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Doctoral Gown

EileenB5 | Posted in Patterns on

My husband is a professor and needs a doctoral gown to wear at the university for various events.  He also needs a silk hood.  Does any one know where I can find a pattern?




  1. GhillieC | | #1

    I am not sure you will find a pattern. There are many subtly different designs and the gown must be absolutely CORRECT for the institution that awarded the degree. I have a purchased gown from my university, but I would not fancy trying to copy it. There is a lot of cartridge pleating round the neck and shoulders.

    The hood would be even harder as you would have to source EXACTLY the correct weight of silk in precisely the right colour, otherwise it would not look right.

    However I seem to recall one of the 'big four' pattern companies has, (or had) a pattern for a surplice, which might have included a hood and might be getting close to what you want.

    Sorry, but this is a situation where you really do have to buy ready made, although you might get one secondhand. Otherwise when your husband walks in the company of the other academics his robes will look wrong.



  2. Michelle | | #2

    To the best of my knowledge, most universities loan or rent out these gowns for the occasion.  You could try asking one of these facilities if they have any gowns that have fallen into disuse, (eventually the do become worn out,) and try making a pattern from an old gown.

    Just a small caveat - My mother sewed my fathers doctoral gown - (quite an ambitious accomplishment,) but I don't remember him having more than 2 or 3 occasions to wear it!


    1. SisterT | | #3

      I taught at a small college for a couple of years, and the doctoral gowns were pretty standard.  What marks the institution is usually the headgear, and more importantly, the school colors.  There is one university that has a rose-colored gown, but that is the only one I recall as not like everyone-else's.

      Obvious caveat--if you get your hands on a gown that is not used anymore, make a muslin pattern off it first.  It may not look like it to the casual observer, but those gowns take a beating.


  3. marijke | | #4


    I've thought about doing exactly that and ended up purchasing my gown because all that cartridge pleating was just not something I was into...

    However: many companies permit you to purchase the components separately. You might wish to purchase the hood, which has the school colors and would be tough to replicate (sometimes you also get this at your graduation if you go through the ceremony). Many PhD granting institutions (esp Big Ten) use black gowns and caps that all look pretty much alike. The cartridge pleating makes it impressive, but mostly, the gown's a lot like the kind of gowns ministers and choir members wear. You could use such a pattern to make a simple black gown. If your husband wore the right color hood over it, he would not stand out. After all, he'd probably wear it among a bunch of colleagues who all got their degrees at various different institutions and who would each be wearing their own alma mater's colors. Plus, the purchased gowns don't all use the exact same fabric. You may want to inspect someone else's gown to see what sort of fabric/drape to look for.

    Renting is an option only if he doesn't need to use this gear often. We are required to go to graduation ceremonies once a year and at about $50 per rental, it doesn't take many years to spend the equivalent of a purchased gown (plus: rental fees go up, once you purchase you use it for many years). That's the main reason I bought mine, in the end it's saving me money.

    Hope this helps,


  4. carolfresia | | #5

    Eileen, you might check with the university. Where I got my degree, there was some requirement that, if you wanted custom-made regalia, you have fabrics approved beforehand. Our gowns were blue, not black, so it mattered if the shade was correct, and of course we had to have the right hood and such as well for our school and dept. I left academia, so I never pursued making my own regalia, and don't know whom you'd ask in the administration for guidelines--maybe the registrar? However, I still think it would be really cool to make and wear your own gown.


    1. EileenB5 | | #6

      Since my husband is not teaching at the school he graduated from, and is the only one with his degree, I don't think the regalia police will notice if his garment is a bit off.  He will have to wear it often, as this school is big on pomp and ceremony.  Iv'e been to some of the events and it's relly quite a sight!  I suspect several of the outfits are a bit non traditional, that's why I was thinking about making it. 


      1. carolfresia | | #7

        In that case, I think you should make him the velvet beret rather than a mortarboard--they're so much cuter!Carol

        1. marijke | | #8

          The velvet beret will also fit better!

  5. Barbaran8 | | #9

    I was in the University of Washington Choir when they held a convocation for the Queen of England (many years ago) It's a *really* big school, and there are a *lot* of professors - all of whom were in their robes and hoods (and UW tams). When you sing, you're used to being the one in robes looking at an audience in street dress - it was an interesting switch... Anyway - some of the robes that professors trained in Europe had were just amazing! And instead of hoods they would have medieval headwear that I've only seen in paintings from the cloisters.

    Remember that academic gowns are based on 14th-15th century streetwear - look at the painting "the Ambassadors" by Hans Holbein, and get some books on medieval costume out of the library - you'll get a better idea of construction from that than any modern off the shelf pattern. I would recommend that you get this pattern: http://www.patternsoftime.com/cat45.html (the Early Tudor Men's) this pattern maker usually has really good instruction sheets on period details on how to get things like the cartridge pleating just right.

    1. carolfresia | | #10

      Barb, my husband would be PERFECT as Henry the VIII (I mean, if he grew a beard he'd look like that--his personality and, luckily enough, attitude toward women and wives is much better than Henry's).  Have you made this Tudor pattern up? I'm seriously tempted to try it for Halloween.


      1. Barbaran8 | | #12

        Hi Carol-

        I haven't done this particular pattern, but I have worked off of their "Puff and Slash" and Italian Rennaissance women's patterns - the instructions and hints are almost worth more than the patterns themselves. However, I do have a lot of costume books and practical advice from when I was active in the Society for Creative Anachronism - so I was always able to fill in where needed. Then again, you have some other resources to draw on as well! ;-}


    2. User avater
      ehBeth | | #11

      What a fabulous link, Barb!  Some really great, and useful, ideas in there.  Thanks for sharing it.

  6. lpetters | | #13

    Academic Regalia

    Butterick makes a pattern. B5626.  The color has to be black with black piping - go to the university's website and look at the pictures from last year's graduation to see the style used at your institution.  Hood colors are a required color - go to the Herff-Jones site and see what they say is the proper color for your degree (they have a list).

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