What you Need to Wear

Gown and Hood

There are several crucial principles for academic dress:

1. If you already have a Cambridge degree, you wear its gown and hood. If you have more than one Cambridge degree, you wear gown and hood of the senior degree.

2. If you do not already have a Cambridge degree, you wear:

(a) the gown to which you are presently entitled. This depends on your status:

  • Graduate Students aged 24 and over at the time of the ceremony: the Cambridge MA status gown
  • Graduate Students under 24 at the time of the ceremony: the Cambridge BA status gown
  • Undergraduate Students, i.e. all BA and BA Affiliate students (regardless of age and previous degrees): the Hughes Hall undergraduate gown with blue button and string on the sleeve, also known as ‘the undergraduate gown for the graduate colleges’

(b) the hood of the degree being conferred. If you are receiving more than one degree, you wear the hood of the senior degree.

Important Notes

1. Gowns and hoods may be hired from several Cambridge suppliers (Ede and RavenscroftRyder & AmiesA.E. Clothier), and collected directly from them. (Despite statements on some websites, they are not delivered to Hughes Hall.)

2. This policy is based on traditional Cambridge values. Although it is complex, you must be correctly attired, otherwise you will not be allowed to graduate. If in doubt, consult the Praelector. Unfortunately the advice given by staff in robe hire shops is not always accurate, since they are less knowledgeable about the degrees taken in the graduate colleges.

3. The policy can have consequences which seem odd but are correct, e.g. a non-Cambridge graduate receiving a PhD comes resplendent in scarlet hood, whereas a fellow-student who first took an MPhil wears the modest blue hood of the latter.

Graduation gowns



Essentially, you must wear a combination of Black and White. The rules may seem fussy, but they have their own logic, and are intended to make the day memorable for all concerned. Whatever the temperature you must be correctly attired as below, or you will not be allowed to graduate.

Dress Option One

  • A dinner jacket or black lounge suit.
  • A plain, long-sleeved, collared, white shirt
  • Formal black shoes, black socks (no patterns)
  • White bow-tie and bands must be worn

Dress Option Two

  • A black skirt suit or trouser suit, or a black skirt without a jacket, or a dark, long-sleeved dress
  • A plain, long-sleeved, white shirt or blouse (unless a long-sleeved dress is worn)
  • Formal black shoes. (No sandals or open toed shoes). Black or nearly black hosiery (No pattern)
  • A white bow-tie and bands may be worn (optional) but only with a properly collared white shirt


  • Decorative jewellery, shoe buckles, etc., are not permitted.
  • A mortar-board (correctly a ‘square’) is optional, but you are strongly advised not to hire one. You would have to carry it, not wear it, and this leads to difficulties in the ceremony.
  • National dress is seldom permitted, while the combination of academic dress with uniforms or clerical dress is complicated. So if you wish to wear any of these, you must consult the Praelector at least a month in advance.

Important Note

If you are wrongly attired the Praelector has absolute authority to withdraw you from the ceremony, and will use this power to protect the college’s reputation. It will make no difference if you and your family have flown half way across the world for the occasion: you must be properly dressed!

Click here to see examples of how you should dress.