Today I present you the least flattering item in my closet. Nevertheless, I wear it every year for about five hours when attending commencement. Here are the reasons why: These regalia reflect a homage to the more than 700 years of academic traditions. This year I even were given the honor to serve as the student marshal meaning the faculty member who has to lead the students to their assigned rows for seating.

fashion over 40 woman in doctoral gown
Front view of doctoral gown

In the photo above, I am wearing my regalia. The three blue stripes indicate that I have a PhD. Doctoral gowns also have these bell-shaped sleeves. Master gowns have no stripes on the sleeves and the sleeves are oblong with an arc cut away in the front. Certificate, associate, and bachelor degree recipients wear gowns with long pointy sleeves. What a difference a gown makes!

fashionover40 woman in regalia
Regalia worn with Collier de Chien belt and studded heels

Hoods indicate a higher degree than a bachelor

The hood indicates that the wear went beyond the bachelor to a higher academic degree. Typically, the hood is black with the exposed inside displaying the colors of the school where the wearer was awarded the PhD in case of a doctoral gown or masters in case of a masters gown. My hood is not black on the outside as I did not want to ear two hoods. I have two doctoral degrees, one in geophysics and one in meteorology. The color of the outside of my hood represents the silver gray of the University of Leipzig. The colors of the inside of my hood represent the colors of the University of Cologne. These universities were founded in 1409 and 1388, respectively, and are among the oldest universities in Europe.

Stripes on the hoods indicate the broad discipline

The small yellow stripe on my hood indicates the discipline of my master degree. Each discipline has their own color: Arts is white, business administration is drab, education is baby blue, engineering is orange, fine arts is brown, and sciences is yellow.

styleover40 side view of woman in regalia
Side view of regalia

Hats with golden tassels indicate a doctoral degree

I am wearing a black velvet tam with a golden tassel. These tams are ordinarily worn by faculty members with doctoral degrees. Faculty members with a masters degree either wear mortarboards or velvet tams with a black tassel. Graduates wear mortarboards. Typically the tassel is black. However, in institution, the students wear tassels in the color of their discipline.

fashion over 40 woman in regalia
Back view of regalia to show off the hood and the sleeve stripes

Cords indicate honors, service or heritage

Baccalaureate degree candidates graduating with honors (GPA greater or equal to 3.5) wear a gold honor cord. Alaska Natives and American Native students celebrate their heritage and academic achievements by wearing a red sash, Some of them wear their traditional clothing instead of the graduation gown. African Americans celebrate their heritage and academic achievements by wearing a colorful sash. Long blue-trimmed and striped gold sashes indicate graduating honor thesis scholars and a single blue and gold honor cord. They must have earned 12 honors credits at least University honor scholars must have earned 27 honors credits to wear the same sash, but a double blue and gold honor cord. Various student honor societies indicate their members by their individual sashes.

academic outfit at commencement
Front view of doctoral gown to illustrate the huge volume of the bell sleeves

When you have further questions on decoding regalia, please do not hesitate to contact me by email.

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Photos: G. Kramm

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