Academic Attire for Commencement

News subtitle

The handsome gowns and hoods worn by members of Dartmouth’s faculties, the board of trustees, and other functionaries of the College display symbols of scholarly achievement.

Provost David Kotz '86 at Commencement.

(Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)


“The original wearing of gowns by members of the faculty at commencement continued until about 1820. The custom then fell into disuse, not to be revived until 1908. Then, for the first time, the faculty appeared in full regalia, including the brilliant hoods that have since made the procession a pageant of color.

These colored hoods offer information about the regalia’s wearer, their silk lining bearing the color of the College, their velvet facing revealing the color of the area of study. The doctor’s gown may bear velvet trimming on the front and sleeves, such as dark blue for doctor of philosophy.

The cap and gown signifying Dartmouth’s doctoral degrees have been green since 1967. The American mortarboard, derived from the soft Oxford cap, is usually black, as is the tassel for holders of the bachelor’s and master’s degrees, although gold tassels may be worn by holders of doctoral degrees and heads of institutions. The tassel is worn on the right side of the cap by
undergraduates, on the left for holders of bachelor and higher degrees.

All undergraduates wore short gowns in the earliest days, but soon discarded them and thereafter dressed simply, in their best clothes, which were often homespun. The plain bachelor’s gown was adopted for all graduating classes in 1892.”

—Adapted from a text by Sidney C. Hayward, Class of 1926, Secretary of the College 1930-1965

In the Dartmouth procession, the velvet facing of academic hoods that indicates the area of study includes:

  • Arts, Letters, Humanities: white
  • Business Administration: nugget
  • Economics: copper
  • Education: light blue
  • Engineering: orange
  • Fine Arts, Architecture: brown
  • Law: purple
  • Library Science: lemon
  • Medicine: green
  • Music: pink
  • Philosophy: dark blue
  • Public Administration, Foreign Service: peacock blue
  • Public Health: salmon pink
  • Science: golden yellow
  • Theology: scarlet

Did you know? Graduates will be wearing 23 plastic bottles at Commencement! Their regalia is made from recycled plastic bottles. Please help us complete the cycle by recycling your regalia after the Commencement ceremony. There will be regalia recycling boxes located in Collis, and on the Green near the flag poles. All regalia collected will be recycled into indoor/outdoor carpeting.

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