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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained

Dear Dr. Know

By Dr. Know

Dear Dr. Know,

I'm tired of going with the flow. I want to make a fashion statement at graduation. Gear me up, Dr. K.

--Vanilla Val

Dear Vanilla,

Dr. Know goes ga-ga for Commencement exercises. When else do we see professors and administrators dressed in flaming pink gowns? Well, good question, actually. So Dr. Know e-mailed her pal Harry Lewis (an important Harvard dean). But Dean Lewis insisted, "in my line of work at least I don't don red silk with big skirts much."

Dr. K. detected a hint of disappointment in Lewis's message. He wrote that he "enjoys" playing dress-up once a year. But is once enough? Dr. Know started to fantasize about Dean Lewis as a closeted fashionista when he started gabbing passionately about his academic threads. When he told Dr. K about his 100 percent silk gown, she almost wet her panties with delight! She started dreaming about a queeny deany. He described his "true, pure silk academic gown" so deliciously, almost as if he knew Dr. K's mantra when it comes to these things--"academia-as-erotica." And then, Dean Lewis started talking dirty! He took our conversation where the sun don't shine, saying, "I wouldn't recommend going naked underneath, as the gown closures aren't really designed on that assumption." Oooh, oooh, Dr. K could hardly take all this teasing. Her face got flushed.

Dr. K's thoughts briefly wandered to ManRay, a gender-bending nightclub in Central Square--only a short walk from Lewis's office in University Hall. There, dress-up parades happen every Friday night. Style-maven Lewis probably doesn't realize it but the club offers a discount at the door for wearing "pleather, latex, pvc, drag, extreme fetish attire or eerie erotic wear." Dr. Know suspects that if the dean's regalia doesn't pass for eerie erotic it will definitely fall under drag. The club is located at 21 Brookline St.

Anyway! Lewis explained to Dr. K why he loves the all-silk academic gown he wears at Commencement. For one thing, his wife gave it him. So cute! And fashion-wise, he's nutso about the fabric. (It's so light and airy!) Lewis has been doing this gig for a number of years now so he knows that the synthetic rental stuff is crap--it's too damn hot. But he didn't use that language. Anyway, thanks for the tips, Dean Lewis!

In search of fancy finery, Dr. K called the Coop's cap and gown department. And guess what? No silk for sale, only poly.

Faced with a fashion mission, Dr. Know took a day trip to Chicago where she visited the headquarters of the E.R. Moore company, the gurus of "academic regalia and choir robes." The bad news: Silk costumes require a special order and, baby, we ain't got the time for that. Good thing Dr. K managed to uncover some sexy looks. She found gems in the "pulpit" and "baptismal" collections. But if you're going to try to bust out with the holier-than-thou aesthetic, Dr. K recommends accessorizing with some slutty blue eye shadow. And maybe some white platform sandals. But Vanilla Val, sweetie, you need something a little more hyper-sexualized. Dr. K recommends reinventing the robe. She is thinking: skin-tight robing. E.R. Moore has a new Kindergarten line called "Firstev'r"--it's regalia for small children (...don't ask). Invest in an extra-small kiddie gown--they're cheap!--and, technically speaking, you'll be appropriately regaled but you'll be getting lusty looks because you're in a super-trashy, teeny-tiny dress. So just dial up Dr. Know's pals at E.R. Moore (800-323-4351), because this year it's definitely all about the crack-ho look at Commencement.

Vanilla Val, Dr. K says: Change out of those poopy-pants and get on the horn. And, for goodness sake girl, go commando--leave those skivvies in the dorm room. Heck, you're graduating!

Big hug and see you there!

Dr. Know is an advice columnist who used to write regularly for the Crimson's weekly magazine, Fifteen Minutes. At Commencement, Dr. K will be wearing a faux-straw sun hat made of lavender-colored plastic.

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