How to Prepare Your Cap and Gown for Long Term Storage

students throwing up their graduation caps

Odds are your high school graduation regalia was a standard polyester affair. The tassel was the only piece worth saving. Now, after years of college and post-graduate study, you understand that college and graduate school graduation regalia are an entirely different matter. Doctoral hoods, honor cords, soft skull caps and fabric gowns with velvet piping are the norm. They signify your status and your degree. They also cost $100 or more. Yet, the investment pays off when you walk in the procession as a student, faculty member or recognized scholar.

As a faculty member or academic, you may only strut your academic rigor once or twice a year, but you still want to look impressive. This is especially true if you are a mace-bearer. If you aren’t an academic, then you at least want your pricey graduation gear to look good for a Halloween party or for your honorary degree. Whatever the future occasion, here are the steps to take as you prepare your graduation gown, cap, cords, and hood for storage.

1.) Choose a Dry, Dark, Cool, Readily Accessible Location.

Some graduates display their regalia and graduation attire in shadow boxes alongside their diplomas. However, exposing regalia to light causes fabric to fade. Even more disturbing, only one side fades. If you go this route, then you can be fairly certain you will never wear that gown or cap again.

Instead, store your graduation gown in a readily accessible location. Post-graduation you are likely moving, searching for jobs and not really thinking about where most of your accumulated stuff is hiding out. Storage locations near your university or your hometown are prime locations for storing your college memorabilia, your emergency futon, your back-up bookshelves and your graduation gown.

2) Plastic Container or Wardrobe Box

Plan to store your graduation gown in its very own plastic container with a clip closure. Keeping your graduation gown separate from other clothing allows air to circulate. Air circulation keeps the fabric smelling fresh and reduces the chance of mold, mildew or other damage. If you are concerned about odor or pests, then a sachet of cedar chips will ease your mind and preserve your regalia.

Wardrobe boxes are another option. They are available at many storage locations as well as home improvement stores. These stand-up boxes allow you to hang your regalia alongside other delicate pieces of attire. If you go this route, then use plastic or wood hangers with padding. Choose a storage unit with enough height, air circulation and low humidity as possible.

3) Clean Your Graduation Gown and Accessories

Now that you know where and how you will store your expensive academic gowns and regalia, you need to make certain they are clean. Graduation day can be a busy, boozy, bright day full of nerves and early summer heatwaves. Only store graduation gowns that have been dry-cleaned. On a low setting, iron stoles, cords, tassels and hoods to decrease the risk of wrinkles or tangles. Caps should be aired out and reshaped before they are set in a box.

When you pick up your graduation gown from the dry cleaners, you might be tempted to vacuum seal it. Stay strong and say no. Your graduation gown wants to breathe. In addition, avoid inexpensive storage options. A dry cleaning bag, or any plastic bag, traps damage-causing moisture.

4) Check Yourself

Graduation day makes even the sanest scholar a nervous wreck. Even after you have moved beyond that hectic day, you will have other hectic days. Changes of residence, job interviews, break-ups, engagements, weddings, all kinds of concerns are going to take up a whole lot of your time. Whatever the occasion, you are going to visit your storage unit. You might be taking things out or putting things, but make a habit of checking on your graduation gown each time you enter the storage area. You don’t have to put it on or take a nostalgia trip, but you should refold it to prevent permanent creasing and to give it some air.

Graduation gowns may be a fussy graduation detail built upon medieval traditions that no longer have relevance or meaning, but remember this. Relatives might not understand the title of your doctoral thesis or why you dedicated eight years of your life to a seemingly trivial concern, but as you make your way along the processional path wearing your graduation gown, hood, cap, honor stoles and cords, relatives will pause respectfully, if only for a moment. Safely store that memory for as long as you can.