Skip to main content

Clothing and Characterization


The students will display their abilities to recognize the way clothing affects a character by creating a costume clothing design for a character that they are performing.


Materials Needed

newspaper, tape, and scissors for each group; “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” book; drawing paper; colored pencils


Lesson Directions

Give the students a number as they enter the class and tell them to go to the appropriately numbered corner or area of the room. In each area there will be a stack of newspaper, tape, and scissors.


Tell them to create a costume of some sort for someone in their group. Circle the classroom, encouraging the students not ‘in costume’ to help in the actual design of the outfit. They can use only the newspaper and tape to create their costumes. Have them decide as a group who this character is and how to portray that through the clothing that they create for the character.

Have each group model their costume while the rest of the class talks about what they are seeing.  What kind of person is this character based on their clothing (newspaper costume)?

How could you tell who the person was supposed to be when his clothes were only made of newspaper? Prompt the students towards answers like: shape, style, the way it was cut, accessories, similar form, etc.

With all costumed individuals at the front of the room, ask the class how these costumes might be altered depending on the weather (a ballerina wearing sweats and long sleeves, a pirate wearing many layers). The time period? (a teacher with horn-rimmed glasses, a cheerleader in a poodle-skirt) Character’s personality? (a student athlete vs. a private schooled valedictorian).

Have the students remove any newspaper costume parts and then return to their desks. Read them a short story such as “Alexander” and have the students work with a partner to write down things that one particular character in the story might wear.

Ask for volunteers to share their ‘costume ideas’ for the story. Comment on their ideas, placing special emphasis on ideas relating to the personality or status of the character, as well as the script’s era or weather.

Give each partnership drawing paper and provide colored pencils for sketching. Have them create a drawing of the clothing/costume that their character would wear.  Encourage them to be creative and avoid ‘borrowing ideas’ from others.

Explain that they do not have to be artists to adequately sketch their costume design. They can add a written explanation if necessary. Remind them that they need to base costume design on where the character is, where they have just come from, styles of the time, and personality characteristics.



Have a few students share their designs with the class.