LAST year a faint attempt was made to instil into the minds of the Senior class the propriety of discarding the absurd costume which has been in vogue for some years past on Class Day and Commencement, and of adopting in its place the decidedly more appropriate and scholarly garment of the gown. The attempt, however, proved futile, because the few men interested in the matter allowed the opportunity of making the change to slip away, through their inactivity in canvassing the subject, and in bringing its merits before the majority, who looked with the utmost indifference upon any plan for the restoration of a costume eminently that of scholars, and in perfect accord with academic exercise. This inactivity on the one hand and indifference on the other having resulted in the abandonment of the project last year, it now remains for the Senior class of this year to decide whether they will awaken to a lively sense of the proprieties of the case, and by adopting the cap and gown revive a custom as beautiful as it is old, or by following in the path which the folly of a class of comparatively recent date has marked out, will still continue the wearing of a costume utterly inappropriate, and entirely devoid of all those historical associations which render the cap and gown so interesting in the eyes of every scholar.
Inquiry has been made to some extent among the members of the Senior class as to their sentiments regarding the project, and a large number have signified their hearty approval of it. From this it would seem, that if all would give the matter their careful consideration, the advantages of the proposed change (even looking at it entirely from an aesthetic point of view), would be apparent, and the execution of the plan could not fail to be accomplished.
On Class Day and Commencement it is, of course, befitting that all Seniors should wear a distinctive, appropriate, and uniform dress. An evening dress, worn as a morning costume, is manifestly absurd, and its inappropriateness undeniable. The gown has of old been regarded as the fit dress of scholars, and is unquestionably the only garment suitable for collegiate celebrations. Our faculty showed that they were convinced of this when they decided to appear in gowns on Commencement Day, and no reasonable objections can be offered against the adoption of them by Seniors on both the public celebrations. Their adoption does not necessarily involve increased expense, as some may imagine, and if proper measures were taken the expense would be rather diminished. At Columbia College the wearing of gowns was for many years compulsory, but after the repeal of the law, some years ago, it was left optional with the students to wear them or not. The custom, however, was continued, and at present in the oratorical celebrations of the college and on Class Day they are almost universally worn by the class holding the celebration, and by the orators always. Also in other college affairs the men who have parts, and the marshals, committee-men, etc., are obliged to wear them, but the rest of the students follow their own inclinations in the matter. On Commencement Day, however, the wearing of gowns is obligatory. By no means do all the students own gowns, but the majority, when occasion demands, hire them from the janitor, who always keeps them on hand, the charge therefor being $1.50 apiece. It seems as though a plan like this might be successfully introduced here in Cambridge, and be a source of advantage to both owner and student, for the former would gain a large percentage on his outlay, and the latter would obtain the necessary garments at a trifling expense. The cost of a cap and gown is, however, not great, and when it is taken into consideration that they can be readily disposed of to the succeeding class the expense is reduced considerably below that which the present style of costume entails. Caps can be purchased in New York for $3.50 at retail, and still further reduction would be made if they were purchased in large numbers. The cost of gowns varies with the material used. Silk is the most costly, and its use would involve rather more of an expenditure than the occasion requires. Alpaca, however, answers excellently for the purpose, and the expense is not heavy. The cost of an entire costume can be considered as not exceeding $10.00, and a considerable discount from this price could be obtained if a contract were made with one person to supply all that were needed.