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The Academic Costume Code

The custom of wearing academic dress stems from the Middle Ages when scholars were also clerics and wore the costumes of their monastic orders. Significant parts of academic dress are the gown, the hood, and the cap. Each has a particular significance and is worn in accordance with standards established by the Academic Costume Code of the American Council on Education.

Gowns

Gowns recommended for use in the colleges and universities of this country have the following characteristics. The gown for the bachelor’s degree has pointed sleeves, and is designed to be worn closed. The gown for the master’s degree has an oblong sleeve, open at the wrist. The sleeve base hangs down in the traditional manner. The rear part of its oblong shape is square cut, and the front part has an arc cut away. The gown is supplied with fasteners so that it may be worn open or closed. The gown for the doctor’s degree has bell-shaped sleeves. It is supplied with fasteners so that it may be worn open or closed.

Material. Cotton poplin or similar material for the bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and rayon or silk ribbed material for the doctor’s degree.

Color. Black is recommended.

Trimmings. None for the bachelor’s or master’s degrees. For the doctor’s degree, the gown is faced down the front with black velvet and three bars of black velvet are sewn across the sleeves. These facings and crossbars may be velvet of the color distinctive of the subject to which the degree pertains.

For all academic purposes, including trimmings of doctors’ gowns, edging of hoods, and tassels of caps, the colors associated with the different subjects are as follows:

Agriculture Maize
Arts, Letters, Humanities White
Commerce, Accountancy, Business Drab*
Dentistry Lilac
Economics Copper
Education Light Blue
Engineering Orange
Fine Arts, including Architecture Brown
Forestry Russet
Journalism Crimson
Law Purple
Library Science Lemon
Medicine Green
Music Pink
Nursing Apricot
Oratory (Speech) Silver Gray
Pharmacy Olive Green
Philosophy Dark Blue
Physical Education Sage Green
Public Administration, including Foreign Service Peacock Blue
Public Health Salmon Pink
Science Golden Yellow
Social Work Citron
Theology Scarlet
Veterinary Science Gray

*Sapphire blue as alternate. Not recommended because of the likely confusion with blues previously assigned to other subjects.

Caps

Caps recommended for use in the colleges and universities of this country have the following characteristics.

Material. Cotton poplin, broadcloth, rayon, or silk, to match gown, or, for the doctor’s degree only, velvet.

Color. Black.

Form. Motarboards are generally recommended, although soft square-topped caps are permissible for women.

Tassel. A long tassel is fastened to the middle point of the top of the cap. Black or the color appropriate to the subject is worn, except that the doctor’s cap may have its tassel of gold thread.

Hoods

Hoods recommended for use in the colleges and universities of this country have the following characteristics. The length of the hood worn for the bachelor’s degree is three feet, for the master’s degree, three and one-half feet, and for the doctor’s degree, four feet. The hood worn for the doctor’s degree shall have panels at the sides. Hoods are lined with the official color or colors of the college or university conferring the degree; more than one color is shown by division of the field color in a variety of ways, such as chevron or chevrons, equal division, etc.

Material. The same as that of the gown in all cases.

Color. Black in all cases.

Trimmings. The binding or edging of the hood is velvet or velveteen, two inches, three inches, and five inches in width for the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctor’s degrees, respectively; while the color should be indicative of the subject to which the degree pertains. For example, the trimming for the degree of Master of Science in Agriculture should be maize, representing agriculture, rather than golden yellow, representing science. No academic hood should ever have its border divided to represent more than a single degree.

Some Permissible Exceptions

  • Members of the governing body of a college or university are entitled to wear doctor’s gowns (with black velvet), but their hoods may be only those of degrees actually held by the wearers or those especially prescribed for them by the institution.
  • In some colleges and universities, it is customary for the president, chancellor, or chief officer to wear a costume similar to that used by the head of a foreign university. This practice should be strictly limited.
  • The chief marshal may wear a specially designed costume approved by his or her institution.
  • It is customary in many large institutions for the hood to be dispensed with by those receiving bachelor’s degrees.
  • Persons who hold degrees from foreign universities may wear the entire appropriate academic costume, including cap, gown, and hood.
  • Members of religious orders and similar societies may suitably wear their customary habits. The same principle applies to persons wearing military uniforms or clad in special attire required by a civil office.
  • It is recommended that collegiate institutions that award degrees, diplomas, or certificates below the baccalaureate level use caps and gowns of a light color, e.g. light blue for teacher-training and light gray for other types of institutions.