Development of Graduation Gowns and Robes
Bachelor's, Master's, and Doctoral Gowns and Robes
This article discusses the Graduation Gown Evolution, from the development of Graduation Gowns and Robes in college to the history of the differences between Bachelor's, Master's, and Doctoral Gowns and Robes. The focus is on medieval universities and higher learning education in the colleges and schools of europe.
Excerpt from "Academical Dress in New Zealand", 2000, Chap 2: Mediæval Education,
by Noel Cox, LLM(Hons) MA PhD GradDipTertTchg FRHistS FBS, Barrister of the High Court of New Zealand, Professor of Law, and Discipline Chairman of Law, Faculty of Business, Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand
The sober dress of the mediæval scholar or churchman was loosely termed vestimentum clausum (closed clothing), and somewhat resembled cassocks. Indeed, the gown, the distinctive dress of a scholar, is derived from the outdoor dress of the clergy. This dress, originally the cappa clausa,was made obligatory in England for all bishops, deans, archdeacons, rural deans, priests and all church dignitaries being secular clerks, by Stephen Cardinal Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, at the Provincial Synod (now known as the Council of Oxford) held at Oseney Abbey, near Oxford, in 1222.
Unlike the ceremonial cope, which it otherwise resembled, the cappa clausa was closed, being sewn down the front, where a slit in the middle front might be allowed for the passage of both arms. It was a voluminous dress, sleeveless, and extended as far as the ankles, which it covered. It was derived from the pluvial, which was a loose cope with a cape with hood, a hole for the head to pass, and a slit in front for the arms.(1)
The directive of the Council of Oxford was not aimed specifically at scholars, and its effect was not universally felt at Oxford and Cambridge. However, under the influence of the Church, the cappa clausa was subsequently adopted generally at the universities. It came to be regarded as specifically academical dress, especially when the wider clergy came to consistently discard the inconvenient cappa, in favour of the tabard or chimere.(2)
The pallium,(3) which was a more dignified version of the cappa clausa, came also to be regarded as dress peculiar to scholars. Like the cappa clausa, it was plain, closed, and sleeveless, but it had two side slits. The pallium, also called the cappa nigra(4) or chimera, was sleeveless, and black, but it was shorter than the cappa clausa.(5) The pallium was not referred to by the Council of Oxford, though its existence may have been formally recognised at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, as it had been in Paris.(6) The pallium or chimarea arguably became the forerunner of the convocation habit and the ecclesiastico-academical chimere.(7)
In the mid-thirteenth century the Statutes of the University of Cambridge did not prescribe the dress of regent masters in civil law and medicine.(8) Indeed, before this time scholars were dressed as befitted the time and the classes to which they belonged, largely the clerical. But, as the newly founded universities began to regulate the conduct of their members, so formal provision began to be made with respect to dress.(9)
From this time therefore, regent Masters of Arts were specifically ordered to use the cappa clausa or the pallium during ordinary lectures and disputations, inceptions, funerals, and on all important occasions.(10) Regents in canon law, arts and theology were all to wear the cappa clausa or the pallium generally.The doctors of law and of physic, and the bachelors of law, physic and possibly theology, adopted the pallium.
Regents who were members of religious orders,(11) as many were, did not however wear either the cappa clausa or the pallium, which were the dress of secular clerks.(12) Instead they wore their own habits. The habit of the regular clergy usually comprised a mantle or cloak (the cucullus or cowl),(13) probably a casula,(14) with a hood, and a fur-lined cassock or pellicea.(15) They might also wear a surplice between cassock and cloak.(16) All mediæval academics, being clerics in at least minor orders, wore the cassock beneath the sleeveless cappa clausa or pallium, or the later sleeved mantle.(17)
The cassock is a long-sleeved, close-fitting gown reaching to the feet. Unlike the other church vestments, the cassock does not come from the dress of the Graeco-Roman world.(18) It was originally named for the ordinary dress of soldiers and horsemen, which was derived from a Barbarian dress adopted in the sixth century. The term was later used for the long loose coats or gowns with tight sleeves and fastened up the front worn in civil life.(19)
The cassock came to an ecclesiastical use as the translation of toga talaris,(20) in which sense alone it survives today. In 572 the Council of Braga ordered that the cassock be worn. It became the regular distinctive indoor and outdoor dress of the clergyman. It was worn in cold weather beneath the tabard or chimere, and could be fur- or sheepskin-lined (hence its name, pellicea). In the Catholic Church it is regarded as a non-liturgical garment, having no sacred character, although it must be worn under all other vestments at mass.
