The origins of academic dress date back to the 12th and 13th centuries, when universities were taking form. The ordinary dress of the scholar, whether student or teacher, was the dress of a cleric. With few exceptions, the medieval scholar had taken at least minor orders and made certain vows. In the days of Henry VIII of England, Oxford and Cambridge first began prescribing a definite academic dress and made it a matter of university control even to the extent of its minor details.
The gown for the bachelor's degree has squared sleeves. It is designed to be worn closed. The gown for the master's degree has an oblong sleeve, open at the wrist, like the others. The sleeve base hangs down in the traditional manner. The rear part of its oblong shape is square cut, and the front part has an arc cut away. The gown for the doctor's degree has bell-shaped sleeves. Gowns for bachelor's or master's degrees are untrimmed. For the doctor's degree, the gown is faced down the front with velvet; three bars of velvet are used across the sleeves. These facings and crossbars may be of velvet of the color distinctive of the disciplines to which the degree pertains, thus agreeing in color with the binding or edging of the hood appropriate to the particular doctor's degree in every instance.
The length of the hood worn for the bachelor's degree must be three feet, for the master's degree three and one-half feet, and for the doctor's degree, four feet. The hood worn for the doctor's degree only shall have panels at the sides. The hoods are lined with the official colors of the college or university conferring the degree; more than one color is shown by division of the field color in a variety of ways. The binding or edging of the hood is to be velvet or velveteen, two inches, three inches and five inches wide for the bachelor's, master's and doctor's degrees, respectively; the color should be indicative of the subject to which the degree pertains.
Black mortarboards are generally recommended with a long tassel to be fastened to the middle point of the top of the cap only and to lie as it will thereon. The tassel should be black or the color appropriate to the subject, with the exception of the doctor's cap that may have a tassel of gold.
Colors associated with the different disciplines are as follows:
*Adapted in part from "American Universities and Colleges", 15th Edition, American Council on Education, 1997.