Uniform Design

By Sarah Rooney, December 3, 2009

Grade Level

  • High School


  • Fashion Design

Subject Area

  • Social Studies

Lesson Time

180 minutes for classroom activities and 45 minutes for homework


Students have often questioned the reasons behind military uniforms.  This project is geared to get students thinking about cultural influences that shaped military uniforms during the American Revolution.  Students will be asked to re-design a particular aspect of a military uniform of their choice after doing a significant amount of research on that particular uniform and time period.  Understanding culture is a curriculum goal in every social studies classroom from K-12, therefore this lesson could be manipulated to be used for any grade level and would still follow curriculum and state standards.

National Standards

United States History

Standard 5. Level IV. Understands how the values and institutions of European economic life took root in the colonies and how slavery reshaped European and African life in the Americas

2.  Understands factors that influenced economic life in the North American and West Indian colonies (e.g., the development of consumer society and the imitation of English culture)

Behavioral Studies

Standard 1. Level IV.  Understands that group and cultural influences contribute to human development, identity, and behavior

1. Understands that cultural beliefs strongly influence the values and behavior of the people who grow up in the culture, often without their being fully aware of it, and that people have different responses to these influences

Common Core Standards

Anchors for Reading:

Key Ideas and Details:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2 Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

Craft and Structure:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.4 Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.5 Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7 Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.8 Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.9 Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.10 Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.

 Anchor Standards for Writing:

Text Types and Purposes:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.

Production and Distribution of Writing:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Range of Writing:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.10 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Anchor standards for Speaking and Listening:

Comprehension and Collaboration:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.3 Evaluate a speaker's point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

Anchor standards for Language:

Conventions of Standard English:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

Vocabulary Acquisition and Use:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.6 Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression.



Students will be able to:

  • understand the materials available to the American soldiers and to the British soldiers during the Revolutionary War
  • analyze cultural similarities and differences between the colonists and the British


Kiley, Kevin F., An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Uniforms 1775 – 1783: The American Revolutionary War



  • computer with internet access
  • handouts
  • paper
  • pens
  • pencils


  • culture: the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations; the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group
  • influence: the power or capacity of causing an effect in indirect or intangible ways


Review The Challenge:

1. The teacher should begin the lesson by posing a question such as, “Why were the British referred to as ‘the red coats’ during the American Revolution?”  Put up on the board reasons why wearing red may not have been an advantage for the British.  (Note: The obvious issue for wearing a red coat during a war is that they are easy to spot.)

2. The teacher should then give a brief history of the reasons behind the British wearing red, and explain how culture influenced the design.  3. Students will then be given the challenge of finding other possible problems with the uniforms of either the Americans or the British during the American Revolution.  (Note: The introduction to the lesson should take no longer than ten minutes.)


1. Students will then do research on computers on the different uniforms worn during the Revolutionary War, by both the British and the American soldiers.

2. Students will then identify a problem with one of the uniforms.  The problem needs to be precise, and should only include one part of the uniform, not the uniform in its entirety.  (Note: Approximately thirty-five minutes will be given to students for research in class.)

Frame/Reframe the Problem:

1. Students will need to do ample research to understand why the uniforms may have been designed the way that they were.  Research will need to include materials and cultural differences between the British and the Americans that may have impacted the designs of the uniforms.  Students must also understand financial constraints that may have dictated certain materials or lack of conveniences, especially on the American side.  For the British, students will need to be reminded that communication took a long time between England and the British soldiers in the Americas, and so supplies often took a very long time to get.  These situations obviously would play a role in uniform design and product availability.

Generate Possible Solutions:

1. Students will then brainstorm on paper new ideas for re-designing a part of the previous uniform.  Students may only use materials that would have been available to the soldiers, and must remain culturally consistent.<sp an>

Edit & Develop Ideas:

1. Students will then choose one of their brainstormed ideas to further design.

2. Students will draw their designs out on paper.

3. Students may choose to actually create a prototype of their new design if they have the resources available to them.  (Note: Besides the research, all of the brainstorming up to this point, and coming up with possible solutions, should have been done at home as homework.)

4. Students will be asked to come to class ready to share their brainstormed ideas with a small group.

Share & Evaluate:

1. The teacher will have students get into groups of four, and spend fifteen minutes discussing their project ideas.  All students will present their research in two parts.  The first part being research on culture, the second part being on the uniform itself.

2. The students should then share at least two different ideas of “problems” and “solutions.”

Finalize the Solution:

1. Students will not actually be able to create an entire uniform and wear it to battle, but students will be required to back up their new designs with research.

2. Students will then present to the class their new designs, and explain their reasoning behind the change in uniform.  (Note: Students will be given about twenty minutes in class to finalize their projects.)

Articulate the Solution and Process:

1. Students will present their projects to the class.  A visual will be required, as well as the reasoning behind the re-designed uniform piece.  (Note: Presentations should be no longer than three minutes per student, which includes showing the class all visuals.)

2. Students will be required to evaluate the other student’s projects by following a rubric given to them by the teacher.  The teacher will be the only one grading the assignments, as the evaluations will be part of the evaluator’s grade, not the presenters.  (Note: Presentations will take two class periods, approximately ninety minutes for a class size of twenty-five to thirty students.) 


Students will be graded on their own evaluations of other student’s projects.  The students will also receive a grade based on the teacher’s evaluation of the presentation, the group’s research, and the written component that the group will put together.  When a teacher grades using an evaluation method, differentiating instruction is done according to how well the student performs compared to what is expected of each student.  Students will also be working on skills within their group that fit their individual skill set.

Enrichment Extension Activities

The lesson plan is crosscurricular with behavioral studies.  To further extend this lesson, students may take the opportunity to research different weapons used during the Revolutionary War, and compare those weapons to past or previous wars around the world.

Teacher Reflection

Many students enjoyed this project due to the fashion design aspect.  However, a few students were so thrown off by the fashion aspect that they asked if they could do weaponry instead.  I allowed for this slight change, as the nuts and bolts of the assignment stayed the same.  Next time I may write into the instructional material to allow for this change. Students did a great job researching the actual designs, but did not do so well researching materials.  I am attributing this to student interest.  When a project has so many different angles, I find that students tend to focus on what grabs their attention, often losing sight of the rest of the project. Overall I would say that this project was a success, especially the presentations.  The students did not have to hand much in, yet learned a lot through research and thinking "outside the box."
  1. Culture is a key to understanding why people do what they do and this lesson really drives that point home. When students identify the influence that culture plays on their fashion, attitude and beliefs then they are more open minded and tolerant of opposing ideas.

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