Clothing Crossing Cultural Divides
Aside from practicing diligence and cultural understanding with the way we dress, clothing can express many different personal ideals. Some religions prefer to not have women wear pants, and not bare their shoulders. Some Amazonian cultures have no problems wearing minimal amount of clothing or body coverings.
Our apparel can express a very specific style, our likes, dislikes and even world views and personal convictions. Clothing, behind the simple “what am I wearing?” questions, can serve as a unique and creative base for an ESL lesson plan. The website, Simple ESL, offers a great variety of basic, intermediate and advanced lessons focused around clothes. Activities include discussions on school uniforms, vocabulary on clothes and jewelry, and related games and activities.
With advanced students, clothing could serve as a springboard on conversations on one’s self, culture, general likes and dislikes including art, music, sports, style and celebrity culture, and world views. Topics that can be easily discussed include the following: cultural significance of special outfits such as wedding attire or quinceañera dresses, clothing colors and what they represent (think chic, monochromatic New York City artist wear versus a beautifully intricate and colorful Indian sari), baggy clothing versus form-fitting clothing and what these styles may represent, discuss local clothing styles and how they compare and contrast with your own, and what can be learned about a certain culture in this instance.
Feel free to share various photos of any number of clothing styles and ask students what they think the clothing represents. You may end up with one very interesting conversation filling your classroom; just be sure to not allow conversations to skew negatively towards stereotypes.
What does your closet say about you?