As some of you will have seen in the Fresher’s Guide, Cambridge Gowns are an archaic Cambridge tradition. Until half way through the twentieth century, students had to wear them whenever they left their college room, attended lectures, sat exams, and generally did anything other than shower. Now, gowns are generally only used formal occasions: Matriculation, Formal Halls (recommended at Clare), Graduation, and when voting for a new University Chancellor. You are required to have a gown only twice in your degree – once when you Matriculate and once when you Graduate.
Some people choose not to buy one, and instead choose to borrow or hire one for special occasions. If you do buy one then you can also wear it to formal dinners and some other one-off events. Gowns cost about £100 new, or around £50 second hand. Whether or not you buy one is up to you. A Gown Marketplace has been created to facilitate the exchange of second hand gowns.
There are various different types appropriate to whatever previous degrees you hold, and is important that you wear the correct gown (see below). Continuing Cambridge undergraduates – the graduate gown is different from the undergraduate gown. You can’t just use your existing one. However gowns are much less necessary as a graduate. Cambridge’s clothier shops where you can buy gowns (both used and new) are Ryder and Amies (right in the market square), A.E. Clothier (on Pembroke Street), and for the truly luxurious, Ede and Ravenscroft (on Trumpington Street). However, a better option may be to buy it through the Graduate Union or check out the Clare College MCR gown exchange.
|Degree status||Appropriate gown|
|BA (undergrad/bachelor) degree from Cambridge||BA gown|
|MA (masters/mphil) degree from Cambridge||MA gown|
|Degree (BA or MA) from elsewhere and aged 23 or under||BA Gown with strings tucked in|
|Degree (BA or MA) from elsewhere and aged 24 or over||MA Gown with strings tucked in|