Colors of Graduation Regalia: Shades of Knowledge

Wondering about the different colors of graduation regalia? Usually, preschool, grade school, and high school are using these colorful academic dresses. Each color may represent something. The colors may vary from one school to another. They may have uniform colors on academic dresses, and they may also have a mixture of it.

In different schools, they are using varieties of colors like green, pink, blue, red, white, and yellow. However, the color black is only used for bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees. For more than 400 universities in United States, 125 of them use academic dress for their doctoral degree that created a variation on the code’s guidelines. Other universities provide their unique costumes to doctors and masters; some applied it to upper degrees and bachelors; however, others limited its use to doctoral degrees only.

Colors of graduation regalia protocol determine the uniqueness of academic dress for it separates from the standard of the code. Since the code requires color black for graduation robe regalia in bachelor’s level and upper levels and color grey for associate levels, many American schools adopted the colorful academic dresses. Hence, black is the only required color for the gowns, caps, and hood shells when the code is implemented in 1895.

Uniformity of the graduation regalia colors was challenged on the year of 1912. The mortarboards of university trustees and fellows adopted the brown seal. Thus, Yale started to use blue gowns for the graduation regalia of its masters and doctors degrees in 1938.

During 1950, the use of orange gowns for officers in Syracuse started; however, it didn't include the graduates. In 1954, the red gown was used by the Rochester president and black gowns with gold trim for the officers. On the following year, Harvard used crimson for the colors of graduation regalia of the Ph.D. degree holders.

In 1960, Ivy League universities such as Princeton University used a slightly different shape doctoral gown of the Code’s standard. Its sleeves are a little bit shorter than the usual and they are lined with color orange. Thus, the black gown was trimmed with orange. The Princeton University authorized such shape and permitted it until today. In 1963, the Columbia started to use the slate grey colors of graduation regalia on its graduates. However, they failed on their attempts to have colored gowns in 1948 and 1958. The Columbia gowns were designed by Jacques Barzun. Its design for the bachelor’s and master’s gown has a crown pair below the yoke which was embroidered onto a tab and the doctoral gown has direct embroidery of it on the velvet facing. In 1964, the doctoral gowns of Pennsylvania were red and its sleeves’ lower ends are blue.

Here are the five categories that show the deviation of doctoral gown design on the Code. The first one is the additional piping around the black velvet trim of the gown. Second, the velvet trim follows the University color while keeping black as the color of the gown. Third, the graduation regalia colors were changed into university color while keeping color black as the color of the trim. Fourth, both the colors of the academic dress and the velvet were changed. Lastly, the shape of the gown and its trim were changed like in Stony Brook and Stanford University.

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