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Cambridge Graduation - What should I wear

Graduands' Dress

If you choose to graduate in person at the Senate House, you are required to wear academical dress at the Graduation Ceremony.

Academic Dress for Admission to Degrees

The Proctors have given notice that anybody of inappropriate appearance will not be allowed to proceed to their degree. The College strictly enforces this rule.

The point of all these regulations is for all graduands to wear the same simple, formal style of dress, so that all graduands are presented as equals.

All candidates must wear the appropriate gown and hood as well as the attire specified in either dress option one or dress option two.

Appropriate Academic Gown and Hood

If you already have a Cambridge degree

If you already have a Cambridge degree, then you wear the gown and hood of the highest Cambridge degree that you have. This does not mean the degree that you are about to receive.

This rule also applies to  'celebrants', i.e. those attending a ceremony to celebrate a degree that they have received in absence. If, for example, you have received a BA in absence, then you wear a BA hood and a BA gown (not an undergraduate gown) when you attend a ceremony as a celebrant.

If you do not already have a Cambridge degree

If you do not already have a Cambridge degree, then one of these two will apply to you:

  1. If you are 23 years old or younger, you wear a BA status gown and the hood of the degree that you are about to receive.
  2. If you are 24 years old or older, you wear an MA status gown and the hood of the degree that you are about to receive.

Dress Options

Option One

All of 1-5 are required

  1. Either a plain black suit or a dinner jacket and black trousers (dress or ordinary).
  2. Plain, long-sleeved white shirt (dress or ordinary; wing collar or standard collar).
  3. White bow-tie and academic bands.
  4. Plain black covered shoes without buckles. Both toes and heels must be covered. No boots, no extreme high heels, no platform soles.
  5. Plain black socks.

Option Two

All of 1-3 are required

  1. Either (a) or (b) or (c) or (d)
    a) plain, knee-length (or longer), long-sleeved black dress and black or flesh-coloured tights/stockings
    b) plain, knee-length (or longer), long-sleeved black skirt suit with a long-sleeved white blouse/shirt and black or flesh-coloured stockings
    c) plain black trouser suit with a long-sleeved white blouse/shirt, and plain black socks
    d) plain, knee-length (or longer) black skirt with long-sleeved white blouse/shirt and black or flesh-coloured stockings
  2. Plain black covered shoes without buckles. Both toes and heels must be covered. No boots, no extreme high heels, no platform soles. Please note that graduands kneel for the ceremony, so high heels can make standing up difficult.
  3. No bare legs or arms (this is why long sleeves and tights are required).

All graduands should read and note the following:

All garments must be of one colour only. Garments with polka dots/stripes/patterns are not appropriate for the Senate House ceremony. Any belts, if worn, must be plain, black, very dark grey, or very dark blue to match the trousers or skirt with which they are worn. Very short skirts or very high heels should be avoided as you will need to kneel during the course of the ceremony.

"White" means white (not cream or similar), "black" means black (not dark brown, blue or grey).

Facial jewellery, other than one pair of stud earrings (i.e. one stud in each ear), is not permitted. Other jewellery (bracelets, chunky rings and ornate watches) should not be worn (jewellery hanging from the neck but confined within the shirt or blouse is acceptable if it is congruous with the attire). Exaggerated hairstyles or colours and painted nails are not acceptable.

If your hood will not stay in position, then you can use safety pins to attach it to your gown. Guidance will be provided at the attire check.

For option one, hoods go straight underneath the bands and do not need to be attached to a button; the hood should rest against the collar of the shirt. For option two, hoods should be attached to the highest button possible on the blouse or shirt. Guidance and assistance will be provided on the day.

A black cassock may be substituted for a dark suit, skirt or dress in either Dress One or Two, but it must be worn with either a white bow-tie and bands or a clerical collar and bands.

Besides your gown and hood, graduands must meet the dress code above. The Proctors have given notice that anyone inappropriately dressed will not be allowed to proceed to their degree that day. Exceptions to the above dress code will only be considered for religious or cultural reasons and must have prior written approval.


The square cap, or 'mortarboard', is optional for graduands at Cambridge. If you do decide to wear one on the day, you should take it off and carry it in your left hand inside the Senate House. When you rent your gown and hood, you may be offered the chance to rent a Doctor’s bonnet. This is a hat that is only worn on special days called ‘Scarlet days’. Even if your graduation is on a Scarlet day, graduands cannot wear it (since they are not yet Doctors). You may rent it for use in pictures after the ceremony.

For further information please see the university information on Academical dress.

Academical dress hire

You may hire or buy academical dress from the following Cambridge suppliers:

Ede and Ravenscroft
70-72 Trumpington Street, Cambridge, CB2 1RJ
T 01223 861854

Ryder and Amies
22 King’s Parade, Cambridge, CB2 1SP
T 01223 350371

A.E. Clothier
5 Convent Drive, Waterbeach, Cambridge, CB25 9QT
T 01223 864121

If you have any questions regarding the above please contact the Praelector’s Secretary or the Academic Office (in the case of General Admission).

Once you have decided upon your graduation date, we recommend that you arrange your gown hire with one of the gown hire companies above as soon as possible as stocks are limited.

The staff at each outfitter are highly experienced and will be able to tell you what you require when you inform them which degree you are getting. In general postgraduate candidates wear either the gown and hood of their highest existing Cambridge degree, or if not already a Cambridge graduate, a B.A. or M.A status gown and the hood of the highest degree they are about to take.

The College does not get involved with arranging, storing, collecting or returning gowns for any graduations. You will need to collect and return your hired gown to the store on the day of the ceremony.