Doctoral regalia

I just arrived. Today, I acquired the regalia that visibly identify me as a member of the scholarly class.

I got my PhD in 2006, but I never bought the regalia. I also never made the trip back to Indiana so I could “walk” (i.e. walk across the stage during a graduation ceremony, be “hooded” by my advisor, and be photographed so I could add that photograph to my collection of status markers). Why didn’t I get the regalia and “walk”? I didn’t have the spare cash that would fund a trip to Indiana as well as an expensive set of robes. Of course I was also a new mother at that time, and I couldn’t really spare the time either. Also, my parents are in Pakistan, so who was going to tear up as they watched me walk? No one. The ritual didn’t hold meaning for me.

For the past several years, I’ve rented robes whenever I was obligated to attend my employing institution’s graduation or convocation ceremonies. This costs me about $60 each time. After a few rentals, one realizes that this is a bloody waste of money. In other words, it’s become cheaper to buy the regalia. I confess, too, that I envy my colleagues’ colorful regalia, and feel like a poor country cousin when I show up wearing a rental gown with the colors of my *employer* and not my doctoral institution. Horrors! I always shrink a little when eyes are cast upon me with the question, “Why don’t you have regalia from a different institution? Don’t you have a PhD? Is your PhD not from a reputable institution worthy of recognition through regalia?”

As a member of the toiling scholarly masses, this month – seven years after my PhD was awarded – I was able to purchase a velveteen gown and hood with the correct colors and a six-sided tam, no less. It’s probably no accident that I felt stable enough to also frame my PhD diploma and my MPhil diploma and tack them both up in my office.

It’s just one thing I can cross off my list. I now have regalia. I have arrived. Possibly, for some, donning regalia and posing for photographs in said regalia is a moment of pride and joy. Me, I feel like I just finished a load of laundry. What’s next on the list?

What’s next on your list?

Education and its symbols are some of the most hilariously bourgeois status markers of all. How affluent are you, after all, that you have the money to study for years and years, in contrast to most people in the world who struggle daily to fill their stomachs? The affluence of scholarship is not enough, though. I must fling it in the face of the world by donning gowns and caps with gold tassels on them.

The years spent in the service of scholarship are not enough though. One must pay through the nose to obtain the markers of this scholarship.

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3 Replies to “Doctoral regalia”

  1. I haven’t bought mine yet. But I want them. I joke sometimes that I only got the PhD for the outfit; there were teachers in my high school who had PhDs, just a few of them, and seeing them march in their silly hats at high school graduation made me very, very interested.

    The problem is, I’m not sure the New School has specific robes…or that faculty at Ottawa do any of the fun marching around. Still, though.

    My mom had to buy a bachelor’s gown to wear for opening and closing ceremonies at her small, Catholic women’s college in the 1960s/70s. I’m thinking of having hers altered to become my PhD robes–just add the stripes, alter the sleeves, make it shorter to accommodate my shortness…

    Congratulations on your purchase!

  2. Well, Emily, I’d say that the lack of specification is an opportunity! Go shop around for the nicest combination of colors! I think blue is generally is PhD color. But then, I have no clue. If you are crafty or good at *having* clothes altered, that is a great route to go. I was afraid I’d screw that up and end up looking like the Wrong Kind of PhD. And what a waste that would be, eh?

  3. Ah the regalia.
    Yes I would like to “march” or go up to the dias to be handed over that specific piece of paper from the Governer or President or some other big gun.
    It never happened in my life and I am ‘lamenting here’ for the opportunity you have provided.
    Matric Passing (high school). Nobody knew in Kotla until somebody told me to see the newspaper of that day and it took me lot of time to find my Roll Number. Did I feel Happy?
    B.Sc. Government College Lahore. They had their own Convocation in the hall and they just distributed papers to my class standing on one row. no names announced and we had “regalia” donned with white hoods feeling very scholarly. I only saw Nasim Mir going to the diad to obtain special recognition in Tennis though he was only a third year student at that time.
    MBBS- The university of Panjab decided to hold big convocation in the grounds where the new Un. was to be constructed Iskander Mirza came for the ceremony (foundation stone) but we (the doctors) were herded down together in an area marked off with lines and they send somebody down to hand over those “papers to us. Only Bhaijan Ishaq merhoom went to the stage to get his medals from the Governer General.
    Ah , the regalia without much show. As you say there was nobody to see us in that regalia anyway

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