What to Wear

A number of officials are employed in the Senate House to enforce a strict dress code. Your Praelector is penalized for any misdemeanours of appearance, so would be glad of careful compliance with the following codes. If you are dressed incorrectly, you may not be permitted to graduate.

These directions are explained in terms of what is generally recognisable as the dress for men and women. This is for the purposes of clarity and because dress, particularly formal dress, continues to be strongly gendered. Graduands are of course free to specify which gender they identify with, and if they do not identify straightforwardly with either gender to choose whichever alternative they feel most comfortable with.


  • A plain black suit, such as a dinner jacket suit. Pinstripes and other patterns are not permitted.
  • A plain, long-sleeved, white shirt. A wing collar sits best with the bands and hood, but a turn down collar is perfectly acceptable.
  • Formal black shoes without patterns or ornamentation, and with dark soles. No sandals.
  • Unpatterned black socks. (You might think this point trivial, but when you kneel down to receive your degree, it all becomes horribly apparent….)
  • White bow-tie and bands.
  • Jewellery must be modest.


  • A plain black suit (with skirt or trousers), or a black skirt or smart trousers without a jacket, or a long-sleeved, black dress. Skirts must be long enough to allow you to kneel and rise with dignity.
  • A plain, long-sleeved, white shirt or blouse, with a black cardigan if required.
  • Formal black shoes without patterns or ornamentation, and with dark soles. Sandals should not be worn. The distinction between shoes and sandals turns on whether your toes are covered.
  • Unpatterned sheer black,tights.
  • Bands are optional for women. They look quite smart, but if you do choose to wear them, though, you need to wear a collared shirt, a bow tie and a jacket as well.
  • Jewellery must be modest; in practice this means that earrings should be small (less than one inch) and not coloured. Similarly necklaces should be modest (e.g. a single string of pearls). Avoid bangles and elaborate belts.
  • A hood often fails to sit well on women’s shoulders; a safety-pin to hold it on each side is often a good idea.

Gown and Hood

A candidate for the degree of M.A. must wear the gown and hood of the highest degree previously received from Cambridge University. For many your highest degree will be the B.A., You should therefore wear a B.A. hood (black with white fur) and a B.A. gown (which is different from the undergraduate gown). On the other hand you may have received another degree from the University since then. All Masters’ and doctoral degrees, as well as the M.B., B.Chir., Vet.M.B. and Mus.B., rank above the B.A., and each has its own hood and gown; holders of these degrees should dress accordingly. If you are graduating to both the M.A. and the M.Math. together, you should wear a B.A. hood and gown. Please note in particular that you should not wear your undergraduate gown.

For information only: the M.A. hood – which you are entitled to wear only after graduating – resembles the B.A. hood but with white silk instead of fur; the gown resembles the B.A. gown but with full-length sleeves. The M.A. is senior to all Bachelors’ and most Masters’ degrees.

Academical dress may be purchased or hired from one of three outfitters in Cambridge. Please ensure that you have understood what gown and hood you need (as above), as the tailors have been known to offer incorrect advice. Full specifications of all gowns and hoods are given in Statutes & Ordinances, pp.190-2.

National, military and clerical dress

These may be worn by individuals with a genuine justification and who would normally wear such dress on formal occasions, but we have to ask permission from the Proctors in advance. In such cases you must contact me (jlc24@cam.ac.uk) at least a week before the ceremony so that I can seek the necessary permission. If we haven’t asked for permission, then you must wear the standard dress as described above.


The square cap (‘mortarboard’) is optional, and in any case you are permitted only to carry, not to wear, it for the ceremony.

Those required to wear other forms of head covering for religious or medical reasons may do so without the need to seek explicit permission, but this should be plain black, or failing that, plain white.