Cap & Gown? No Thank You!

by Katy on March 18, 2014 · 32 comments

There are two things that set my teeth on edge, wasting money and buying single use items.

Example of the two? The obligatory graduation cap and gown.

My son’s high school kept sending information about graduation products to buy, (class rings, mementos, official announcements) and of course the cap and gown. I asked on the school’s Facebook group if anyone had a cap and gown we could borrow, posted on Freecycle and even asked a friend whose sons are both a year older than mine if we could borrow her set.

Nope, nope and “My son wouldn’t be comfortable wearing something someone else had used.”

I finally called the school yesterday and asked if they had any hand me down sets my son could borrow, and whattayaknow they did! We now have a cap and gown for graduation, no money will change hands, and we’ve avoided the dreaded cheaply made single use item!

And the best part? The school counselor completely understand why we would want to avoid buying this useless low quality item.

I just kind of wish more parents would want to avoid single use caps and gowns, then I wouldn’t of had to invent the wheel.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

kath March 18, 2014 at 8:27 am

Absolutely genius!


Krystal March 18, 2014 at 10:37 am

Good idea! They should set up a recycling system for this at high schools. They are cheap and not well made, but they can hold up for more than 1 wear for certain.

The graduation ceremonies are really getting beyond. Not just high school graduations, but there are now preschool, elementary, and middle school ceremonies, and all the marketed products that come with. Senior in HS being the most expensive, of course, with the pictures and announcements, etc. So silly!


Lindsey March 23, 2014 at 6:23 pm

I thought they were silly, too, until made that comment one day and someone said, “For some of the kids I teach, the only graduation they will ever have is elementary school.” Brought me up short. And soon after, I was at someone’s house and this person, a high school drop out, had proudly framed and hung up her middle school diploma. Not everyone has the wherewithal through high school or college.


Katy March 24, 2014 at 3:44 am

Good reminder, thank you!


Jeanine March 18, 2014 at 11:02 am

I didn’t walk in my HS ceremony, but I still have my cap. That was important to me as all my classmates signed it.

It’s all in what’s important to you.

I understand that nowadays you can rent the gown and purchase the cap. It’s a win win….I wouldn’t want anyone elses hat on my head, and certainly wouldn’t want to have to try to launder the gown/cap.


Rachel S. March 18, 2014 at 12:05 pm

At my high school, they changed the color and style of the robe and cap every year. And girls were required to wear skirts or dresses underneath. Since the color was translucent white (by cheapness, not by design) we all had to buy white skirts or dresses that year. Not cool. The boys wore green. I’m pretty sure we turned the robes back in and kept the hats.


Looby March 18, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Wow- I have to confess that is all quite foreign to me. In the uk we don’t celebrate high school graduation to that extent. No gowns or caps until university.
For both my masters and undergraduate graduation I don’t even think there was an option to buy the gown and hood- everyone just rented on the day.
I’m glad that Jeanine has sentimental attachment to the signatures on hers because until I read her comment I couldn’t think of a reason why anyone would want to keep such items permanently.


Michelle H. March 18, 2014 at 12:51 pm

My son brought home a note from school yesterday about a graduation packet for $35 that includes cap, gown, tassel with year, teddy bear, and some other random junk we don’t need. This is for Pre-K! Argh. I’m not purchasing it, and hoping he won’t be the only kid in regular clothes at “graduation”.


Tina March 18, 2014 at 1:28 pm

Love it! great idea 🙂


Bauunny March 18, 2014 at 4:27 pm

Both my kids wore the same hand me down gown that our neighbor’s two kids wore …..boys and girls. After we were done with it I passed it on two an acquaintance at work who has two Hugh school age kids and soon will need it. We did buy the hats but that was not very expensive…..I never thought to ask about borrowing them but I should have. I was delighted to pass it on. I think it is a travesty all the “stuff” they try to get graduates to buy. Others kids then move on to the next phase of life and it mostly becomes clutter in someone’s life. Good for you for taking the initiative!


Cheapchick March 18, 2014 at 6:39 pm

Strange, but here in Canada no one buys a cap and gown. The school rents all of them so they are in good condition and all look the same for pictures. The grad fees include the rental and the second it is over everyone returns their cap and gown. Talk about something you will never use again, I don’t understand why you should have to buy one.


Alexia March 18, 2014 at 7:19 pm

Huh. I have been through graduation for one undergraduate and three graduate degrees and have never bought a cap and gown — they have all been rented. You turn back both the cap and gown, keeping only the tassel from the cap. They can sanitize the caps just fine.

Of course, they are always offered for sale, and most people who go on to academic careers do end up buying at least the hood (because when you attend a graduation as faculty you’re supposed to wear the gown & hood of your alma mater). But most people I knew just rented them.


getting there March 19, 2014 at 5:02 am

Another Canadian here! I, too, think it’s odd that the cap and gowns have to be purchased. We just got them from the school and returned them when the event was over. I think maybe (?) we got to keep the tassel There was no emotional attachment to any of it as evidenced by the fact that I don’t know or care that I have the tassel or not LOL. I can’t speak for all schools of course, but it seems that more importance was placed on the achievement in and of itself, rather than the ceremony. And with my school, the cap and gown event was held months after the official last day of high school. In fact I’m pretty sure we had already started university/college etc.


ruthie March 19, 2014 at 5:42 am

My daughter is graduating in a couple of months and while we didn’t have to purchase the cap and gown, I was miffed because to rent them it was $30! Seriously?


PoppyEcho March 19, 2014 at 6:02 am

My high school just owned caps and gowns and handed them out for the ceremony, and then you gave them back afterwards.

