Academic regalia are the traditional dress for degree candidates participating in the college, commencement ceremony.
The academic dress worn by graduates during Commencement dates back to the Middle Ages when flowing gowns kept scholars warm in cold and drafty buildings. Modern graduates traditionally also wear a cap (in medieval times, an emblem of intellectual independence) to complete the ceremonial ensemble. Elements of the regalia are different depending upon the level of the degree being awarded. Most are based on the American Council on Education’s Academic Costume Code and are standardized across the nation.
Doctoral Degree Candidates
The most elaborate regalia on display at Commencement are worn by those receiving a doctoral degree. A doctor's gown is a much fuller gown and is decorated with velvet lapels and three chevrons sewn onto the sleeves of the gown that designate the recipient as a “doctor.” In place of the mortarboard, doctoral students wear a tam, a velvet hat with a gold tassel attached that is much less rigid in construction.
Doctoral regalia are unique in the sense that it is often worn many times following the degree recipient's own graduation, especially for those who pursue careers in academia. It distinguishes the faculty member as a graduate of a specific institution.
Master's Degree Candidates
Master’s degree students wear a modified gown with longer sleeves, the mortarboard with a color appropriate tassel, and a hood.
Bachelor’s and Associate’s Degree Candidates
For those earning a bachelor’s or Associates’s degree, a black gown and mortarboard are worn.