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Costume History


Students will demonstrate knowledge of historical costume by completing a worksheet on basic historical costume shapes.

**This lesson is intended to be used in a course that would allow for a few days to be allotted to the lesson;  a stage tech class in between construction projects, an advanced theatre course getting ready to direct various theatre history pieces, etc. **


Materials Needed

  1. Time Period Worksheets (one for each student)  Costume History Worksheet
  2. 80’s outfit
  3. Period silhouette pictures from the internet
  4. newspaper
  5. masking tape

Lesson Directions

Come into class wearing a typical outfit from the eighties or another decade (leggings, leg warmers, scrunchie, big tee shirt tied, scrunch socks). Begin class by asking them to describe what a silhouette is. Have a few volunteers come up and draw their interpretations of your silhouette on the board.


Step 1: Ask them to identify what era your outfit is from. Why do they recognize it? What does this type of silhouette say about the era? (focused on physique, material, casual, athletic, etc.) What does it emphasize about the body? Explain that throughout history, fashion has placed emphasis on the body in different ways to look appealing, constantly creating a new silhouette.

Step 2: Show pictures of period silhouettes (the crinoline period, King Henry, Greek, 20’s, etc). Ask them where they think the emphasis for that period was? Why study silhouettes of costumes?  What do the silhouettes convey about the time period and people who lived then?

Step 3: Ask the students to pair up and select a time period to research from the list on the board.

  1. Classical (Greek and Roman)
  2. Middle Ages (Byzantine and Gothic)
  3. Renaissance (Italian and English)
  4. French Influence (Cavalier, Baroque, Roccoco, 17th century)
  5. 18th Century
  6. 19th Century
  7. 1900-1920
  8. 1920’s
  9. 1930’s
  10. 1940’s
  11. 1940’s
  12. 1960’s
  13. 1970’s
  14. 1980’s
  15. 1990’s

Remind them that they are looking for specific silhouettes to show the class, how that period emphasizes the body. Also look for names of styles/pieces. Who was a major influence? They will need at least two pictures, male and female, and written notes.

Step 4: Allow them time to research using any resource (you, books, computers). Perhaps go to your school library or media center.

Step 5: Return to the classroom. Give each group some newspaper and masking tape. Instruct them to create out of newspaper a silhouette of clothing from their time period and use one of the group members to model it to the class.

Step 5: Have each group present their research finding and model their newspaper costume creation. They should include in their presentation how clothing influenced the people of that time.  Hand out a worksheet listing each period. Instruct them to fill it in during the class presentations. Have them turn in their worksheets and group notes.

Step 6: POSSIBLE APPLICATION/CONTINUATION: Turn to the play you have been studying in class or are producing at the school. Ask them to identify what time period this play is from. Together create costume designs for the play.


Assess through class participation and the worksheet and notes turned in.