Title:  The Clothes We Wear

Grade: 7-12

Subject(s):  Child Labor and Labor Rights, Social Studies, Economics

Overview:  This lesson connects the clothes we wear with the people who make them, in a personal way.  Additional interviews and information will be added periodically, as each of the countries through which TOB will travel is involved in this issue.

Purpose:  Many of the products we buy are products of a global market, meaning that although a company is based in the US its goods are made abroad and come from natural resources abroad.  The purpose of this lesson is for students to see the direct result of their purchase choices in the context of this global market.


Students will research  the origins of their clothing and realize the impacts of their purchasing power on a global market.


  1. Patricia Henderson's article, “Youth With Empowered Purchasing Power”.
  2. Internet availability.  Look at the Gap Inc. website section on “Social Responsibility” http://www.gapinc.com/social_resp/ifpr/how_made.htm .  Remember, Gap, Inc. owns The Gap, Banana Republic, and Old Navy brands.    Refer also to Global Exchange's sweatshop pages at http://www.globalexchange.org/campaigns/sweatshops
  3. Posterboard or large paper.

Activities and Procedures:

  1. Have students look at the labels on a piece of clothing they are wearing today.  Write down:  In what country was it made?  What brand is it?     
  2. Read Patricia Henderson's article, “Youth With Empowered Purchasing Power”.  Discuss with the class - Do you think this article is accurate?  Why/why not?
  3. What is a maquiladora (aka sweatshop)?  Read a background on maquiladoras at http://www.environmentalhealth.org/maquiladoras.html and answer these questions:
  4. Poster assignment:  Make a poster (can be done in groups or individually) in the following format:

  5. Picture of yourself Picture of a maquiladora worker
    Picture of article of clothing Same
    Brand of the clothing Company they work for
    How much does it cost? How much are they paid?

  6. Have students share their posters in class.  Were there any surprises in the research?  Was there a big difference between how much they pay for an item vs. how much the worker is paid?  Where do they think the discrepancy goes?
  7. Discuss:  What responsibility do we as consumers have in the products we buy?  Look back at the numbers from the Purchasing Power article - what affects can/does this purchasing power have on companies?

Tying It Together:

  1. Personal stories from workers and those affected by maquiladora work will be added to this site as we travel.  
  2. Related TOB lessons; What Is Globalization?  You, Me and the PPP.