Carpenters' Hall

Clothing Then and Now

Skill development

Language, fine motor skills, concept of sequential time (past and present)


Students will explore and be able to define their own clothing profile in comparison to that of the Colonial period. [Higher grade levels and/or higher achievement level students will discuss and explore the implications of societal norms on their everyday life using the comparisons provided.]

Prior knowledge

Understanding of the concept of sequential time, i.e. past and present.

Comparisons (1700's/2000's)

  • Leather shoes and sneakers
  • Tricorn hat and baseball cap
  • Breeches and jeans
  • Silk/woolen stockings and cotton socks
  • Long skirt and mini skirt
  • Mop/lace cap and bandana
  • Gown and dress
  • Night gown and pajamas


Begin by engaging the students in a discussion of topically related objects already known to them. Similar comparisons can be presented at the teacher's discretion.

Procedure for Activity

  1. Show the individual pictures to the class.
  2. Have them name the item/s in each picture.
  3. Pass out one or more pictures to each child, depending on class size and time allotted.
  4. Place signs on the chalkboard, desk, or floor labeled: Then, Now, 1700's, 2000's
  5. Call the children up, one by one, so they can place one of their pictures under the corresponding date.
  6. Introduce topics, directly related to clothes and the then vs. now aspect, into the class discussion. Then, the average person had to make their own clothes as it was far more expensive to buy custom made clothing. Walking into a store and seeing a vast selection of clothes already made up and in a variety of sizes was not even a possibility. Knowing this, ask the children how many clothes they think the average child had to choose from when they were getting dressed every day. If appropriate, discuss how many more choices children have today. Discuss how it was improper for women to show their ankles ( no matter how hot the weather) and that is was improper for women to ever be seen in pants. Ask the class to discuss how these differences, in what society deems to be appropriate, would impact them if they were suddenly thrust back into the 1700's.


Now children, we just learned that the clothes of the 1700's (a long time ago) were very different than now. Would you ever wear any of the clothes you see in the pictures of people from the 1700's? Do you like any of their clothes?

This lesson plan is good for circle time. It would work well with a small group of children. Some of the pictures may need to be discussed prior to the actual lesson. This would also work with the children sitting on the floor.

Carpenters' Hall, 320 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
Open free to the public daily, except Mondays (and Tuesdays in Jan. and Feb.), from 10am-4pm

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