We’re officially in graduation month, which for Manchester’s 30,000-odd students means one thing: the end is in sight.
After three years of gruelling deadlines and late-night cramming sessions, it’s time to don your finest garms and get all scrubbed up ready to make your parents beam with pride. After all, your degree might be yours to keep but, make no mistake, the graduation ceremony is all about pleasing mum and dad.
A special occasion calls for a special outfit, not to mention a bit of preening. Whether you’re looking for a flash suit to hire, a hair and make-up do-over, or that perfect graduation dress, The Royal Exchange Manchester has it all.
With photos from the day guaranteed to take pride of place on your parents’ walls for the foreseeable future, you don’t want to be risking any makeup mishaps or wardrobe malfunctions.
Fortunately, the heart of luxury shopping even has a seamstress boutique where you can have alterations made to guarantee that picture-perfect fit on the day.
Where to get suited and booted
If it’s a crisp, well-fitting suit you’re after, you’re in safe hands at The Royal Exchange.
Resident tailor Phil at Lanigan and Hulme is a boss with a needle and thread and can whip you up a made-to-measure two or three piece with finesse. An added delight when visiting his shop are his cheeky English Bulldogs, Babs and Bertie, who can often be found sitting in the door ready to give you a warm and friendly welcome.
If bespoke tailoring sounds a little bit pricey for you, there’s also Moss Bros facing out on to St Ann’s Square. After all, you can still feel snazzy in off-the-rack. They’ve got some great sale prices on graduation suits, and for those on a budget there are some fantastic hire options.
Where to find the perfect graduation dress and shoes
Just down from Moss Bros you’ll find a host of gorgeous dresses just crying out to be tried on in French Connection. Stylish, light and summery, opt for a pop of colour to help you stand out in a sea of matching caps and gowns.
On the shoe front, head to Irregular Choice and make a statement with some of their amazingly funky footwear. Known for their wild and out-there designs, no one will be able to accuse of you looking boring in a pair of these.
Where to raise a glass
Your graduation meal is just as important as the ceremony, if not more so. Once all the pomp and circumstance is over (and your hands are sore from clapping for everyone in your graduating class), it’s time to find respite in the form of a lovely meal and a big glass of fizz.
When it comes to dining out, The Royal Exchange has a few strong contenders.
Plant-powered foodies Vertigo on Cross Street offer relaxed vegan dining in a casual setting, whilst the 3Squared ‘free-from’ café in the Arcade is great if you’ve got some family members with specific dietaries in your party. Everything on their menu is gluten, dairy, wheat, soy, peanut and refined sugar free – not to mention, good for you.
Traditional Manchester eatery Annies has a great deal on for new graduates, offering 25% off food and a free bottle of fizz to any tables of eight guests or more.
Or, there’s TGI Fridays. Perfect for food, fun and families with a fantastic range of cocktails and non-alcoholic cocktails to boot, if you don’t want to take it too seriously then this is the perfect spot.
Where to find the perfect gift
If it’s a graduation gift you’re looking for, The Royal Exchange has you spoilt for choice. Luxury chocolatiers Hotel Chocolat have pulled out all the stops with a gorgeous range of gifts perfect for saying congratulations. From a grand slab of rocky road to cocoa gin and even beer, there are plenty of quirky presents to be found in the Market St store.
Meanwhile, over in The Whisky Shop you can pick up a wide range of rare blends and single malts from around the world to congratulate your newly distinguished graduate.
Last but not least, there are plenty of gorgeous jewellers to choose from, each offering something a little bit different to the next. How about telling them how proud you are with a beautiful Swarovski Crystalline Stardust pen?
Whether you’re looking for something traditional, contemporary or bespoke, you won’t be disappointed.