Style Tribe Choices in Historical Context Project


The style tribe project is the cumulative project in a combined undergraduate/graduate Costume History course. The project asks students to connect modern fashion movements to past styles. A style tribe is a social counter­culture that has a defined style of dress that differs from societal norms. An example of a style tribe would be the Teddy Boys in 1950s Britain. For this project, students are asked to pick a modern style tribe and define the characteristics of the group’s dress. Once the students have a clear understanding of the style they pick three garments associated with the group and connect those garments to earlier style trends throughout costume history. The students then present their findings in a short paper and visual presentation. The learning outcome for this project is to help students draw connections between modern styles and the clothing of the past. Through tying the garments to a specific subculture with a clearly defined style attitude, the students learn how the garments have signified different things to specific cultures throughout history.

Length of Activity

Month Long Project

Activity Objectives

1) Correct research and terminology
The students are expected to demonstrate that they have learned effective research techniques. The project requires the students to research a modern style and connect it to historical styles. Because this is a cumulative project, by the final weeks of the semester the student should have developed good research sources and techniques for the project. Students should also know all of the appropriate terms for the historical garments being discussed. In the student example she is careful to call the slouchy hat “phrygian bonnet” when in it’s ancient Roman context, and “baton rouge” when in it’s French revolutionary context.

2) Clearly explained connections
Students must be able to clearly explain the similarities between the modern garments and the historical garments. Then, they need to go one step further and present a hypothesis as to why that connection exists. The depth of the students’ learning is measurable by how deeply they explored the “why” of the connection. A student who simply identifies that a historical garment looks similar to a modern garment without theorizing as to why that is has only done half the work.

3) Presentation
Each student is given 15 minutes to present their findings. The students are expected to stay within their time limit, clearly present their materials, answer any questions, and defend their connection choices.

Activity Goals

A goal for this project is for students to realize that historical dress can be used as inspiration and reference for modern dress. This is helpful for them to remember when costuming a show if they want a character to subtly reference a historical era or stereotype.


Each student picks a modern style tribe and creates a visual collage of the group’s dress aesthetic. Once the students have a clear understanding of the style, they pick three garments associated with the group and connect those garments to earlier style trends throughout history. The students then present their findings in a short paper and visual presentation. Most students choose to combine the visual collage into the presentation. Duplicate style tribes are not allowed, everyone must pick a unique modern tribe.

Here is the project description from the course syllabus:

Style Tribe Project

You will pick a modern style tribe (from 1950 – today) and research its connections to other eras/groups.
Create a digital picture collage (think Pinterest page or Prezi) visually exploring the specific dress of the group. Minimum of 6 images.

Pick three garments or accessories associated with the group. Create a presentation that traces the history of those garments and theorize why your tribe adopted them.

Write a short paper (minimum 2 pages) which details your findings. The paper should explain the tribe and its historical connections through clothing to other periods studied in class.

Attached is an example of a student presentation.

Excerpt: Student Example

Time Required

Students have a month to work on the project and all work is done outside of class with weekly check­-ins in class.

Required Materials

Fashion: The Definitive History of Costume and Style by DK Publishing is the required textbook for the course. All students should have access to a library and the internet.


It is helpful for students to see an example presentation when the project is assigned.


The project was worth 150 points of the student’s overall grade (1,000 points total).

Visual collage (50 pts)

  • ­  Does it clearly explain the tribe’s aesthetic? (13)
  • ­  Does it provide a definition of the tribe? (13)
  • ­  Are there a minimum of 6 images in the collage? (24)

Presentation (65 pts)

  • ­  Does it provide historical connections to 3 garments from the tribe? (20)
  • ­  Does the student provide context and hypotheses for the historical connections? (20)
  • ­  Is correct terminology used? (10)
  • ­  Did the student stay under the 15 minute time limit? (5)
  • ­  Was the student able to respond to questions? (10)

Paper (35 pts)

Did the paper provide:

  • ­  A brief history of the tribe and it’s style? (5)
  • ­  A focus on three garments connected to the tribe? (5)
  • ­  Historical connections linking the three garments to other periods in costume history? (10)
  • ­  Correct terminology for all garments and eras? (10)
  • ­  A works cited page of reputable sources? (5)

Students should receive oral feedback immediately following the presentation and written feedback after reviewing their paper.


-Caitlin Quinn