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Academic Regalia

The Commencement Procession is one of the few remaining occasions for which the faculty of American colleges and universities still wear formal regalia. Participants in Wellesley's Commencement Procession reflect the colors, chevrons, velvets, and wools of diverse degrees earned here and abroad.

Perhaps the most readily identified of American regalia is the crimson robe bedecked with three black velvet stripes on the sleeve, denoting the doctoral degree of Harvard University. Although most American universities observe the traditional black robe, distinguishing among levels of education by the cut of the robe and the colors on the hood trim, Harvard is one of a number of institutions permitting colored robes (others include Yale, Brown, Boston, and Johns Hopkins Universities).

Those in the audience will observe, among others, a burgundy robe with blue satin panels and a hood, which signifies Southampton University. Another colorful robe, this time bright red with royal blue sleeves, will be seen on a doctor of Political Science from Oxford University. The hood, also red, identifies the university, while the blue silk interior denotes the academic field. The wearer of this robe has lightly suggested that rather than bearing any medieval significance, the red of the robe might be the result of some London tailor's having been in possession of a surplus yardage of red wool.

Among the Trustees, one can note a gold robe draped with black panels and three black doctoral stripes. A hood trimmed in green, signifying the degree of Medicine, and lined with gold and black is draped at the back; the whole garment completed by a soft black cap with a gold tassel. Gold is the signifying robe of Johns Hopkins University.

Most gowns reflect degrees earned in the United States and are prescribed by the American Council of Education; the present form was adopted in 1932 and revised in 1959.

According to this form, observed by most members of the Wellesley College faculty as degree recipients from American universities, the bachelor's gown is plain with long pointed sleeves. The master's gown is slightly fuller in cut and has long oblong sleeves open at the wrist with an arc cut in the front. The doctor's gown is still fuller with bell shaped sleeves. It is faced down the front with black velvet and has three bars of black velvet on the sleeve, although the velvet and bars may be in the color representing the bearer's academic field, as in the British system.

Hoods are the most distinctive part of the American academic dress. The exterior of the hood is black, its length is three feet for the bachelor's degree, three and one-half feet for the master's degree, and four feet for the doctor's degree. Hoods are lined with the official colors of the college or university conferring the degree, and the trimming is velvet, reflecting the color of the bearer's academic field.

For all academic purposes, including trimming of the doctor's gown and edging of hoods, the color indicating the Fields of Learning are: Art, Letters, Humanities - White; Economics - Copper; Education - Light Blue; Fine Arts - Brown; Music - Pink; Philosophy - Dark Blue; Physical Education - Sage Green; Science - Golden Yellow; Theology - Scarlet.

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