Both the cappa clausa and the pallium were derived, in common with almost all ecclesiastical garments, from the ordinary dress of the laity of an earlier era, as was the monkish habit. However, contemporary lay fashion also influenced the development of the dress of both the cleric and of the academic.(21)
Lay dress, such as the houppelande, an outer garment with a long, full body and wide, flaring sleeves, and which was worn during the fourteenth century, influenced the cut of academic dress. The houppelande survived into the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in the dress of the professional classes and of older men,(22) and has left its mark on both the academical and legal gowns of today.
Because the clerical status of scholars was often more a matter of form than real vocation, the enforcement of discipline in dress, as in other matters, fell to the university authorities. Their concerns were more practical than religious, but the enforcement of decent standards of dress were an important aspect.
The tendency to increased magnificence in dress, influenced by lay fashion, particularly affected the universities. Under the various sumptuary laws, which were an attempt, by and large unsuccessful, to reduce extravagance in dress, costly fur, used to line gowns and hoods, were forbidden, especially in the period 1350-1500.
Only those of the degree of master and above, and the sons of noblemen or those with an income above a certain level, were permitted to wear the more expensive furs. Bachelor's gowns were therefore lined or edged with budge (a common fur, or black lamb's wool), rather than the more expensive furs, such as ermine.(23) Restrictions were occasionally placed on the dress of fellows, and at times the university authorities were obliged to restrain even the doctors in theology from indulging in costly gowns.
As universities passed further from ecclesiastical control, the colours, which, though not specified, were generally dark, became brighter. It became customary even for the Church to acknowledge the standing of doctors by approving the use of lighter colours than black or brown. From c.1250-c.1350 doctors of the superior faculties of divinity and of canon law wore scarlet, purple or red cappa clausa, possibly following the precedent of the Cardinals adoption of scarlet under Innocent IV (1243-54).(24) In 1334 Pope Benedict XII (1334-42) granted a scarlet gown or hood (chaperon rouge) to the doctors in theology and canon law of the University of Paris.(25) This precedent was eagerly followed in England.(26) In the fourteenth century doctors wore scarlet gowns, leaving the black cappae clausae for the Masters of Arts and Bachelors of Divinity.(27)
Scarlet, violet or murrey gowns were approved for doctors in a sumptuary law of 1533.(28) The gowns of the doctors of canon law before the Reformation were particularly fine, being of scarlet, and trimmed with white fur, and with a hood of scarlet cloth lined with white fur. This costume survives today, in a modified form, as the full-dress of English judges.
By 1500 all doctors at Oxford and Cambridge wore scarlet cappa, at least on certain days of the calendar, while masters and bachelors of divinity and of arts retained the black.(29) The lawyers however generally adopted blue.(30) In Elizabethan times gowns were generally black, brown or other sombre colour, although the wool-cloth might be partly faced with black silk or other material. The insistence on black was, however, inspired by the influence of the asceticism of the Reformation on the Laudian statutes, and was unknown in Oxford before the sixteenth century.(31) The tendancy throughout mediæval times was for brighter colours to be adopted by scholars of various degrees and facultiess, usally against the opposition of the university authorities.
In mediæval times, the middle dress worn under the cappa, pallium or whatever outer garment was worn, and over the cassock (subtunica), was the roba. This had developed from the supertunica, and was longer than the outer tabard. In 1380 the dress of a Cambridge Master of Arts consisted of the roba with a tabard (replacing the cappa clausa, pallium or religious mantle) over it.
