Featured in the August 2021 issue of The Rowling Library Magazine.

Wizarding Clothing: Beneath the Robes

1169 words.
By Caroline Cohen.

There are a lot of important subjects explored in the Harry Potter series: love, death, betrayal, war, and much more. And that’s why today, I wanted to explore one of the most important and compelling topics in the series: wizard clothing. We all know that wizards wear robes, and older wizards sometimes are hilariously oblivious to muggle fashion. The movies portray Hogwarts students with school uniforms underneath their robes, but the movies aren’t canon. So the question remains: Do Hogwarts students wear muggle clothing underneath their robes?

Many works of fan art depict the students with jeans and t-shirts underneath their robes, or just ignore robes completely. Fan art often ignores details hidden in the books though (the fact that Hogwarts students are often wearing pointed wizard’s hats, for example), so this doesn’t mean much. Even Mary GrandPré, the illustrator for the American editions, depicts Harry and his friends in muggle clothing underneath their robes (robes often look like overly long cardigans in her drawings). However, Mary GrandPré’s illustrations (like most illustrations in novels) were done without direct input from the author, and so they cannot be considered canon. Therefore, we have to look at textual evidence to determine what Rowling intended.

The Cloak of Invisibility - Illustration by Mary GrandPré
The Cloak of Invisibility – Illustration by Mary GrandPré

The first thing that we can conclude is that adult wizards don’t typically wear anything underneath their robes. In Goblet of Fire, an older wizard shows up to the Quidditch World Cup wearing a nightgown. After being told to put on trousers, he responds

‘I’m not putting them on,’ said old Archie in indignation. ‘I like a healthy breeze ‘round my privates, thanks”.

From this we can conclude that Archie, along with other wizards of his age, don’t typically wear trousers or jeans underneath their robes. However, styles can change with the generation; next we must look for evidence involving students.

Harry changes into robes for the first time on the train to Hogwarts in Philosopher’s Stone. Ron asks Hermione to leave their compartment so that the two of them can change. From the book:

“He and Ron took off their jackets and pulled on their long black robes

The book specifically mentions them taking off their jackets, but does not mention changing of their other clothes. This seems to indicate that they do leave their clothes underneath their robes, or at least they do on the first day. On the other hand, why would Ron ask Hermione to leave if they were only changing their jackets?

One of the most important pieces of evidence comes from J.K. Rowling’s own illustrations, which give us a peek into her mind. An early drawing of hers shows four of the Weasley children all lined up together. Though Ron and the twins are still wearing their muggle clothing, Percy is already wearing his long black wizard’s robes, pointed wizard’s hat, and prefect’s badge. The robes are not open like a dressing gown, as is the case in Mary GrandPré’s illustrations (and in most fan arts), but are closed, and look more like a judge’s robes, because they almost cover his entire body.

The Weasleys - Original illustration by J.K. Rowling
The Weasleys – Original illustration by J.K. Rowling

Another bit of evidence that we have to consider is that Harry wears his robes in inconvenient situations. For example, Harry wears his robes underwater in the second task of the Triwizard Tournament. If he had been wearing jeans and a t-shirt underneath his robes, he probably would’ve taken his robes off for convenience. After all, who wants to swim for an hour with soggy robes floating behind you? But that’s what Harry does, indicating that he had no other choice.

Next, we’ll look at a couple pieces of evidence from Order of the Phoenix. The first comes from the chapter Snape’s Worst Memory. Harry goes into the Pensieve and sees Snape being dangled upside down by James Potter:

“a second flash of light later, Snape was hanging upside down in the air, his robes falling over his head to reveal skinny, pallid legs and a pair of graying underpants”.

This evidence is clear: Snape was not wearing jeans underneath his robes. However, Snape went to school 20 years before Harry and co., and had a specific dislike for muggle’s and everything about them (in Half Blood Prince he takes specific care to dock points from Gryffindor because Harry is wearing “muggle attire” when he gets off the Hogwarts Express). This does tell us that some Hogwarts students choose to only wear robes. But it still leaves open the possibility that Snape’s more pro-muggle classmates could’ve worn jeans underneath their robes, or that Hogwarts fashion changed between the 1970s and the 1990s.

That brings us to our next piece of evidence from Order. Earlier in the same chapter, Malfoy is enjoying his new power as a member of the Inquisitorial Squad, and says,

“Anyway, members of the Inquisitorial Squad do have the power to dock points so, Granger, I’ll have five from you for being rude about our new Headmistress. Macmillan, five for contradicting me. Five because I don’t like you, Potter. Weasley, your shirt’s untucked, so I’ll have another five for that. Oh yeah, I forgot, you’re a Mudblood, Granger, so ten off for that”.

In this case, Ron is undoubtedly wearing a shirt, and pants too as his shirt needs something to be tucked in to.

There is also evidence that Hogwarts students sometimes wear muggle clothing on non-school days. The Weasley kids and Harry typically put on their Weasley Christmas Jumpers right when they receive them for example. Additionally, in Half Blood Prince, the text mentions Harry wearing Jeans the Saturday of Ron’s poisoning as he talks to McLaggen:

“Oh… right… Quidditch,” he said, putting his wand back into the belt of his jeans”.

There it is: undeniable evidence that Harry is wearing jeans on a Saturday at Hogwarts. However, earlier that day, Ron was wearing robes:

“Ron yelled as his heel was wrenched upwards once more, he dangled helplessly, upside down, his robes hanging off of him”.

This leaves us with a couple options. The first option is that students always wear muggle clothing underneath their robes, and Ron and Harry are both wearing jeans and robes. The second is that Harry is just wearing muggle attire for the weekend, but wears only robes during the week.

The conclusion? I think that we can say with certainty that at least some students wear only robes with no muggle clothing underneath: Snape’s Worst Memory tells us that. We can also say that students sometimes wear muggle clothing when they are not in class. As for whether they normally wear jeans and shirts underneath their robes, it might depend on the situation. Students might wear their muggle clothing underneath when they are getting off of the train, for changing convenience, or maybe when it’s a bit colder. But on normal school days, it is likely that students only wear Hogwarts robes.