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Body Beautiful: Diversity on the Catwalk (Touring)

Start Date 23 May 2019
End Date 13 October 2019
Venue National Museum of Scotland
Location Edinburgh, UK
Curator Georgina Ripley
Exhibition display of dressed mannequins with large artwork in background
Exhibition display of dressed mannequins with large artwork in background
Exhibition display of dressed mannequins either side of walkway
Exhibition display of dressed mannequins with large artwork in background

A new exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland will examine how today’s fashion industry is challenging perceptions and championing alternative ideals of beauty on the catwalk, in advertising, editorial and behind the camera.

The first exhibition of its kind in the world, Body Beautiful: Diversity on the Catwalk will explore how fashion creatives are embracing inclusivity and body positivity by exploring five key themes: size; gender and sexuality; age; race and disability. Visitors will learn how the industry is calling into question existing practice, and why it must address diversity from the inside out to reappraise contemporary ideals of beauty.

Recent seasons have seen the most racially diverse, size diverse and gender-inclusive fashion shows in history, with brands like New York’s Chromat leading the way. In London, Teatum Jones chose not to stage a runway show at all for its spring/summer 2019 Round Table not Runway presentation, and instead brought fashion leaders and activists together for a discussion on the industry’s responsibility to better reflect society.

Sponsored by Edinburgh St James and supported by Arts & Business Scotland through its Culture & Business Fund Scotland, the exhibition will champion the people, designs, and voices influencing positive body image and inclusivity, presenting key looks that show pivotal developments in contemporary fashion. On display will be catwalk ensembles from designers including Ferragamo, Ashish, Pam Hogg and Jean Paul Gaultier, brought to life through film, photography and fashion publications.

Highlights include a classic Max Mara camel wool coat with a matching hijab worn by model Halima Aden, a Burberry trench coat customised for the disabled academic and writer Sinéad Burke, and a bustier by Chromat designed for curve model Denise Bidot for the SS15 catwalk.

Interviews will capture the different perspectives of key influencers in the industry, from casting directors and models to stylists, photographers, editors, educators and advocates. The exhibition will also draw on the work of students from Edinburgh College of Art’s Diversity Network, incorporating the voices of the next generation of young designers.

Georgina Ripley, Senior Curator of Modern & Contemporary Fashion & Textiles at National Museums Scotland said:

“Diversity has become a key talking point in the fashion world in recent years, and Body Beautiful will be the first exhibition to examine the various ways in which the industry is addressing body positivity. With more and more designers incorporating ideas around inclusivity into their work, attitudes are shifting, making this a particularly exciting time in fashion. The catwalk creations on display in this exhibition offer a refreshing counterpoint to historical, narrow ideals of beauty, and they demonstrate that diversity can be a consideration for everyone working in the fashion industry today.”

Rochelle Burgess, Associate Director for Edinburgh St James said:

“We’re delighted to be a part of this exhibition that celebrates the rich tapestry of diverse voices and talent within the fashion industry and hope to collaborate again in the future with National Museums Scotland. Edinburgh St James will create a new fashion hub for the capital, providing a home for the brands that this city has been waiting for. From the start, we have sought to blend Edinburgh St James with the vibrant culture of the city and exhibitions like Body Beautiful perfectly encapsulate what this cosmopolitan capital is all about.” 

Carl Watt, Head of Programmes at Arts & Business Scotland, said:

We are proud to be match funding Edinburgh St James’ sponsorship of Body Beautiful through our Culture & Business Fund Scotland as it is a unique exhibition looking at the important issue of diversity in the fashion industry. It is heartening that businesses like Edinburgh St James are embracing and supporting cultural projects in Scotland which promote diversity and challenge audience perceptions. Their partnership with National Museums Scotland, and others like this, not only benefits the project that is receiving sponsorship, but also offers the business an opportunity for profile building and to positively associate itself with the cultural organisation producing the exhibition or event.”


  • Edinburgh: 23 May – 13 October 2019
  • Textilmuseet, Borås, Sweden, 8 February – 10 May 2020
  • June to August 2020: Available
  • The Civic, Barnsley, 12 September 2020 – 16 January 2021
  • February to December 2021: Available