The tabard was a closed dress of wool, and probably lined with fur, and which was long but not full, sometimes with short pointed sleeves and sometimes without sleeves. The tabard was in general use in the fifteenth century. It was retained by the heralds when it went out of fashion because with rectangular front and back panels and straight wide sleeve pieces or wings it was ideal for the display of coats of arms. A epitogium or shoulder piece (the lower part of the mediæval hood) and furred hood were also worn by masters, with the supertunica beneath.(32)
By 1463 the favourite dress of doctors was a chimaera, a sleeveless tabard, with two side slits to free the arms. This was derived from the tabard, rather than being a mere derivative of the cappa clausa.(33) On less formal occasions, masters were allowed the use of the more practical cappa manicata,(34) rather than the cappa clausa or pallium. This was a closed dress, shorter than the cassock, and had full sleeves reaching to a point behind.
By the mid-fifteenth century the cappa manicata was abandoned by the Master of Arts, because of its inconvenience, and because it was not considered dignified enough to lecture in. It was replaced by another variation of the cappa clausa, a shorter dress closed in front with side slits, without sleeves, the cappa nigra.(35) The sleeves of the supertunica, later to become the roba or toga, passed through the arm-holes of this gown. After the mid-fifteenth century the cappa clausa in any form was worn less,(36) the roba, a sleeveless tabard with fur-lined slits at the sides for arms, being worn alone.(37)
The tabard itself was abandoned during the later part of the fifteenth century, and an enlarged, open roba, with full but tight sleeves and a close hood and shoulder piece from the later part of the sixteenth century, then became the outer dress.
The suggestion that the outer tabard and the inner roba fused into one garment in the fifteenth century is improbable, and it is more likely that when the tabard was left off, the roba's sleeves gradually grew from tight, to large and hanging.(38) By 1589 the roba had very short glove-sleeves.(39) These sleeves consisted of tube-like appendages, usually reaching to the hem of the gown. The distal end is closed, and there is a slit at elbow level releases the arms. Most have a cut out section at the end.(40)
By 1666 the wide sleeves had been abandoned by the masters, firstly at Cambridge, then at Oxford. Dr John Fell, Vice-Chancellor of Oxford, introduced new rules of academic dress, as at this time, discipline, in matters of dress as in other respects, was lax.
The Master of Arts gown is so far derived from the original gown that the roba is largely a Tudor lay gown with typical Tudor half-sleeves. By 1672-74 these had reached the hem of the gown.(41) They are now rather shorter, but the closed or glove sleeve remains typical of the Master of Arts.
Developments during the course of the seventeenth centuries and subsequently modified the basic form of both the masters' and bachelors' gowns, the former at least of which remains, in theory, that of the roba. The gown at Cambridge retained the clerical flavour, having a standing collar. That of the Bachelors and Masters of Arts at Oxford were also of the clerical fashion. Gowns of the bachelors and doctors of law and medicine at Oxford affected the lay fashion, and had a broad falling collar.(42)
By virtue of their higher status, the masters' were able free themselves more fully from the more inconvenient forms of dress than were the bachelors'. By way of a similar process of development, the episcopal chimere had evolved in the fifteenth century from the mediæval tabard as a replacement for the cappa clausa.(43)
The scarlet chimere, which is faced and partly lined with silk of the colour of the doctorate held, is properly a doctors' convocation gown or supertunica, the "sleeveless cote" of 24 Henry VIII caput 13, and therefore non-doctors should not wear it.(44) The Anglican episcopal chimere (also called the episcopal habit) evolved from the mediæval tabard as a replacement for the inconvenient cappa clausa in the fifteenth century as the out-of-doors upper garment of bishops.(45) It is a loose outer gown of black corded ottoman silk(46) (and often with a rochet having balloon sleeves made of lawn).
It has been suggested that the Bachelor of Arts continued to wear a modified form of the tabard, with open wing-like sleeve, a more ancient dress than the hybrid sleeved roba ofthe Masters of Arts.(47) However, in view of the rejection of formal outer garments by all other academic costumes, and the retention of the roba, this appears unlikely.(48) Nor is it likely that the gown can be identified with the cappa clausa or cappa manicata.(49) It is probable that the BA gown is, like that of the MA, essentially a roba, or mediæval inner dress.
