Notes on Academic Dress
Academic dress had its origin in the Middle Ages. When the European universities were taking form in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, scholars were also clerics, and they adopted robes similar to those of their monastic orders. Caps were a necessity in drafty buildings, and copes or capes with hoods attached were needed for warmth. As the control of universities gradually passed from the church, academic costume began to take on brighter hues and to employ varied patterns in cut and color of gown and type of headdress.
The use of academic costume in the United States has been continuous since Colonial times, but a clear protocol did not emerge until an intercollegiate commission in 1893 recommended a uniform code. In this country, the design of a gown varies with the degree held. The bachelor’s gown is relatively simple with long pointed sleeves as its distinguishing mark. The gown for the master’s degree has an oblong sleeve with the rear part cut square and the front part with a cutaway arc. The most elaborate academic costume is the doctoral gown with velvet panels down the front and three bars of the same material across the sleeves. The velvet is usually black, but it may be a color designating the field of study to which the degree pertains. The gown itself, usually black like those of the lower degrees, may be of a color distinctive of a particular university.
The hood bears a still larger symbolic burden: the width of its velvet trimming designates the level of the degree; the color heralds the major field of study; and the lining identifies the institution that granted the degree. Duke University is symbolized by a lining of Duke blue with a white chevron.
The cap, originally round, is usually a square mortarboard and is the same for all degrees. The standard tassel for the cap is black, but the cap worn with the doctoral robe may have a gold tassel.
The Duke doctoral gown is in the authentic Duke blue. The Duke University shield, embroidered in blue on white, is applied to each front panel. With this gown there may be worn a black velvet, four-pointed, soft tam with a square top and a gold metallic bullion tassel.
Significance of Colors
Colors indicating fields of study and colors identifying some of the universities represented by members of the faculties of the University are:
Arts, Letters, Humanities—white
California—royal blue and gold
Columbia—Columbia blue and white
Cornell—Carnelian (red) and white
Duke—Duke blue and white
Johns Hopkins—black and old gold
Massachusetts—maroon and white
McGill—glaze red and kelly green
Michigan—gold and azure blue
M.I.T.—cardinal red and silver gray
North Carolina—light blue and white
Northwestern—purple and white
Oxford—royal blue and red
Pennsylvania—red and navy blue
Princeton—orange and black
Texas A&M—maroon and white
Virginia—navy blue and orange