What to Wear to White Coat Ceremony

What to Wear to White Coat Ceremony

The white coat ceremony is an important tradition in many medical schools. It marks the transition from a student’s preclinical to the clinical phase. In other words, from that moment on, they become members of the medical team. It’s a meaningful milestone for many medical students. So, it makes sense to do it in style!


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Bianca Villanueva


May 21, 2024

While your outfit may seem like a trivial concern in comparison to the complicated feelings you may have about this huge turning point, it doesn’t hurt to wear something special on an equally special occasion. This blog post will discuss the importance of the white coat, provide outfit ideas, and offer tips on what to avoid when dressing for your white coat ceremony. My goal is to help you find the perfect outfit that’s both stylish and professional, ensuring you look and feel your best during this important event.

The White Coat: Symbol of Professionalism and Expertise

Back in medical school, I would study so much that it would drive me crazy. To get by, I would tell myself that I would look amazing in a white coat. While it wasn’t my main way of coping, the coat meant something to me, and I know I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. In fact, it’s so important that there’s a whole ceremony for it! So, what’s so special about donning the white coat?

The white coat carries different meanings for each individual who wears it. For some, it’s a sign of professionalism, serving as a constant reminder of the high standard of care they must provide their patients. For others, it’s a symbol of power and authority. It tells people that you’re someone who is an expert in their field, and that you know what you’re doing.

During the white coat ceremony, the coat represents your hard work, dedication, and progress towards achieving your goals.

It’s a celebration of an important milestone that can only be reached through blood, sweat, and tears. Since you’ve come this far, you deserve to fully embrace this experience. One of the best ways to do that is by matching your white coat with the perfect outfit, and taking a heap of photos!

Choosing the Right Outfit for Your White Coat Ceremony

We all have our own tastes. While your institution has probably set a dress code, I’m sure many of you want to add your own style to the event. While the list may sound specific, you can tweak and add your own twists to your outfit. I knew some people who showed up to their white coat ceremony in things like full goth garb, and it looked great on them. You’re free to express your own style– within the confines of the proper attire. But what if you don’t know your own style yet? Here are a few ways to help you out:

Please Avoid…

While I said you’re free to style your own outfit, there are some things that simply aren’t fit for the occasion. While you may want to stand out, you definitely don’t want to stand out because you’ve underdressed or overdressed.

#1 Graphic T-Shirts

Plain T-shirts are fine as long as you can rock it with nice pants. However, shirts with words and picture prints on them are a no-go. These events are usually semi-formal or smart casual. So you’ll want to avoid looking too casual. Word and photo prints won’t be fully seen under the coat, anyway. So plain is the way to go if you plan to wear a shirt. If you do decide to push for graphic shirts, avoid anything tasteless and offensive. Remember that many pictures will be taken during the event, and whatever you wear may be seen in other peoples’ photos, too.

#2 Anything shorter than the coat itself

Many want to go for dresses. However, short dresses are also a no-go. You don’t want it to seem like you’re not wearing anything from the back. You also don’t want to wear shorts, because that’d be too casual. If you don’t know the length of the coat, you can always ask for the measurements from the tailor!

#3 Anything ripped or stained

One of the points of wearing a white coat is that it’s spotless. It’s clean to show patients that the wearer is sterile and hygienic, and therefore poses no risk to the patient. While some outfits are meant to be ripped and stained as part of the style, it’ll stand out under a clean coat.

#4 Showing too much skin

While some may not like it, the medical world is conservative. As such, you want to avoid showing too much skin during these events. So, dresses are ideally kept longer than knee-length, covering most of the body. Backless dresses or low necklines should generally be avoided. So if you’re planning to wear your hottest outfit, this isn’t the place to do it. This is a traditional ceremony that dates back to the 1980s, not a runway.

#5 Something uncomfortable

The white coating ceremony may be a long one, depending on your institution. Avoid wearing clothes that are too tight or generally uncomfortable. You wouldn’t want your outfit ruining a special day when you should be focused on celebrating. So if you plan to wear those high-heels that are uncomfortable but match your outfit, look for an alternative. An outfit is not perfect for you if it makes you uncomfortable.

