True-Blue Alumnus Creates New Commencement Gowns

New UNC commencement gowns.

Alexander Julian ’70 is all smiles as his vision of Carolina’s Commencement gown is modeled by, from left, his son Will and senior class leaders Justin Tyler and Chelsea Phillips. (Photo by Dan Sears ’74.)

 Alexander Julian ’70 was determined that his son Will was not going to graduate in May wearing an aqua gown. Julian, noted for his clothing line Colours and for putting argyle on the Tar Heels’ basketball uniform, knows something about color. And he knew that the regalia in use at his alma mater for several years was not true Carolina blue.

“As a colorist, ever since Holden Thorp [’86] was inaugurated as chancellor, I have been on him like a wet, dirty T-shirt to let me try to improve the true blueness of the robe color,” Julian said.

The robe also wasn’t green, as in sustainably made. With so many students concerned about the environment, the time seemed right for a gown that might only be worn once in a lifetime to be made from recycled materials.

At the first home football game of the 2010 season, Julian won approval from Thorp to go ahead with his idea for true blue, truly green regalia.

The new gown also has additional details: There’s white piping along the yoke and two white panels in front, one of the pleats has been removed, and the tassel is 75 percent blue and 25 percent white instead of solid blue. Its Old Well medallion is now colored silver instead of gold.

And, after many dye tests, the cloth is what Julian judges to be the perfect shade of Carolina blue. “There’s a bin in my studio in Connecticut that is filled with dye tests,” he said.

At the same time, the new gown also is considered truly green. Oak Hall Cap & Gown, supplier of UNC regalia for decades, offered a fabric made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled plastic bottles (it takes 23 plastic bottles to make each gown), but that fabric was manufactured in Asia. Oak Hall found a manufacturer with mills in North and South Carolina, and the fabric is being sewn into gowns at the company’s facility in Virginia. The information declaring the gown to be sustainable is printed on the cloth, without the use of an extra label.

At $54.99, the True Blue gown will cost students $5 more than last year’s aqua model. (Students with older gowns can bring them in for a $5 credit on a new gown.) Additional accessories include a 2011 tassel attachment ($5.99) and a customized white stole ($29.99), often given to a parent in appreciation after Commencement. The new regalia will debut at Commencement Information Day on March 17, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Great Hall of the Student Union.

More online…

  • Blue Genes: There’s no argument about white, but plenty of concern over the other school color. The Great Debate boils down to this: When you bleed Carolina Blue, exactly what color is the blood? From the July/August 2002 issue of the Carolina Alumni Review, available online to Carolina Alumni members.

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