Franklyn has suggested that the MA and BD are entitled to a black chimere, or tabard.(50) Perhaps, but why adopt a garment which was abandoned in the early part of the sixteenth century?(51)
(1) Hargreaves-Mawdsley, WN, A History of Academical Dress in Europe until the end of the Eighteenth Century (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1963) 5.
(2) Further decrees respecting the cappa clausa were issued in 1237, 1268, 1281 and 1342. It was never popular.
(3) It is not to be confused with the bishop's pallium, which consists of a narrow shoulder band three fingers broad, woven of white lambs' wool with a loop in the centre. There are four purple crosses, and pendants front and rear. The appearance is of a Y-shape from front and behind. It is worn over the chusable, and resting on the shoulder, with the two dependant lapets before and behind. It is only worn at mass or other solemn occasions.
(4) This cappa was usedby MAs, and is still used by some clergy today.
(5) Buxton, LHD & Gibson, Strickland, Oxford University Ceremonies (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1935) 24.
(6) Hackett, Rev Fr Benedict, The Original Statutes of Cambridge University: The Text and its History (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1970) 80.
(7) The exact relationship of these various terms is by no means clear. However, it would probably be unwise to insist that each had a distinct meaning. It is more likely that although distinct meanings were attached to the pallium cappa nigra or chimarea at various times, there was also a great deal of overlap in usage.
(8) This may well have been due to the fact that there may not have been any at the time. These statutes were a conflation of the statutes of the University of Oxford [see Gibson, Strickland (ed), Statuta Antiqua Universitis Oxoniensis (1931) 56, 28-30], and Canon 33 of the Council of Oxford. See Hackett, Rev Fr Benedict, The Original Statutes of Cambridge University: The Text and its History (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1970) 203n.
(9) For example, in the fourteenth century some Cambridge colleges required scholars to wear the tonsure and a decent habit suitable to a cleric.
(10) Hackett, Rev Fr Benedict, The Original Statutes of Cambridge University: The Text and its History (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1970) 148; Hargreaves-Mawdsley, WN, A History of Academical Dress in Europe until the end of the Eighteenth Century (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1963) 120-121.
(11) By the thirteenth century monks were increasingly university-trained, and friars trained all their most promising recruits in their own college at the universities. Monks arrived at Oxford and Cambridge before the friars, but they were slower to create their own colleges. The Dominicans (known in England as Black Friars, from the colour of their habit) and Franciscans (Grey Friars) were the principal religious orders found in the universities in this age. Both maintained colleges at Oxford from the early thirteenth century until the Reformation, several of which have been revived in modern times as private houses of study.
(12) Hackett, Rev Fr Benedict, The Original Statutes of Cambridge University: The Text and its History (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1970) 148.
(13) A plain large loosely hanging garment with a small hood attached to it, and hanging sleeves; Clinch, George, English Costume from Prehistoric Times to the end of the Eighteenth Century (Methuen & Co, London, 1909) 244.
(14) The various orders wore different habits. The Benedictines wore a cowl, sleeved from the tenth century, with a hood. The Benedictine cowl was probably the birrus cuculatus, or hooded work cloak worn by labourers. From the tenth and eleventh centuries was developed a large choir gown often called the casula, known also as a cuculla. This was the prototype of the cowl or cuculla worn by later monks. The hood was generally attached to the outermost garment. A scapular might replace the cowl. This was a tabard worn over the habit, and came in many forms. Essentially however it was a length of cloth with a hole for the head. A tunic was worn under the cowl or scapular by day, and as sleepwear at night. It was girt with a belt.
(15) From the Latin, pelliceus, made of skin.
(16) This was required for non-ministrants in chapel at Oxford and Cambridge by most colleges; and was adopted by the universities generally in the sixteenth century. The 1558 and 1570 Cambridge statutes required surplices in the choir. In 1563 Archbishop Matthew Parker ordered members of Oxford university to wear the surplice in chapel. This was required of all scholars by the Hampton Court Conference of 1604. They declined after the Civil Wars of the seventeenth century, and were not generally revived after the Restoration, though their use was again ordered.
