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Caps & Gown History

Academic dress, consisting of cap, gown, and hood, originated about the twelfth century and was worn primarily for warmth. Subsequently, material of the gown and the lining and the shape of the hood represented the economic and social, as well as the academic, status of the wearer.


In the United States the great majority of the academic costumes now worn are in accordance with the general provisions of the Intercollegiate Code of 1895, which was revised in 1932 and again in 1960. This code regulated the design or pattern of the gowns and hood and the colors and fabrics to be used. All gowns were originally black; however the adoption of colored gowns by institutions in the United States is becoming more prevalent.

The bachelor’s gown, worn closed, is cut comfortably full and has pointed long sleeves. The master’s gown, which may be open or closed, has an oblong, open sleeve that drapes freely to the wrist and extends back, in the classic crescent shape, below the knee. The doctor’s gown are generally velvet and are either black or the color of the edging of the hood.

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The hoods, which differ in length for the three degrees, are lined with the official colors of the university/college conferring the degree, usually with one color forming a chevron pattern over the other. At the University of Illinois at Chicago the lining is flame and indigo. For PhD students, the trim of the hood is indigo. For other doctors students and for masters students, the velvet trim at the edge of the hood denotes your field of study. UIC graduating seniors do not wear hoods. Women may wear white collars with their bachelor’s gowns when no hood is worn. The bachelor hood is three feet in length; the master’s hood is three and a half feet and the doctoral hood is four feet long.

Traditionally, all degree candidates wear a black mortarboard cap. At the University of Illinois at Chicago, degree candidates wear a cap that is the same color as the gown. The school officers and member of the Board of Trustees wear six and eight corner doctoral tams. At the University of Illinois at Chicago, candidates for degrees wear tassels on the right front quadrant of their caps before the degrees are conferred and change them to the left front quadrants after the president confers their degrees.

Also, at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the gold, silver and bronze cords worn by some graduating seniors signify University Honors. Gold stoles identify graduates who are members of the Honors College.