Academic Regalia: Gowns and Hoods
Academic regalia came from the monks' robes of the middle ages; in Renaissance Europe, the great universities were monastic foundations, and the teachers and students wore these robes at all times. Originally, all robes were black, like the Benedictine habit, and the hoods were worn over the head for warmth. By the 18th century, the hood was left hanging down the back and a wide Tudor bonnet or sometimes only its stiff inner part, the "mortarboard," was worn on the head. By the end of the 19th century, American colleges had adopted the colors and styles that identify degrees, fields, and institutions.
Gowns: Bachelors' gowns have simple wide sleeves, masters' gowns have narrower sleeves and slits at the elbow for the arm to come out, and doctors' gowns have large bell-shaped sleeves with three velvet chevrons. Over the last 50 years, many universities, especially the best known ones, have adopted doctoral gowns that are not black but one of the university colors.
Hoods: Bachelors' hoods are short, pointed and narrow, masters' wider, and doctors' hoods almost square and quite long. The silk lining of every hood has colors representing the college granting the degree; these are usually simply the school colors arranged in a V-shaped chevron. Mary Baldwin's colors are gold and silver (yellow and white silk), and only Mary Baldwin College may use this color combination.
The velvet facing band of the hood is a color representing the subject of the degree. Arts, letters and humanities are represented by white, the color that contains all other colors, so this is the facing for a liberal arts college's main undergraduate degrees, the B.A. and the B.S. Graduate degrees may use a variety of other colors, though a degree in letters (M.Litt. or the honorary D.Litt.) still use white. Most of the Mary Baldwin College faculty holds Ph.D.'s, typically the highest degree granted by American universities, and regardless of the area of concentration, these normally have dark blue facings - reflecting the old terminology in which philosophy meant all knowledge (science was "natural philosophy") rather than one special field. (A few Ph.D. programs with a strong humanities emphasis do use white facings.) Doctors of education (Ed.D.) have light blue facings, and masters of fine arts (M.F.A.) have brown (fawn-colored) facings. Doctors of music have pink facings, and doctors of theology bright red.
Conspicuous gown colors at the inauguration of President Pamela Fox include
Harvard - crimson, a slightly purplish red
Yale - medium blue
Columbia - slate gray
University of Cincinnati - bright red
University of Leeds - olive
Oxford - scarlet with slate blue band
Johns Hopkins - gold
Information provided by
Lundy H. Pentz, associate college marshal