Man and woman wearing the Fana bunadThe University of Trondheim provides an etiquette guide for the nervous PhD candidate planning his or her defence and surrounding celebrations. They even tell you what to wear: pent formiddagsantrekk for the trial lectures, for instance a light-coloured suit, or a slightly informal dark suit with a coloured blouse or shirt. For the defence itself you should choose a festantrekk, as you’d wear to a wedding, a christening or on 17. mai: a dark suit, a bunad or even a tuxedo. The audience wears regular clothes.

I’ve never seen anyone defend their PhD in a bunad, though it’s a fascinating thought. Do people really do this?

The author actually suggests that you might need to rent a hotel room to get away from kids and housework. I obviously haven’t been taking this seriously enough! Get enough sleep, eat properly and don’t get drunk the night before – sound advice.

And it’s not an oral exam, as it is in Finland, apparently. A Norwegian defence is supposed to be an exchange of ideas between peers, where two external experts use their time and knowledge to study and discuss the third expert’s research.

The first doctoral defence at the University of Bergen was held in 1949. The candidate wore a tuxedo.

I have actually done some work today. This is my 15 minute break 🙂

6 thoughts on “costumes and etiquette

  1. Elin

    Absolutely – wear a bunad! I am sure someone has before – although it probably doesn’t happen often. It is a very powerful way of showing respect for the day – we are lucky to have this tradition. I guess the only negative aspect of wearing a bunad to a defence is that it might feel more like you’re wearing a uniform – it expresses less you and more Norway. Some extreme voices might also deem you unworthy of wearing a bunad – since your parents are Australian. There are some complicated rules that determines which kind of bunad you can wear as well. I think you’ll find them online at .
    Have you ever thought of clothing in connection to avatars? Bunads would be perfect examples – they are all tied to space (you can’t wear a Nordlands Bunad if you did not grow up there or your mother did) and I think we all feel different when wearing them(less ourselves and more part of a community) . And remember all the fuss around immigrants wearing Bunads in the 17 of May parades? They were said to be “misrepresenting” themselves, and worse, thus “tainting” the meaning of the Bunad.

  2. Thomas

    My wife defended in bunad and it was great. The foreign guests and oponents where impressed and it looked really good.

  3. Werner

    In the Netherlands not just a tuxedo is required, but full ‘tails’. You get to take two ‘assitents’ (paranimfs) with you that original were supposed to be able to take over the defense in case you became ‘unwell’. They also have to be in tails.

    I have some pictures of the ceremony and one of the presentation if you are interested in how things happen elsewhere.

  4. Jill

    You have SECONDS like in a duel? That’s way impressive!

    What do women wear? Evening gowns?

  5. Jill

    Werner, the photos are amazing – you guys are definitely more formal than we are! That was a PhD defence, yes? Congratulations!!

  6. Werner

    Yes, seconds like in a duel. In the old days they were supposed to be able to take over the defense fo you, or you could defer a question to them. today they are just for decorum. In reality it is a duel, the people on the panel are called ‘opponents’ are each gets 10-15 to try to kill you. Professionally that is. After an hour the ‘pedel’ comes in, bangs a big staff on the floor and shouts ‘hora est’, indicating that it is all over…

    The processions in and out of the room, lots of pump and circumstance. I am sure however that I appreciate it now much more, now that I am older, than if I would have done it at the appropriate age betwen 27 and 32. That fact that I got to do this 15 years after I was last a student, made it even more fun.

    Ladies indeed often wear a gown or a busines suit, although the rules call for the promevenda to be ‘festively dressed’, which is a lot less strict than for the men, where eveything up to the color of the bowtie and vest is described in the rules

    Anyway, I am waiting for the moment that I can congratulate Dr. Walker …

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