Caps and Gowns: Future Fashion Remodel

High school senior Lucy Shadburne in her graduation cap and gown. She represents the last class before the cap policy update. Photo by Dannie Blake.

The donning of caps and gowns has been a long-standing tradition in educational institutions throughout the Western world. Franklin is no different, as a PPS rule mandates that all students must be in uniform to walk at graduation. However, graduates’ gowns may be slightly less uniform during this year’s ceremony on June 5. Franklin has adjusted its policy regarding modification of graduation materials to express ethnic or cultural identity.
Starting this year, graduating students will be allowed to modify their caps. This decision was not made lightly, as graduation is intended to be a formal occasion. “It’s kind of our party, not your party,” says Franklin Principal Juanita Valder. Vice Principal (and incoming principal) Chris Frazier said of the decision, “We want to give our students an opportunity to demonstrate that they know how to meet expectations, so I have full confidence that students are going to honor their families, their culture, and themselves for that matter, and decorate their caps as they so choose.”

Cap decorations can include beads, pins, stickers, or other visual adornments. Unlike gowns, caps are rarely rented, as they tend to fall apart faster, according to Counseling Secretary Sheila Dygert. This makes recycling them harder, so they are usually not offered for re-use by Franklin’s counseling department. Now that caps can be modified, it is important that caps be available for all students to own, so that cap decoration does not become indicative of economic advantage.

Meanwhile, Franklin will maintain its gown-borrowing program to ensure that all students can walk at graduation. Franklin’s counseling department maintains an accumulation of gowns donated by alumni after graduation. “Any student who is in a position where they can’t or chose not to purchase a gown can come and see me,” says Dygert. However, Franklin only has a few gowns in a limited number of sizes. When a student cannot obtain a gown from the school, Franklin works with Jostens to get the student what they need. Jostens is the company that manufactures caps and gowns for Franklin, as well as all of PPS and most of the state of Oregon. “As we identify students’ needs or students make their needs known to us, we talk [with Jostens] about ways that they could acquire caps and gowns so they can participate in graduation,” says Frazier.

According to Dygert, the decision to allow decoration of caps was primarily spurred by other institutions making the same decision, including colleges and PPS schools. Jostens does not influence school policy regarding decorating or re-using caps and gowns. Jostens regional sales representative Dan Peters, who oversees marketing at Franklin, acknowledged that there is a valid argument against decorating. “The reason people started wearing caps and gowns years and years and years ago was that they didn’t want a differentiation between haves and have-nots,” said Peters. “They didn’t want people showing up in suits that had a lot of money, and other people that would show up in jeans because they didn’t. That was the whole idea—it was kind of a unification thing.” Hopefully, through Franklin admin’s efforts, this will not become a problem for future classes.

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