Lauren Norris, an influencer, YouTuber and now recent college graduate, posted a colorful surprise from her graduation ceremony — underneath her traditional black college graduation gown, she was secretly wearing a pink one.
In a nod to her YouTube channel motto, “Be the girl that goes for it,” Norris did just that and strode confidently across the stage at her graduation from the University of Alabama clad in a short dress, bright pink heels and the traditional cap and gown.
After accepting her diploma, she proceeded to wow the crowd by dropping one sleeve of her standard-issue black gown to display one side of the pink gown, the sleeve a bright contrast in a sea of dark colors.
She then accented her big reveal with a graceful twirl and topped off the whole brilliant display by blowing a kiss and giving a wave to the audience. “Life is simple if you follow the bend & snap,” Norris’s TikTok reads, referencing the iconic flirting tip from the movie Legally Blonde.
The supportive comments soon poured in.
“I love watching women be happy and accomplish their goals,” said one TikTok commenter, to which Norris replied that it made her cry.
“Real-life Sharpay Evans,” added another.
“Elle Woods would be so proud!” said another commenter, referencing the law student played by Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde.
And, of course, Norris posted her TikTok to the audio clip of Elle Woods dropping her famous line, “What, like it’s hard?” from when she tells her dumbfounded ex that she got into Harvard Law.
And while a secret pink gown hidden beneath a college gown may not seem like that big of a deal, it’s actually against the rules governing most college commencement ceremonies.
If you’ve ever wondered why caps and gowns are even a thing for graduation — whether that’s preschool or Harvard Law School — the tradition has roots in religious tradition, according to the Washington Post.
Essentially, universities were founded around the 12th century and because religious clerics at the time wore hoods and gowns, so did university students. Back then, education was usually granted only to medieval scholars who also had taken some sort of religious vow.
The hoods and gowns worn by the clergy served two purposes: They were warm in the large, drafty buildings, and the hoods covered the heads of the clergy, which were shaved for religious purposes. The clergy later wore skull caps. This tradition eventually evolved into the modern-day square academic cap.
The tradition continued over the next centuries, adopting different styles and colors to identify certain specialties and education levels, for instance. But one thing has remained the same: Black gowns are highly recommended.
There doesn’t seem to be a clear explanation for why exactly the gowns were black, apart from that they mimicked clerical gowns, like priest robes, which are traditionally black. Black may have also been a purely practical choice back when laundering wasn’t an easy option. Alternatively, some say black may have reflected the somber path of the pursuit of education.
Regardless of the reason for the black gown, it’s a tradition that has been protected fiercely by the powers that be in higher education.
“The governing force is tradition and the continuity of academic symbols from the Middle Ages. The tradition should be departed from as little as possible, not only to preserve the symbolism of pattern and color, but for practicality as well,” states the American Council on Education, which sets official graduation gear rules.
But it looks like Norris, at least, is in the clear with her deviation from the norm with her pink gown.
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