It is important to begin this comparison by recognising that there is are several clear differences between the Churchill gown and the University gown.
To begin with, the fabrics are different materials, which is noticeable up close and upon touch. The Churchill gown is made from a red fleece while the University gown is made from wool.
Additionally, because of the difference in material, the Churchill gowns feel softer and more like a blanket material than the official University gown.
However, the colours are the same and thus the material difference is not noticeable from a distance or in photos.
The main difference between the fleece and wool gowns is the weight and how that affects the fabric drapery. The weight of the University gown makes the garment drape in a more flattering way, possibly even making the person wearing the gown appear slimmer.
Meanwhile, the Churchill gown shows creases and wrinkles clearly, if it has been folded for a long period of time. However, these would not be difficult to remove with an iron or steamer.
The other difference between gowns is in the collar. The Churchill gown collar feels more structured and stays in place with more ease, and the colour of the Churchill gown collar is also a richer burgundy.
From a distance, these differences are not very noticeable, but up close, it is easy to tell which gown is more expensive and made from higher-quality materials.
In terms of functionality, both gowns have the same external appearance from a distance and have the same-sized inner pockets.
Ultimately, it is down to the consumer to decide whether or not these differences are worth the extra price, and whether it matters to them that, up close, these gowns are noticeably different.
I would liken this to owning a pair of mock Gucci loafers, though this analogy can apply to any counterfeit item.
As a consumer, I know that the shoes I am buying that have been made to look similar to Gucci loafers might not be as high-quality or come with the name brand recognition as the actual pair.
However, just because I cannot afford or do not want to pay the extra price for the designer item, that does not mean that I should not be able to participate in the fashion trend.
This also applies to the St Andrews student body as well in terms of the importance in a singular item versus the cost.
The red gowns are an important tradition at the University, and the gown itself can be a wardrobe piece which holds significant memory years after graduating.
However, students should not have to miss out on opportunities such as pier walks, formal dinners, and University traditions because they cannot afford an official University gown.
While in photos there may not be significant difference in the two gowns, the gowns are by far the most distinct in price, with the Churchill gowns costing almost half as much as the official University gown.
My advice to students that may be choosing between the gowns would be to educate themselves on the differences between the two before making the decision of whether or not the price is justifiable for their budget.
Some students may value the brand label on their gown and wish to own an official one, or they may care about the difference in material and how the gowns differ when up close.
However, these simply are not preferences shared by the entire student body, and students should thus take into consideration what they value in a gown and which would better suit their needs and preferences.