University of St. Andrews goes into battle over our ‘unique’ red gowns

How much are the gowns really worth?

September arrives. In a flurry of excitement, new students arrive in town and quickly find themselves spending money on everything from book to bedsheets. But one thing has a place of pride in the hastily unpacked hall room: the Red Gown.

The gown, a traditional item of clothing worn by students for more than 600 years – mostly for special occasions and the Sunday morning pier walk – are eagerly sought-after year upon year by freshers keen to fit in with those who have gone before them.

Retailing at £159 each, the gowns are certainly not for those on a tight budget. Although not an obligatory item of clothing, many students choose to buy one in order to feel a part of the culture and community. In the past, there have been calls to have the gowns removed from the university in an attempt to level the playing field and remove the economic pressure on students from "certain backgrounds" as they attempt to fit in.

However, this year, a new competitor arrived in town. Offering undergraduate red gowns at almost half the price of the university-sold counterparts, Churchill Gowns (an Australian-based company, founded in 2014) offered what seemed to be a fantastic alternative for those who didn't want to, nor have the means to, pay £160 for something to be seldom worn.

Claiming to be made to "university specifications", carbon neutral, and only £89 – with 10% of the price going to charity – Churchill Gowns seemed too good to be true. And perhaps they are.

In September, students of all years were sent an email stating that the University had been made aware that some students had bought red gowns from Churchill Gowns, which are not endorsed by the University and are not official University gowns – despite the company claiming otherwise.

After a cease and desist letter was issued by the University to Churchill Gowns, and having no response from the company, "Lawyers for St Andrews have accused the Australian company, who claim their gowns are “made to university specification”, of trying to "deceive the public" by falsely stating their products had been endorsed by the university" according to The Telegraph.

The legal battle continues, but as of the writing of this article, Churchill Gowns is still advertising and selling their version of the St Andrews Undergraduate Red Gown.

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