Clare College Cambridge

What do I wear?

The University Syndicate has recently reminded Colleges that graduation is primarily an important rite of passage within the University, confirming continuing membership of the University as well as individual achievement, and that it is not necessarily an appropriate occasion at which to display either national allegiance or membership of other organizations.  Accordingly, all graduands should note the following dress regulations carefully, as laid down in Ordinances.

What to wear at graduation

As graduation is a formal occasion, an appropriate standard of dress is expected. The dress code below is strictly enforced at ceremonies, and if you do not observe it, you may not be permitted to graduate on a particular occasion. Your Praelector or Presenter is able to offer further advice on dress.

Dress Option One

  • A dinner jacket or black or very dark grey lounge suit. These must be dark enough not to contrast obviously with a black gown.
  • A plain, long-sleeved, collared, white shirt.
  • Formal black shoes. Sandals are not permitted.
  • Unpatterned black or very dark grey socks.
  • White bow-tie and bands must be worn.

Dress Option Two

  • A black or very dark grey skirt suit or trouser suit, or a dark skirt without a jacket, or a dark, long-sleeved dress. 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. Sandals are not permitted.
  • Unpatterned black, nearly-black, or natural coloured hosiery.
  • A white bow-tie and bands may be worn (optional) but only with a properly collared white shirt.

A black cassock may be substituted for a dark suit, skirt or dress in either Dress One or Two, but it must be worn with either a white bow-tie and bands or a clerical collar and bands.

*Hoods can be very heavy and may cause your blouse or jacket to ride up.  To avoid this happening, the blouse should be of a traditional design with buttoned front - to which the hood can be fastened - you will find it helpful if it has a collar (a school shirt would be perfect).  You should also ensure that the blouse is long enough to tuck into your skirt or trousers.


The square cap, or 'mortarboard', is optional for graduands at Cambridge. If you do decide to wear one on the day, you should take it off and carry it in your left hand inside the Senate-House.


Discreet jewellery may be worn but conspicuous jewellery and hair accessories are not permitted.  Exaggerated hairstyles and/or hair colouring should also be avoided.

Bags/handbags may not be carried in the Senate House.

There may be exceptional reasons, e.g. of a religious or cultural nature, where a graduand is obliged to wear a particular form or item of dress at all times.  VERY IMPORTANT: if you wish to wear ‘non-standard’ dress, you must consult me in good time (  Deviating from the regulation dress code may prevent you from graduating.

Remember that you will need your gown and hood for the group photo at 10.30 am on the morning of Graduation Day, or possibly earlier if you wish to have a family group photo.  For the Lady Clare Dinner on the evening of the 27 June, gowns are worn but without hoods.

Charlie Weiss