CareerAdvice: Buy your cap/gown/hood at graduation

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Although you can rent your cap and gown for your Ph.D. graduation, there are very real reasons why you should purchase them while you are in graduate school. You will be required to be in formal cap, gown, and hood at least twice a year as a faculty member: matriculation and graduation. Also, if you are a member of a honor society (Phi Beta Kappa, for example), you will need your formal wear during those ceremonies as well.

Because they want faculty to attend formal ceremonies, many colleges will pay the rental fee for renting a cap and gown, but what you will get will be a flimsy generic black shell, an ill-fitting mortarboard cap, and a hood that might be the right color, but is often a shade different. It'll be obvious (to the senior faculty) that you've rented. So I think you should really buy your own.

Doctoral gowns are really splendid things. They are much thicker than the polyester shell you had for your B.A. Get ones with pockets if you can (or slits in the sides so you can slip your hands inside for warmth or so you can fish out a book to read during a particularly boring graduation speech). The three chevrons on the arms indicate you are a doctoral graduate.

The hoods are the most important element of the gowns. Each university has a different hood color and style, and it also varies by division. You'll soon learn how to identify the various universities and programs by their colors. If you have no money at graduation, just buy the hood. One of my friends who didn't buy her hood had to have one fedexed to Japan at great expense when she learned that it was required at her new job's matriculation ceremony. As long as you have a hood, you can fake it with a generic cap and gown.

I myself insist on a good cap. I personally hate the mortarboard types since they don't fit my head very well and always insist on falling off. Instead, I bought a nice renaissance style octogonal tam (soft felt cap).

Finally, for everyone's sake, be sure to have your gown dry cleaned if you wear it during a particularly steamy late May graduation. Keep it in a good quality garment bag in a closet that is not too mildewy. Keep a packet of anti-moth balls in with it. Air the garment out well before wearing (unless you want to kill everyone with the smell).

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This page contains a single entry by Karen Nakamura published on April 11, 2005 12:27 PM.

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