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The Unique Elements of Graduation Regalia

The graduation regalia worn at Commencement has some unique elements, harkening back to traditional academic dress. Special thanks to Melissa Cahill at the Mills College Bookstore for her knowledge.

A Campanil illustration of Provost Sandra Greer showing off some graduation regalia. (Photo by Chorel Centers)
A Campanil illustration of Provost Sandra Greer showing off some graduation regalia. (Photo by Chorel Centers)

1. Cap:

One unique element of the Mills graduation garb is the cap; graduates wear the Oxford tam, which is soft and rounded, rather than the more widespread square mortarboard cap. Absent from the cap is the tassel that traditionally hangs from the hat. These tassels are worn only by those who have earned a credential, such as a teaching or nursing credential.

2. Hood:

The hood hangs down the back of the gown and designates the alma mater and the subject of the degree earned. The outside color signifies the degree: (BA, BS, MFA) and the inside color is that of the university. For Mills, the inside of the hood is gold and white.

There is also a pocket in the back of the hood. Historically, when universities were all male, people would insert money into the pocket. But when women began to enter the colleges, this traditional fell away.

3. Gown:

Bachelor’s gowns are worn closed and have squared sleeves. Master’s and doctoral gowns can be worn open or closed, and their sleeves are arced; sleeves are also trimmed with blue or black bars of velvet that signify alma mater and degree awarded.

4. Cords: (Not pictured)

Some universities also have honor cords, which signify whether students are graduating with Latin honors— cum laude, magna cum laude, summa cum laude. Mills, however, does not award these Latin honors until after graduation, so these cords do not appear during Commencement.

5. Stole: (Not pictured)

The Mills College Bookstore sells the Stole of Gratitude, but many organizations have stoles for their members. Stoles designate particular societies in which the graduate has been involved. Honor societies, club membership, and, this year, military service, can be signified with stoles, worn draped forward around the neck.