Context (Period Sources, Event Photos)
* Steele ed. 2005 v1 p1-2 (Joanne McCallum, "Academic dress" p1-2)
"Academic Dress is the formal attire worn by students and officials at a commencement or graduation ceremony. The most common styles emulate the everyday clothing worn by scholars at the first universities in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Typically, this included a flowing gown, a hood or a cape, and some sort of head wear; the contemporary form of this ensemble depends on the rules dictated by the institution with which the student or official is associated.
[...] "Most contemporary graduates wear a variation of the Oxford or Cambridge bachelor of arts gown. The Cambridge gown is knee-length, 'princes stuff' and has pointed, open sleeves: the seam on the forearm is unsewn to the cuff, allowing a generous hole for the arm to pass to through. The hood is partly lined with white fur or silk that is colored to denote the degree of the wearer. The sleeveless Oxford 'commoners' gown sits a little below the knee and is expected to be worn with lay clothes that conform to a strict code. The lining of the hood is again appropriate to status. ...
"In the United States most universities accept the Inter-Collegiate Code (1895) of academic dress, a variation on the Cambridge style, but with an extensive system of color coding that denotes both the degree and the university. In many other countries students do not wear any academic dress: in Germany, it is seen as a sign of respect for the teachings of Martin Luther; in the former Soviet Union, students receive medallions; in Finland, doctors don swords for their commencement. And in many more countries, adaptations have been made to the English model, with Native Americans adding traditional jewelry and head wear, New Zealand Maoris wearing feathered capes, and Australian Aborigines adopting red, yellow, and black capes. Certainly, the fact that academic dress pays homage to establishment and tradition makes it the perfect dress for subversion."
* Yarwood 1978 p9-10
"Modern academical dress consists of a gown, a hood and a cap or hat. The gown is basically of the design which was fashionable in the early sixteenth century and is chiefly based on the Spanish and Italian modes of the time. It is calf-length and worn open at the front, the edges being turned back and sometimes faced with a different colour and material, according to the university concerned. There is no collar but the fabric is gathered into a yoke at the back which derives from the original square collar. Depending on cost, the gown is made from rayon or corded silk and is black, except for the Doctors' full dress, which is usually scarlet, though in some universities it is purple, maroon, claret or crimson (at Cambridge it is black). The custom of the wearing of brilliant colours by recipients of higher degrees dates from the sixteenth century. The undergraduate gown is a shortened version of the graduate one.
"Sleeve styles vary greatly but all derive from the early sixteenth century. In general, Bachelors' gowns have some form of open sleeve which is very wide and hangs down nearly to the hem of the gown. The closed or glove sleeve is more usual for Masters' gowns; this is the design which was fashionable in England in the reign of Henry VII, where there is a slit in the front of the sleeve at the elbow level and the arm is passed through, leaving the tube of material to hang down behind the arm. In Doctors' gowns the full, bell sleeve is the more usual.
"There are two principal designs of hood, the full shape and the simple shape. In the former style, as worn at Cambridge and London, for example, there remains a vestige of all three parts of a medieval hood and, though the hood is never worn on the head but hangs in elongated, stylized form down the back, these can all be discerned: the shoulder cape, the cowl or head portion, and the truncated end of the liripipe. In the simple shape, as worn at Oxford, for instance, the hood has remains of only the cowl and the liripipe. It is in the colours and materials of the linings and edgings to these hoods that the degree and university are designated, and in the universities of the world there is a wealth of variety, from coloured silk to fur, as academic dress is worn in many countries; notable European exceptions are the Soviet Union and Scandinavia.
"The most general head-covering today is the mortar-board, trencher or catercap. This has a stiffened round cap or headpiece with a square board on top to which a tassel is attached. This unusual head-covering derives from a square form of pileus, which was adopted by the University of Paris in the early sixteenth century (before this, the round pileus or the stiff biretta were worn). Known in Latin as the pileus quadratus and in French as the bonnet carré, the fashion soon spread in Europe. Its early form was a soft, flat, square cap worn on top of a skull cap. In the seventeenth century the two parts became attached to one another and the flat, square part was stiffened into a board to prevent the corners flopping over the face. By 1665 the centre tump had appeared and a tassel was attached to this in the eighteenth century.
"The Doctors' bonnet is a sixteenth century Tudor style introduced at the Reformation. It has a small, stiffened, oval brim and a soft velvet crown with a band of cord or ribbon. Some universities in Britain adopt different headgear, as at Oxford example, where there is a ladies' cap, and at Sussex, where the pileus is worn by Doctors."