Academic dress in medieval English universities was quite strictly regulated and evolution was gradual. In contrast, the period between the Reformation and the Restoration saw far-reaching changes, but the transition from the old to the new was no simple matter: for each degree several styles of gown, hood and cap may have coexisted. Two university chancellors imposed detailed rules, Lord Burghley at Cambridge in 1585 and Archbishop William Laud at Oxford in 1636. This article examines one intriguing example of variation in academic dress dating from exactly four hundred years ago and asks: just what did Masters of Arts wear in the early seventeenth century? It is part of a wider investigation, still work in progress, into change and diversity in academic dress in the century before George Edwards and David Loggan published their superb costume engravings. No such definitive pictorial record is known to exist for earlier periods and we have to rely very much on monumental effigies for our evidence. There are some painted portraits, but details are difficult to make out if the sitter is dressed in a black gown over dark clothes: especially if the background is also dark. In a few cases, we can consult engravings after these portraits that render the gowns more clearly. Of course, resident members of the universities usually held a doctorate by the time they were eminent enough to warrant painting in oils. [Excerpts].
Kerr, Alex (2012) "Gowns Worn by MAs in Early-Seventeenth-Century England and the Curious Case of Thomas Thornton’s Sleeves," Transactions of the Burgon Society: Vol. 12.
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