procession and the regalia worn by the graduates, faculty and
officers of the University symbolically represent the continuing
link between the modern American university and the founding of the
great medieval universities in Europe – chief among them Bologna,
Paris, and Oxford. As those institutions were derived from the
Catholic Church, the universities adopted many of the ceremonial
trappings of the church in their official public functions.
The caps and gowns
worn in the procession also vary from place to place. There are
variations in design to indicate the degrees held by the wearers,
and many universities in America, including SMU, have introduced
colored gowns and other distinguishing details in place of the
customary clerical black from which all originated. The caps, too,
vary according to the costumes of the university from which the
wearer received a degree. While most American universities adopted
the “mortarboard” style of Oxford, others have chosen styles based
on other European institutions. The color of the tassel worn with
the cap may be black for any degree, or the color may be that of the
faculty of the major field of learning (e.g., Arts, Engineering,
Law, etc). Persons holding doctoral degrees and governing officials
of institutions are entitled to wear tassels of gold metallic
Within the great
varieties of styles and colors in gowns and caps, there has been one
universally accepted code for the hood worn trailing down the
wearer's back. Originally, it was like the hood on the habit worn
by monks and very useful for protection against the weather and even
for begging for alms. Nowadays, the hood through length and color
shows the degree and the specialization of the wearer, and the
university that granted the degree.
degrees at SMU are robed in custom regalia, introduced in May 2009
and designed to incorporate SMU's red and blue colors and symbols.
SMU's regalia reflects the University's traditions and spirit. We
introduced these new gowns, gowns unique to SMU, to further enhance
the great celebration of graduation and to show our pride in our
Doctoral gown in admiral blue includes scarlet velvet chevrons on
each of the bell sleeves. The gown is marked by velvet panels down
the front and around the neck. The front panels are embroidered in
gold thread with the SMU seal, and gold braid outlines the chevrons
and panels. It is cut much fuller than the other gowns and may be
ornamented in color. Replacing the traditional mortarboard, an
eight-sided, crimson red velvet tam with a gold silk tassel
completes the regalia.
Master's gown, also in admiral blue, has a front yolk outlined in
red braid and the SMU seal is embroidered in red on the left side.
Like traditional Master's robes, gowns are arranged so that the arm
emerges from a long sleeve through a slit at the wrist. A
mortarboard with a colored tassel representing the discipline in
which the degree is earned is also worn.
Master's candidates wear hoods which are 3 ˝ feet, and 4 feet long,
respectively. The velvet trimming in the same order is 3 and 5
inches wide. The color of the trim identifies the candidate's
discipline. The lining of the hood – the portion most visible from
the rear – indicates the institution awarding the degree. SMU's
hood lining is blue with a red chevron.
The Bachelor gown
in admiral blue has the traditional characteristics of a Bachelor
robe including full front pleats, and balanced fluting. Its
distinguishing characteristic is the long pointed sleeves. A red
silk stole embroidered in blue with the SMU seal is worn across the
shoulders. Bachelor gowns are worn with a tassel and mortarboard.
Through these colorful ceremonies, SMU symbolically displays the
continuity of its educational purposes with the origins of organized
learning in the Western world.
Click here to read the story about the creation of SMU's custom regalia.