Understanding what costuming can communicate


The students will demonstrate an understanding of clothing communicating character by participating in a discussion and using clothes to create a character.


Materials Needed

-Powerpoint with costume/character images – Costume PowerPoint
-Distinct costume for student at beginning
-Access to the costume closet- stock pieces your department has. Or at least enough different costume pieces that each group can pick three. (If limiting their selection make sure the options they have to pick
from are vibrant and unique)


Lesson Directions


Anticipatory Set/Hook

When the first student arrives, tell them you have a special project for them. Give them some ridiculous things to wear, that are different from the everyday (gangster, royalty, homeless etc.) Instruct them to just go sit down like they normally would and to not comment on their outfit if anyone asks. Have it be large enough that the other students will notice it as they enter. Don’t acknowledge the student in the costume but allow the other students to notice on their own.



Step 1: Discussion- Use the first student’s outfit to springboard into a discussion about how what we wear says something about who we are. Why did they notice the costume the student was wearing? Was it saying something different about them than what their normal clothes do? Key Points to hit:
What about the outfit communicates to you? The cut, the color?
What can we learn about someone just by how they are dressed? Economic status, personal image, occupation, personality?


Step 2: Looking at images: Bring up the powerpoint presentation that has different costume/character images. With each image have the students shout out what the costume is saying. When an interesting/insightful comment is made- probe the student further to make them really analyze. Have the focus be on the clothing in the pictures and not on the background world the person is in. Ask them to look at the person as if they were seeing them in a vacuum and their clothes were the only clues they had.


Step 3: Activity: Playing with costumes in the costume closet-creating a personality out of the clothes. After going through all the pictures and the students have nothing left to say about them. Divide the students into groups- their choice or yours depending on the class. Ideal group size would be about 4 students. Instruct each group to pick three pieces (to assemble an outfit) from the costume closet that they feel communicate something about the person who would wear them. After everyone has selected their pieces instruct them that based on the costume pieces they selected they need to come up with a character who would wear these things.


Each group needs to write out the following: What is this character’s name? How old is this Character? Gender? Occupation (if relevant)? Why is this person wearing this outfit? What is their socio-economic status? Anything else we should know about this person?


Each group will get a chance to share their created outfit and introduce the character to the rest of the class. If time allows have the class discuss other possible interpretations and arrangements of the costume pieces selected.


Closure: As they go about their day, have them notice the different ‘costumes’ people are wearing, and what their clothing is communicating. They can even look at TV shows or movies they watch for examples. Tell them to be prepared to share three specific examples with the class when they come back.



The students get points for the written character analysis they did from the costuming activity- this can also be counted as participation points.