#6 Wearing a white top/outfit

The coat is already white. It might be too much of the same color when you wear it with the coat. A white coat with white pants isn’t a bad idea. However, it will stand out, especially if the top you wear is also a light color. That’s why people usually go for darker colors during white coat ceremonies.

#7 Over-accessorizing

If you find your outfit too simple, accessorizing is a great solution. But remember that you can still look classy with minimal accessories. Too many bracelets and other accessories can come off as tacky. You don’t want several necklaces or rings to overshadow your own style or the white coat itself. Instead, wearing earrings, a simple necklace, and one or two rings should suffice for even plainest outfits.

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Source: Mike Von

Outfit Ideas for the White Coat Ceremony

Now that you know what to avoid, it’s time to finalize your outfit. Below are some common outfits and tips to make the most of them. If at this point you’re still wondering about what you should wear, these should apply to most white coat ceremonies:

#1: Dress

Dresses are a classic choice: cocktail, sheath, A-line, bodycon, and flare dresses are good options for your coating ceremony. Try to avoid gown, bouffant, bubble dresses, or anything that might lump under the coat.

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Source: Alexander Kovacs 

As for necklines, collared, cowl, bateau, jewel, high neck, and even strapless dresses can work well, because the coat will be placed over it. However, avoid things like plunging necklines to preserve the conservative nature of the event. Avoid asymmetrical necklines as well since they won’t be appreciated as much once the coat is on. Finally, you can pick out colors. Dim, neutral tones like black or navy blue are sleek choices and will stand out against the white coat, if that’s what you want. You should consider jewel tones or pastel colors if you want to play around with a more broad palette.

#2: Blouse

For the blouse, the colors should follow the same as the dresses. The ideal colors are neutral or jewel tones that go with the stark white coat. As for the type of blouse, the neckline can follow the same rules as the dresses, too. So all that’s left is the type of blouse. Ideally, you should choose simple designs like polo, chiffon, collared, or shirt blouses. Avoid blouses and other tops where the design is too frilly or backless. It’ll end up covered by the coat, anyway. Also, avoid thick, ruffled long-sleeve blouses. You don’t want it to get scrunched up under the sleeves. Floral prints are fine for blouses and dresses– just don’t go overboard. Remember that simple is classy.

#3: Pant suit

If you’d rather wear pants, a pantsuit is a good choice. Ideally, this should be a thin fit with a dark, neutral color. Just remember to remove your coat or blazer before you don the white coat!

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Source: Amy Hirschi

#4: Pencil skirt

A pencil skirt is also a good pick. It’s simple, conservative, and it looks sleek. It also doesn’t scrunch up under the coat. The only thing to worry about is the length and print. Ideally, your pencil skirt should use plain colors to complement the plain white coat. The skirt itself should reach past the mid-thigh which is the usual length of the white coat. Again, you wouldn’t want to look like you’re not wearing anything at the back.

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Source: Antony Trivet

#5: Collared shirts with matching neck/bow tie

You’ll find most men showing up in something like polos and collared shirts. Again, avoid making your top white because it’ll blend in with the coat– and not in a good way. Instead, go for neutral colors or pastel. Patterned tops with simple designs like dots and plaid are acceptable, but you can never go wrong with plain colors.

You can choose to wear a necktie, bow tie, or neither of the two. It all comes down to what works for you. In choosing a color to match your top, you’ll want to match dark with light. In other words, choose a tie of a darker color than your shirt. If you want a print on your tie, I would suggest you wear a plain shirt or vice versa.

A Final Word

Picking out the perfect outfit sounds stressful, but remember the core of the event is you. We’re celebrating you and everything you’ve achieved to get to this point. No mismatched clothing or wardrobe malfunction can take that away from you. You’ll be stuck with the white coat for the rest of your career from here on out. So you’ll have many opportunities to retake photos of yourself in your coat. Hopefully, with this article, you don’t think too hard about what to wear and you’ll focus on being able to enjoy yourself. You deserve it.

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