What To Wear To Your White Coat Ceremony [Guide for Men & Women]

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One of the most difficult decisions you’ll ever make is what to wear to a white coat ceremony. It’s a special and memorable occasion that highlights the start of your future career in medicine or healthcare. Here we break down some of the options you have, along with our top picks.

For more med school tips, start here.

What Is A White Coat Ceremony?

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Established by the Gold Foundation, the first-ever white coat ceremony took place back in 1993 at Columbia University. The relatively new tradition, which started just at medical schools, has now spread into the nursing, veterinary, pharmacy, dental and physician world, where it has become an iconic rite of passage for all students.  

During the medical student white coat ceremony ritual, first-year students don a white coat and recite an oath that acknowledges their obligation of care, signifying their entrance into the profession. The idea behind the concept is that the ceremony is a way of placing an important emphasis on compassion and scientific excellence from day one of a student’s training. 

General Tips for What to Wear to a White Coat Ceremony

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The world of medicine is pretty conservative, so while you’ll want to dress to impress under that iconic medical student white coat, it’s important to keep it classy. Most schools will stipulate a ‘business casual’ white coat ceremony dress code, which tends to lie between nice-casual and business formal. It’s always worth airing on the smarter side if you’re unsure though! And remember, it’s important that you feel comfortable and confident in your white coat outfit. This is an occasion you’ll look back on in years to come. 

When we say the white coat ceremony dress code needs to be kept classy, this means hemlines no shorter than a few inches above the knee. The white coat itself will fall somewhere around your mid to upper thigh – you don’t want it to look like you’re wearing nothing underneath the coat.

And while it’s fun to glam up your outfit, keep accessories minimal. 

Men, keeping it business casual for your white coat outfit doesn’t mean whipping out that full suit. Think more dress slacks and button-down shirts. Make sure that you’re presentable and professional though, as you still want to impress. Avoid anything sloppy, unclean or baggy – you need to keep it as classy as those girls! 

Related: The Ultimate Doctor Salary Guide – Updated for 30 Specialties

Option 1 for Women: Dress

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When looking at dresses for the white coat ceremony, you need to think about style, cut and color. The white coat itself is straight cut, so anything extra-voluminous will either get squashed or add unfavorable bulges to the bottom of the coat. Our top 3 picks are sheath dresses, wrap dresses or fit and flare dresses, as these will give a flattering silhouette under the coat.

While dark colors like black, navy and charcoal are stylish choices, you can afford to be playful with the color of white coat ceremony dresses. Pastel colors like peach, blush or petrol blue work well against the white coat, as do floral prints. Just be careful, however, not to go too loud.

It’s best to avoid a full-on white dress, as white on white will look too ‘samey’ when you throw on that coat. Subtle white within a pattern, however, would complement your outfit.

Our Top 3 Picks:

Option 2 for Women: Pantsuit

For some women, a pantsuit is a more comfortable white coat ceremony outfit choice. When selecting the pantsuit, something well-fitted would work well, preferably a slim fit. For the bottom half you have the choice of either a skirt or pants.

We recommend a pencil skirt, as this will give you a flattering silhouette style under the coat.

Color-wise, like with the dresses, classic black, navy or charcoal will look stylish. However, you could be a bit adventurous with the color. We like the deep forest color of Le Suit’s lapel pantsuit as it’s a little unique but would look great against the stark white of the coat.

Our Top 3 Picks:

Related: Our 9 Favorite Backpacks for Medical School

Option 3 for Women: Chiffon Blouse & Preferred Skirt/Pants

Another doctor white coat ceremony dress code option for women is a blouse paired with either a skirt or pants. For the blouse, our top pick is chiffon as it has an elegant feel to it. We recommend either long or short sleeves, or sleeveless, but perhaps play around with the style and neckline. We like a bow tie neck collar as this can look classy, or a self-tie waist as this adds some flair to the white coat outfit. 

Either a pencil skirt or slim fitted pants will match up well with a chiffon blouse. If you choose to add some color to the blouse (we’ve chosen a couple of pinks), keep the skirt or pants a more subtle color, like charcoal or black. Alternatively, you could go for a white blouse, and then play around with the color of the bottom half. 

Our Top 3 Picks:

Related: Dating in Med School: What to Expect & How to Make it Work

Men: Dress Slacks & Button Down

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The doctor white coat ceremony dress code for men doesn’t imply you should wear a full suit. However, you do need to make sure you keep your look business casual and professional. We recommend either tailored or slim fit dress slacks, as these look semi-formal, paired with a smart shirt. The shirt can either be a dress shirt or button-down. 

When thinking about colors, we recommend keeping the shirt white as this gives off a classic, clean and crisp feel. For the dress pants, keeping the color dark is best. Feel free to wear black, but navy, grey or charcoal may bring a bit of life to your white coat outfit. Lastly, you need to make sure to wear suitable footwear. Our top pick is Clarks Tilden caps in dark tan leather. Smart yet stylish. 

Our Top 3 Picks:

Conclusion

The entire purpose of the ceremony is to wear your white coat for the very first time, so whatever you end up choosing as your white coat outfit, you will be putting another garment on top of it. 

Saying this, the white coat will only cover most of what you’re wearing, so make sure whatever is peeking out underneath is both flattering and professional, and in keeping with the stipulated business casual white coat ceremony dress code. Remember, you’re setting a standard for the rest of your medical career.

Don’t forget to celebrate your friends with these white coat ceremony gifts.

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