It was a small school so I guess it was easier to organise it so half the people didn’t go home with them accidently/destroy them for fun/steal them.


Trisha March 19, 2014 at 6:13 am

I understand completely, Katy! My highschool also changed gown colors which was determined by each graduating class (navy, silver, or maroon). I still have my silver cap and gown, which my children play dress up with :). In college, our gowns were rented and included in our tuition. My husband bought his Doctoral gown, it was over $600! It hangs in our hall closet. He only wears it for his students graduations…ugh.


Sharon March 10, 2015 at 8:25 pm

$600??? Crazy!


Kristen March 19, 2014 at 7:05 am

I’ll have to keep this in mind for college graduations…because one upside of homeschooling all the way through high school is that you don’t need a cap and gown to graduate.


Megg March 19, 2014 at 8:19 am

My husband is graduating in June with one (of 2) masters degrees, so we will be spending the money on a cap and gown, but mostly because we can’t simply borrow one for a masters program. He has to wear the hood from his school, so we can’t just wear any old gown. Luckily he can use it again in a year!
We’re also lucky that work is paying for his degrees so I don’t think it’s too much to have to pay that too.

It’s weird that your friend’s son didn’t want to wear something some one else had worn? Your son will be wearing clothes underneath so it shouldn’t be that big a deal, I don’t think.


Lory Greathouse March 19, 2014 at 8:45 am

My daughter is a senior so I am scrutinizing costs and nonessentials with the best of them. I am not without sympathy. It is an annoying expense for most of us, but I have also been reminded how it can be a way to bless others. My cap and gown recently came out of storage and went to a school in Haiti for their graduation ceremony. I can tell you I don’t remember what I paid when I first bought them – but I will never forget the joy and pride on the faces of the Haitian grads who were able to march in caps and gowns. Money well spent. And it doesn’t have to go around the world to make a difference …Someone blessed you by donating their cap/gown back to the high school to be used again. Perspective can change an annoying expense into an opportunity for blessing.


Katy March 19, 2014 at 9:10 am

So true!



Bauunny March 19, 2014 at 3:08 pm

My kids both used a “traveling” grad gown that had been the neighbors. 4 kids total have used it and then I passed it on to another family who would appreciate and use it. I did spring for hats and tassels….land now I wonder why. :-). All the stuff they try to sell you is ridiculous.


Elizabeth March 19, 2014 at 3:39 pm

Another Canuck here. I’ve always worn a rented gown and never worn a cap. (Not even for my MA — an dI’m glad my mom talked me out of buying the hood! (What on earth would I do with it now?)

I’m really surprised that folks in the U.S. have to buy them.


Mary Ann March 19, 2014 at 5:17 pm

I so agree. When I graduated many years ago, we rented them. For my sons’ college graduations, luckily they went to the same college and got the same degree so they used the same gown. And then my son passed it on to his roommate.


andrea_upnorth March 20, 2014 at 5:13 am

I worked in a high school office and I don’t believe the seniors were offered a choice between renting vs. buying. I have 2 daughters not too many years from graduation and would definitely consider renting even at $30. However, with 2 of them it would really only be half the cost if we did buy. The office did have one or two gowns that students who couldn’t afford to buy a gown could borrow. Maybe I should start a campaign to collect more! Probably many people would be happy to get rid of theirs if it was actually going to “someplace” where it would get used.


Kelly March 24, 2014 at 6:46 am

I luck out, while my daughters Pre-school has a little ceremony for the kids going to Kindergarten next year there is nothing to buy at all. The entire class gets together the morning of the ceremony and makes caps for the kids ‘graduating’ that day. Last years hats were colorful and cute and after the ceremony the tops pulled off and were made into Congrats! cards from all the class mates!


Kate April 17, 2014 at 5:42 am

I love the idea of having a cap & gown closet. I graduated with my social work degree and the program asks all students to donate their caps, gowns, and hoods (master’s level program) so that future students won’t have to purchase them.


Seth June 10, 2014 at 10:15 am

It’s refreshing to see all of you considering the impact a “one time use” graduation gown has. This 90 minute ceremony is having a horrible impact on our environment. Greener Grads has come up with a national recover/reuse program for this material. I’ve included a very short (2 minute) video that gives an overview of our program.


Sharon March 10, 2015 at 8:22 pm

I had a very, very difficult time on Josten’s web site finding where I could buy JUST a tassel. If I recall correctly, I ended up contacting them directly to place my minuscule order!


Katy March 10, 2015 at 8:25 pm

My son’s school had one that they just gave us.


Jenny March 11, 2015 at 7:08 am

At our high school, we all rented our caps and gowns in school colors from some company. They looked nicer than the single-use ones, of course, and were sturdier and didn’t create as much material waste, but I think they cost about the same. My crappy single-use cap and gown from college are still hanging in my closet. Not sure why. The gown could be part of a Halloween costume someday, I suppose.

And my parents were right about the high school class ring. I didn’t need it. Sort of wish I had listened. I was much more of a material girl back then 🙂


Paige August 18, 2016 at 7:31 pm

I guess I’m one of the few who really do want to buy all of my academic regalia. I guess it’s a little sentimental and a waste of money, but looking at my high school and undergraduate gowns (neither of which had a renting option) give me a feeling of accomplishment when I need that extra push of self confidence. I guess I could just look at my diplomas but i feel like having the gowns makes the feeling a little more solid. I’m about to start my post graduate program and am already thinking about the cost of my gown and hood and if it is worth it to buy it or simply rent it since my school offers a gown for hire option. I’m not certain how much renting is.


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