The Academic Costume that is worn in commencements across the country today originated in the Middle Ages, when a gown and hood were used by scholars to keep warm in unheated buildings. The outfit was patterned after the prevailing dress of the times. Since a large number of the scholars were clerics, the robes resembled those of the monks. The hoods were fashioned after the monk's cowl and were attached to the gown so that they might be drawn over the head. Later, when the hood was displaced by the skull cap as a head covering, it was made separately from the gown. The skull cap evolved into a pointed cap which we recognize today as the mortarboard with its tassel. Until the end of the Civil War, students at most American universities wore caps and gowns daily.
In 1894, the American Intercollegiate Commission standardized the academic costume and, as a result, hoods and gowns came to symbolize the type of degree attained.
There are three types of gowns and hoods: Bachelor's, Master's, and Doctor's. The Bachelor's gown is made with an open or closed front and has long pointed sleeves. The velvet edging on the hood is the narrowest and least exposed of the three degrees. The Master's gown is an open front garment with long closed sleeves. The ends of the sleeves are square on the Master's gown and the velvet edging on the hood is somewhat wider than that on the Bachelor's. The Doctor's hood has the widest velvet edging of the three, and the gown is an open-front garment with round and bell- shaped sleeves. There are wide, black velvet panels or facings down the front of the Doctor's gown, with three velvet bars upon each sleeve. The velvet on the Doctor's gown may be the color of the degree, rather than black.
The lining of the hood indicates the colors of the institution conferring the degree. Nazareth College's colors are purple and gold. The border of the hood indicates the academic discipline in which the degree was earned. Nazareth College awards a Bachelor of Arts degree (white border), a Bachelor of Science degree (gold border), a Bachelor of Music degree (pink border), a Master of Science in Education degree (light blue border), and a Master of Science degree (gold border).