Congregation dress code

Academical dress

Strict advice from the Praelector to those proceeding to degrees.

If graduands do not wear the prescribed dress they will find themselves in the embarrassing position of being excluded from the ceremony by the Proctors.

The following rules apply to academical dress worn by those proceeding to degrees:

  • A person who does not hold a Cambridge degree already (that is anyone about to receive a first degree or anyone whose previous degree or degrees were conferred elsewhere) must wear either an undergraduate gown, a BA status gown, or an MA status gown as appropriate, and the hood of the degree, or the higher of the degrees, which he or she is to receive.
  • A person who already holds a degree or degrees of the University must wear the gown and hood of the highest degree he or she has already received from the University.
  • In no circumstances should the academic dress of another university be worn.


Graduands must be dressed as follows:

Option 1


  • Plain black or a black dinner jacket and trousers. A jacket is mandatory even in hot weather.



  • Unornamented plain black, of sober style. Sandals, boots or shoes with buckles are not permitted.



  • Black, unpatterned



  • Plain white with a white bow tie and bands. Off-white or cream shirts or shirts with a noticeable pattern are not permitted. Shirts must be plain, and buttons should not contrast with the shirt (e.g. no black buttons on a dinner shirt).

Option 2

A black, very dark grey or very dark blue skirt suit or trouser suit. A dark skirt can be worn without a jacket, or a dark, long-sleeved dress can also be worn without a jacket. These must be dark enough not to contrast obviously with a black gown. A plain, long-sleeved, white shirt or blouse (unless a long-sleeved dress is worn). Formal black shoes. A white bow-tie and bands may be worn (optional) but if they are worn they must be worn with a properly collared white shirt.  If a white bow-tie and bands are worn with trousers they must be worn with a matching jacket. The overall effect should be conservative — excessively short skirts are not permitted.  If choosing to wear a white bow tie and bands, these must be worn together and not singly.


  • These need to be plain black. Dresses may have a plain white collar.
  • If wearing trousers, a jacket must be worn.


  • Unornamented black, of sober style. Sandals and boots are not permitted, nor are shoes with buckles, nor are coloured or very high heels. Please note that the walk to the Senate House is well over a mile.



  • You must wear a pair of tights — natural or black (black preferred); white or patterned tights are not permitted.


Blouses: plain white

  • Off-white or cream blouses are not permitted but black shirts are permitted and they can disguise the problems caused by a heavy hood attached to a lightweight blouse. Sleeves must be full length, even in hot weather.

Further Guidance


  • The carrying of handbags has created difficulties and should be avoided.


  • Use of the square cap is recommended but is not mandatory. Inside the Senate-House the cap is carried under the left arm. It is placed on the floor during the conferment of the degree. No other head-dress is permitted (except for valid religious reasons).

Hair colouring and style

  • Exaggerated hair colouring and/or style is inappropriate for the degree ceremony and hairstyles should be neat and tidy.

National and military dress

  • National dress or service uniform may only be worn with prior permission. Please contact the Praelector at least 10 days before the ceremony, who in turn will make an application on your behalf to the Proctors.


  • Jewellery, except for wedding rings, small sober earrings and wrist watches, should not be worn.

Special Note

Graduands may wear whatever clothing they are comfortable with so long as it conforms with one of the sets of acceptable styles and colours listed above.

If graduands do not wear the prescribed dress they will find themselves in the embarrassing position of being excluded from the ceremony by the Proctors. Please follow the regulations carefully. You should be all right if all your own clothing, except for the shirt or blouse, is strictly black.

Those who are hiring hoods are advised to make early arrangements with the robe-makers, as there can be very heavy demand. Tattered gowns may also cause their owners to be excluded from the Senate-House by the Proctors. A hood can be very uncomfortable if it rests on one’s neck and can give rise to an untidy look if it is attached to a lightweight blouse. Safety pins can help and graduands wearing option 2 can disguise the problems by wearing a black shirt, a black dress, a black waistcoat or black jacket, but heavy clothing is not a good idea if the weather turns out hot.

Graduands normally kneel when admitted and the Vice-Chancellor pronounces the Trinity. This practice may be waived with prior notice to the Praelector in writing, as it will be necessary for them to make an application on the graduand’s behalf.

Cambridge Academic Dress Hire


Ede & Ravenscroft

71 Trumpington Street, Cambridge, CB2 1RJ
Tel: 01223 350048

Ryder & Amies

22 King’s Parade, Cambridge, CB2 1SP
Tel: 01223 350371