looking for the best white coat ceremony gifts? Check out our post here or our post on the best med school graduation gifts here.

Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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