When planning to attend the graduation ceremony for my Ph.D., I opted to rent academic regalia because purchasing it is ridiculously expensive and grad students don’t get paid that much (if they get paid at all). The situation hadn’t changed much three months later when my first convocation as a faculty member (also my first convocation in any role) was looming. Thankfully, my institution offered to rent regalia for faculty who did not own it. It turned out that all of my departmental colleagues also had regalia that the institution had rented. This worked out really well for me and I ended up using that regalia for the past five years. (All of my departmental colleagues also had rental regalia and I have no idea how the rental system worked since we all kept it in our offices year-round rather than returning it and re-renting it twice a year.)
I recently returned this rented regalia when cleaning out my office and have received no word from my new institution that they have a similar sort of system, so I decided early in the summer to purchase my own regalia. Having made that decision, I then needed to figure out which regalia to buy. There are a lot of options and I don’t really know what the differences between them are, but I settled on purchasing the official regalia of my graduate institution (thankfully, I didn’t go to Princeton, though I also didn’t go somewhere with a particularly colorful gown that I’ve admired on some of my colleagues). The official company offered three “levels” of gown that all looked basically the same to me, though the highest level offered a pass-through to a pants pocket. If I ever sell academic regalia, such pass-throughs will be standard. Despite the desirability of such an option, I opted for one of the less-expensive models.
After a number of weeks, during which I forgot that I had ordered regalia, a square box arrived with my gown, tam, and hood. My rental gown had always been too large and my rental tam had always been too small, so I was interested in seeing how this purportedly custom-made regalia would fit. I am happy to report that the gown is definitely not as big around as my rental gown had been and the tam actually fits on my head without feeling like it will give me a headache. Unfortunately, the gown still seems longer than would be ideal, but maybe that is because my preferred ground clearance is twice the recommended length (maybe in a few years I’ll go to a tailor to have it shortened and have a pocket installed…). The hood is basically like my rental, though possibly a bit heavier, which will surely make inadvertently choking myself when I sit down on it even easier.
In general, I can’t say that the most expensive outfit I own (by far) seems that special compared to my rentals. If anything, it feels stiff (I swear that the area around the neck has cardboard sewn into it). I assume that these things get broken in over time, but wearing it a few hours twice a year means that the break-in process could take years. I’ll have to wait until this year’s convocation before finding out how it really performs. Alternatively, I could always wear it around the house Harry Potter-style (I think Harry Potter’s robes have pockets, though). If nothing else, the expense of the gown and the fact that it actually fits should give me a strong motivation not to gain weight over the years.
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