Regalia worn in procession today trace origins to medieval universities, when all faculty were in religious orders and obliged to be properly gowned. Beyond ecclesiastical functions, robes marked clerics from the lay populace and also served well in unheated buildings of the day.
American academic dress in the colonial era derived directly from regalia of the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford. However, in 1894, a commission of American educators created a code eventually accepted by most universities and colleges in the United States and many in Canada. While much of American academic regalia is well systematized, European universities feature a wide range of gowns, caps and other accoutrements, some to be seen here today.