The use of formal academic dress has its origins in the 14th century. In academic processions today, most participants wear costumes consisting of caps, gowns and hoods, each symbolizing some aspect of the wearer's academic background.
- Bachelor's Degree: The gown has pointed sleeves and is designed to be worn closed.
- Master's Degree: The gown has oblong sleeves with wrists and bases hanging down. The rear part of the sleeve is square cut, and the front part has a cut away. The gown may be worn open or closed.
- Doctor's Degree: The gown has bell shaped sleeves and is designed to be worn open or closed. The gown is faced down in front with black velvet and has three black velvet bars across the sleeves. The facings and crossbars may be velvet and in the color distinctive of the subject to which the degree pertains.
- The Hood: The hood represents the institution from which the wearer holds an advanced degree and also indicates the subject in which the degree is earned. The length of the hood for the bachelor's degree is three feet; for the master's degree, three and one-half feet; and for the doctor's degree, four feet. The hood worm for the doctor's degree has panels at the sides, unlike the hoods for the other two degrees. The hoods are lined with the official color or colors of the college or university conferring the degree. The hood is trimmed in velvet or velveteen, and the color is that which represents the subject in which the degree was earned.