The Freshers' Guide
When at Cambridge, you will be invited to a large number of events, often with some kind of dress code. Here's a quick guide to expected dress, according to the dress code written on the invitation or in the e-mail.
There is no specified dress code or accepted convention for general daywear, attending lectures or sitting examinations - feel free to wear whatever you like (within legal limits!). A few formal university and college situations will require you to wear the correct gown if you choose to attend and are entitled to do so - university Discussions or other meetings in Senate House, College Council meetings in college, and most formal dinners in Hall. When wearing a gown, you are generally required to also be smartly dressed - the college rules provide some guidelines on what clothing is suitable in combination with a gown, but you should usually assume "smart".
Example: the Graduate Tutor's Suppers in the Old Library usually have this dress code.
Smart (often with the addition of "with gowns")
Example: Matriculation Dinner and Formal Halls have this dress code.
Black Tie (occasionally with the addition of "with gowns")
Example: Graduation dinner is 'black tie with gowns'. Some special MCR Guest Night meals are black tie, but without gowns. Most college May Balls and many other formal events also require black tie.
Ladies wear cocktail dresses.
Garden Parties / Blazers
Example: there are many Garden Parties during May Week in Cambridge (which, perversely, takes place in June). The dress codes for these varies, but 'blazers' is common.
No events at Sidney Sussex routinely specify white tie, and it's quite unlikely you will need this formal a suit whilst in Cambridge. Exceptions include a couple of other College's May Balls (e.g. Magdalene). More details on what's expected and how to hire will usually be provided by the ball's organizers.
Fancy dress normally comes with a theme. Use your imagination! In past times, 'fancy dress' was used to refer to black tie, but this is no longer common usage. If in doubt, check.
Freshers' Guide last modified: 22 February 2013