Gowns Caps And Rings

Graduations are ceremonies that acknowledge and honor students who have just completed a program of study. While the particular form of the graduation depends on the institution holding the celebration, most graduations are marked by graduates wearing caps and gowns walking across a stage to receive their diplomas.

Along with caps and gowns, graduates can also buy a class ring inscribed with the year of their graduation to commemorate their experiences at the particular academic institution. Keep reading to learn more about the garb and accessories associated with graduations in the United States.

Graduation Gowns

In the United States, the graduation gown is loosely based on the traditional robe worn by scholars in the older English universities. In fact, these graduation gowns have their roots in the garb worn by scholars and the clergy in medieval times.

Graduation gowns are typically solid black. Gowns worn by undergraduate and master”s degree candidates are untrimmed. Gowns worn by doctorate candidates have velvet trimmings in black or the color of their field of study. While the hood lining reflects the official colors of the institution granting the degree, the trim on the hood represents the field of study.

Although your particular school may have its own standards, here is a general outline illustrating the colors that correlate with various subjects of study:

School Color
Agriculture Maize
Arts, Letters, Humanities White
Commerce, Accounting, Business Drab
Dentistry Lilac
Economics Copper
Education Light Blue
Engineering Orange
Fine Arts, including Architecture Brown
Forestry Russet
Journalism Crimson
Law Purple
Library Science Lemon
Medicine Green
Music Pink
Nursing Apricot
Oratory (Speech) Silver Gray
Pharmacy Olive Green
Philosophy Dark Blue
Physical Education Sage Green
Public Administration Peacock Blue
Public Health Salmon Pink
Science Golden Yellow
Social Work Citron
Theology Scarlet
Veterinary Science Gray

*Information acquired from the American Council on Education

In addition to the colors, the style of the graduation gown varies among the different levels of degrees:

  • The Bachelor”s gown had pointed sleeves and is hoodless or has a hood measuring three feet. The edging is two inches wide.
  • The Master”s gown has oblong closed sleeves opened only at the wrist and a narrow hood.
  • The Post Graduate/Doctorate gown has bell-shaped sleeves and a wide draped hood measuring four feet. The edging is five inches wide. Only the doctoral hood has side panels.

The Graduation Cap

For all degrees, the graduation cap is black and made of a material to match the gown: cotton, broadcloth, rayon or silk. Only someone receiving a doctorate degree may wear a graduation cap made of velvet.

The traditional style for graduation caps is the mortarboard, a skullcap topped by a horizontal, square board. A tassel is attached to the center of the mortarboard. The tassel should be black or representative of the field of study. The doctor”s cap may have a gold tassel.

Formality and tradition dictates that women are to wear their graduation caps at all times during the ceremony. Alternately, men may remove their hats during the national anthem, alma mater or prayer. Keep in mind that these are merely etiquette guidelines that arent strictly followed at all institutions.

Placing the Tassel

Undergraduates start off the ceremony with the tassel placed on the right front side of the graduation cap. Once they receive their degrees, the tassel is moved to the left side of the cap. People graduating with a Master”s or Doctorate start with the tassel on the left side of the mortarboard.

Where to Get Your Cap and Gown

If you are nearing your graduation, youll have to be fitted for a cap and gown prior to the ceremony. Most schools have contracts with specific companies that handle the distribution of their graduation rentals. Typically, these companies offer a series of package options that include gown rentals, the purchase of a cap and a set number of announcements and invitations.

Packages tend to start at $50 (for just the cap and gown) and can cost as much as $200 (for options that include the cap, gown, announcements, invitations and thank you note). Some of the more expensive package options also include the graduation class rings. These generally start at about $500 and increase in price based on the features you choose to include on your class ring.

The Graduation Ring

Originally worn only by West Point Academy graduates, over time, graduation rings have become popular with high school and college graduates alike. They are representative of the graduates pride in their academic institution and their individual experiences at the school.

In comparison to the simple graduation rings of the 1800s and early 1900s, today”s rings are elaborate affairs with engravings indicating the graduate”s year of graduation, the school symbol or mascot and other symbols meaningful to the graduate.

These other symbols that each graduate can customize are engravings that represent the students individual interests, such as sports, clubs or associations in which he or she participated. The ring also typically displays the graduate”s birthstone on the crown, which may be accented by smaller stones.

While some graduates wear their rings on the fourth finger of the right hand, others wear their ring on a chain around their neck.

Some companies that make custom graduation rings include:

  • Balfour
  • Herff Jones
  • Jostens
  • Keystone
  • Zales.

In general, class rings start at $200 to $300, a cost that goes up as a graduate chooses to add extra gems and engravings to the ring.