Saris, Kimonos, Togas & Smocks: Exploring Clothing Across Cultures
By Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, September 11, 2006
- Middle School
- Fashion Design
- Language Arts
- Social Studies
- conduct Internet research
- brainstorm ideas
- complete a group survey
- analyze and evaluate information
- create a presentation highlighting what they have learned
- respond to writing prompts
- "Clothes: What Do They Mean?" handout
- Internet websites
- computer with Internet access
Building Background Observations & SpeculationThe purpose of this activity is to help students begin to think about the social and cultural meaning of clothes. 1. Read the following paragraph aloud to your class: "Many people believe clothing is not only a necessity; their clothing represents their cultures and beliefs. Many factors affect the clothing worn by different civilizations. Some factors include region, beliefs, climate, and gender. Time also serves as a constant in which the fashion of clothing evolves. Though fashion changes at a constant speed, some pieces of clothing are more than just warmth and protection, some pieces of clothing remain almost synonymous with the cultures which crafted them. For instance, a billowing white toga is usually associated with the Roman Empire. A brilliantly colored, ornate kimono is most often associated with Japan. Altogether, fashion is a symbol for certain time periods and regions." Source: http://library.thinkquest.org/04oct/00327/main.html 2. Divide the class into small groups and provide each group with a copy of the handout entitled "Clothes: What Do They Mean?" Ask the students to brainstorm answers to the questions on the handout. When the class is finished, encourage each group to share its thoughts with the entire class.
Steps for Learning Culture, Identity, Status & ClothesThe purpose of this activity is to provide students with an opportunity to explore different cultural expressions of identity through clothing. 1. Tell the students that they are going to research clothing from varied cultures. Divide the class into small groups and tell the students to use the websites provided to complete their assignment. Group One: Elizabethan Clothing http://www.elizabethan-era.org.uk/elizabethan-clothing-allowed-men.htm http://www.lepg.org/women.htm http://www.lepg.org/men.htm Images: http://images.google.com/images?svnum=10&hl=en&lr=&client=safari&rls=en-%0Dus&q=elizabethan+clothing&btnG=Search us&q=elizabethan+clothing&btnG=Search Group Two: Ancient Rome http://www.vroma.org/~bmcmanus/clothing.html http://library.thinkquest.org/22866/English/Romday/Kleding.html Images: http://www.crystalinks.com/romeclothing.html Group Three: Kimonos http://www.marquise.de/en/ethno/japan/colours.shtml http://library.thinkquest.org/04oct/00327/jindex.html (Scroll to Japanese Clothing) http://web.mit.edu/jpnet/kimono/ Images: http://web.mit.edu/jpnet/kimono/kimono-history.html Group Four: Saris http://www.hinduismtoday.com/archives/1998/6/1998-6-12.shtml http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sari Images: http://images.google.com/images?svnum=10&hl=en&lr=&client=safari&rls=en-us&q=saris+&btnG=Search Give the students the following assignment: Create a class presentation containing the following elements based on what you have learned in your research:
- a description of the clothing
- how the clothing relates to the culture
- how the clothing is related to social status, wealth, or rank
- two examples of the clothing, these can be photographs, drawings from your sources or drawings that you create based on your research
- five interesting facts about the clothing
- What connections can you make about clothing across varied cultures?
- Do you see evidence of social class distinctions in the way that people dress today? If so, provide examples.
- Have you changed your opinion on the meaning of clothing?
- Do you think that there is a typical "American" style of clothing?
- What do the clothes you wear suggest about your identity?
You may use the following two elements to assess students' learning in this activity: Group PresentationsRate the quality of each element of your presentation on a scale of 1-4 with 4 being excellent and 1 being poor:
- Describe the clothing.
- Describe how the clothing relates to the culture.
- Describe how the clothing is related to social status, wealth, or rank.
- Present two examples of the clothing. These can be photographs, drawings from your sources, or drawings that you create based on your research.
- Include five interesting facts about the clothing.
Journal PromptsThe goal of this activity is to help students understand how clothing reflects culture, identity, and social class. Review individual students' written responses and their participation in group discussion to assess their understanding of these concepts.
Enrichment Extension Activities
Activity One: Fashion & MediaAsk your students to compile a collection of photographs and images that highlight how saris and kimonos are portrayed in current fashion media.
Activity Two: Virtual KimonoHave your students visit the following website to design a virtual kimono at http://web-japan.org/kidsweb/virtual/kimono/virtual.html