Academic Dress

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The Washington University Commencement Gown

Degree candidates from Washington University in St. Louis wear a distinctive Commencement gown. The gown is green with black velvet trim and has an embroidered university shield on both sleeves at the shoulder.

Wrighton in academic dress for CommencementFor graduate students and faculty, black velvet tams replace the traditional mortarboard. In May 2003, the redesigned Commencement cap & gown debuted to rave reviews from the university community when Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton, Grand Marshal Edward N. Wilson and the Board of Trustees donned the new attire.


Code of Academic Dress

The academic dress worn by faculty and degree candidates originates in the clerical robes worn by students and teachers at the earliest medieval universities. American colleges and universities adopted a code of academic dress based on these robes in 1895 that included regulating the cut and style of the gowns and prescribing colors to represent the different fields of learning. The code, which has since been updated and revised, is recommended for use by U.S. colleges and universities.

The design of caps and gowns is determined by:

Level of degree earned

This is reflected in the design of the gown – how full it is, whether or not it has trim on the sleeves, and the design of the sleeves.

Bachelor’s
The gown for the bachelor’s degree, designed to be worn open or closed, has pointed sleeves.

Master’s
The gown for the master’s degree, which can be worn open or closed, has an oblong sleeve.

Doctorate
The doctoral degree gown can be worn open or closed and has bell-shaped sleeves with three bars of velvet.

Institution granting the degree

The institution is reflected in the hoods for advanced degrees. The backs of the hoods are lined with silk that shows the colors of the institution granting the degree, or the institution with which the wearer is connected. Washington University in St. Louis’ hood is lined with red and green, the school’s official colors. The color of the tassel on the cap and of the velvet edging of the hood, carried forward around the throat, indicates the division of the university: white for bachelors and masters and dark blue for doctors of Arts & Sciences, brown for Art, silver beige for Business, orange for Engineering, blue-violet for Architecture, purple for Law, citron for Social Work, golden yellow for University College and green for Medicine.