(17) The cassock is a general vestment in black for priests, purple for bishops, red for cardinals (and, often, for doctors) and white for the pope, worn beneath all other vestments. It is a long-sleeved, close-fitting robe reaching to the feet. This, along with the surplice, is the vestment most commonly found in Anglican Churches, its use having been prescribed since the Reformation. It was worn in cold weather beneath the tabard or chimere. It is also an episcopal vestment in purple or black. The cassock was left off by lay Masters of Arts in the seventeenth century, along with the surplice. However, the chancellors of Oxford and Cambridge continued to wear a cassock for some time longer.
(18) Mayo, Janet, A History of Ecclesiastical Dress (Holmes & Meier Publishers Inc, New York, 1984) 140.
(19) The toga talaris, tunica talaris, subtaneum, or vestis talaris. It was also commonly worn by women, and was the customary wear of clergymen in the fifteenth century; Clinch, George, English Costume from Prehistoric Times to the end of the Eighteenth Century (Methuen & Co, London, 1909) 232.
(20) Hargreaves-Mawdsley, WN, A History of Academical Dress in Europe until the end of the Eighteenth Century (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1963) 84.
(21) Tailoring, where the dress is cut with some approximation to the actual shape of the body, arose towards the end of the thirteenth century.
(22) This was originally introduced in the early twelfth century to replace the overtunic. It was based on the oriental bliaut, which was long and full, with trailing sleeves and robe. In the fourteenth century this was given a collar, and called the cotehardie. The houppelande was a variant of this.
(23) Ermine, the winter coat of the Putorius erminea, an animal of the weasel family. The fur, all white except for the black tip of the tail, is extensively used in robemaking, especially for official dress.
(24) Possibly under Benedict XII, as Dubarle thought. However, the adoption of brighter hues at this time was by no means limited to the Church and the universities, as the increasing number of occasions upon which sumptuary laws were enacted testifies.
(25) Franklyn, Charles, "Academical Dress- a brief sketch from the twelfth to the twentieth century, with especial reference to doctors" in (1946-7) 9(2) Oxford 78 at 82.
(26) Hackett, Rev Fr Benedict, The Original Statutes of Cambridge University: The Text and its History (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1970) 147.
(27) The Oxford DD also affected the lamb's wool in their hoods. See Gibson, Strickland (ed), Statuta Antiqua Universitis Oxoniensis (1931) 51-2.
(28) An Act for the Reformation of Excess in Apparel 1533 (24 Henry VIII c 13); repealed by the Continuation of Acts Act 1603 (1 Jac I c 25) s 7. The degrees covered were "doctors of the one law or of the other, and also doctors of other sciences". It seems however that its application may have been intended to cover clergy only of these degrees.
(29) New Catholic Encyclopaedia (The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, 1967) Vol 1 p 63-64.
(30) Franklyn, Charles, "Academical Dress- a brief sketch from the twelfth to the twentieth century, with especial reference to doctors" in (1946-7) 9(2) Oxford 78 at 82. Though even here there was varied usage, with red being almost equally popular.
(31) Wells, Joseph, The Oxford Degree Ceremony (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1906) 67. A requirement that academical dress be black was not common till quite a late period. See Hastings, Very Rev'd Rashdall, The Universities of Europe in the Middle Ages (first published 1895, new ed FM Powicke & AB Emden, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1936) vol 3 p 387.
(32) Hargreaves-Mawdsley, WN, A History of Academical Dress in Europe until the end of the Eighteenth Century (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1963) 126-128.
(33) Franklyn, Charles, "Academical Dress- a brief sketch from the twelfth to the twentieth century, with especial reference to doctors" in (1946-7) 9(2) Oxford 78 at 83.
(34) Worn, by regent DM and DCL at Oxford, at least in the early period; Gibson, Strickland (ed), Statuta Antiqua Universitis Oxoniensis (1931) 56. In 1414 Cambridge Masters of Arts, both regent and non-regent were to wear either the pallium or the cappa clausa, and the cappa manicata when "off-duty"; Cambridge University Library MS Mm. 4.47.§147, fo. 228 (22).
(35) Hargreaves-Mawdsley, WN, A History of Academical Dress in Europe until the end of the Eighteenth Century (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1963) 79-80.
(36) That worn by the Oxford MAs disappeared during the early part of the sixteenth century; Hastings, Very Rev'd Rashdall, The Universities of Europe in the Middle Ages (first published 1895, new ed FM Powicke & AB Emden, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1936) vol 3 p 639n.
(37) Though this usage, without fur, is found as early as 1379; Statutes of the Colleges of Oxford, printed for the Royal Commission (1853) vol i, (R23) 45-46. Druitt, Herbert, A Manual of Costume as illustrated by Monumental Brasses (1906) 35-6; Clarke, EC, "English Academic Costume" (1893) i Archaeological Journal 202.
(38) Hargreaves-Mawdsley, WN, A History of Academical Dress in Europe until the end of the Eighteenth Century (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1963) 88.
(39) Hargreaves-Mawdsley, WN, A History of Academical Dress in Europe until the end of the Eighteenth Century (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1963) 120-121.
(40) The robe at Cambridge now has square corners, which is incorrect, as the robe is semi-circular and so the corners should be rounded.
(41) Franklyn, Charles, "Academical Dress- a brief sketch from the twelfth to the twentieth century, with especial reference to doctors" in (1946-7) 9(2) Oxford 78 at 84.
(42) Lacey, Rev'd TA, "The Ecclesiastical Habit in England" (1900) 4 Transactions of the St Paul's Ecclesiological Society 126, 129-30.
(43) It is a preaching, court and parliamentary robe, of post-Reformation origin, lay and purely academical, the sleeved tabard authorised by the Hampton Court Conference in 1603. The best black chimere is of corded ottoman silk. If a scarlet chimere is worn the cassock should be (episcopal) purple, rather than black. This is worn in church and with liturgical dress, by bishops clerical doctors.
(44) The scarlet academic chimere, or convocation habit, is buttoned up under the collar, across the chest. It is a sleeveless cloak of superfine cloth, part lined with silk of the doctorate held, and fastened with two coloured buttons in front. The back is gathered in a yoke. There are no silk facings shown. When unbuttoned, facings for 8" inside may be seen. This can be worn over rochet or surplice, but is hot and rather oppressive.
(45) Its use is authorised by custom of three hundred years use.
(46) Scarlet for parliamentary full dress. The ecclesiastical chimere is like the doctors' full dress robe minus the sleeves. It does not button across the chest, but the fronts are turned back for 4" and stiched down, showing the facing silk or velvet all the way down to the bottom, and about an equal amount or 6" inside. These open pressed fronts leave several inches of opening, revealing the white surplice or rochet. The two halves are held in position or anchored by a twisted silk cord, with loop, which goes on to a button on the left side front facing. The ecclesiastical chimere is not suitable for academical use.
(47) See Druitt, Herbert, A Manual of Costume as illustrated by Monumental Brasses (1906).
(48) Hargreaves-Mawdsley, WN, A History of Academical Dress in Europe until the end of the Eighteenth Century (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1963) 127.
(49) This robe was later used at Oxford by the commoners; "Regulations for academical dress", in the Register of Convocations 1659-71, University Archives.
(50) Academical Dress from the Middle Ages to the Present Day including Lambeth Degrees (privately printed by WE Baxter Ltd, Lewes, 1970) 112. The black chimere is probably derived from the cappa clausa via the cappa nigra; the scarlet chimere, though outwardly very similar, probably derives from the doctors' tabard or sleeveless coat of 1533 (the supertunica).
(51) If the chimere is accepted as the survival of the black cappa clausa, then their use now (by laymen) would be exceedingly anachronistic. MAs and BD who are in holy orders are quite different, and this perhaps explains who some episcopal chimeres are black, these being worn in place of the scarlet to which the bishops who are not doctors were not strictly entitled.
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