Lekazia Turner, embroiderer from Jamaica, 2022





A 14-year, award winning global, collaborative embroidery project
2009 to 2023

The Red Dress project, conceived by British artist Kirstie Macleod, provides an artistic platform for individuals (majority women) around the world, many of whom are vulnerable and live in poverty, to tell their story through embroidery.

From 2009 to 2023, pieces of the Red Dress travelled the globe being continuously embroidered onto. Constructed out of 87 pieces of burgundy silk dupion, the garment has been worked on by 367 women/girls, 11 men/boys and 2 non-binary artists from 51 countries. All 141 commissioned embroiderers were paid for their work, and receive a portion of all ongoing exhibition fees, merchandise, and the opportunity to sell their work through the Red Dress Etsy shop. The rest of the embroidery was added by willing audience at various exhibitions & events.

Embroiderers include female refugees from Palestine, Syria and Ukraine, women seeking asylum in the UK from Iran, Iraq, China, Nigeria and Namibia, survivors of war in Kosovo, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Rwanda, and DR Congo; impoverished women in South Africa, Mexico, and Egypt; individuals in Kenya, Japan, Turkey, Jamaica, Sweden, Peru, Czech Republic, Dubai, Afghanistan, Australia, Argentina, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, Tobago, Vietnam, Estonia, USA, Russia, Pakistan, Wales, Colombia and England, students from Montenegro, Brazil, Malta, Singapore, Eritrea, Norway, Poland, Finland, Ireland, Romania and Hong Kong as well as upmarket embroidery studios in India and Saudi Arabia.

Initially the project sought to generate a dialogue of identity through embroidery, uniting people around the world without borders. However, over the 14 years the dress has also become a platform for self-expression and an opportunity for voices to be amplified and heard.

Many of the embroiderers are established professionals, but there are also pieces created by first time embroiderers. The artists were encouraged to create a work that expressed their own identities whilst adding their own cultural and traditional experience. Some used specific styles of embroidery practiced for hundreds of years within their family, village, or town whilst others chose simple stitches to convey powerful events from their past. Some of the women are re-building their lives with the help of embroidery, by using their skill or being trained in embroidery to earn a decent and consistent living.

The Red Dress has been exhibited in various galleries and museums worldwide, including Gallery Maeght in Paris, Art Dubai, Museo Des Arte Popular in Mexico City, the National Library of Kosovo, Southern Vermont Arts Centre, Frick Musuem Pittsburgh, Fuller Craft Museum, USA, National Waterfront Museum in Wales, Fashion and Textile Museum, London, an event at the Royal Academy in London, and the Premio Valcellina Textiles Award in Maniago, Italy where it won first prize in 2015.

The Red Dress’s 14-year creation journey around the world is now complete with the garment assembled in its final configuration. Covered in millions of stitches, the 6.8 kg. silk Red Dress is weighted as much by the individual stories and collective voices waiting to be heard as by the threads and beads that adorn it.

Moving forward, as well as continuing to develop a strong online platform the Red Dress will be travelling to many different galleries, museums, and event spaces around the world, with a continued aim to be accessible to all. Kirstie hopes to bring the garment to visit the countries of all commissioned embroiderers, and exhibit the Red Dress alongside their own work in their chosen venue.

Practical and logistical support with commissions for the project was provided by the following charities, self-help development projects, social enterprises and various initiatives providing support to women in poverty: Manchester Aid for Kosovo supporting Sister Stitch in Kosovo; Kisany in Rwanda and DR Congo; Missibaba in South Africa; Kitzen in Mexico; Al Badia in Lebanon supporting Palestinan refugees; FanSina in Egypt; the Swansea Women’s Asylum & Refugee Support Group, Wales, White Ribbon Alliance, UK, and the War Childhood Musuem in Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Seed investment for the project was provided by the British Council Dubai in 2009, with subsequent funding received from the Arts Council Lottery Fund, 3 British Embassy’s, Contemporary Middle East, Southern Vermont Arts Centre, Frick Pittsburgh, Fuller Craft Museum, 441 individuals from 2 Crowdfunding campaigns and private donations.


A huge thank you to all who have given their time, energy, enthusiasm, advice, experience and financial support to the Red Dress project over the years.

In addition to the institutions below, funding has been gratefully received from a number of private donations and 441 individuals around the world via 2 Crowdfunding campaigns in 2020 and 2022.

Nothing expresses more eloquently the feelings I suspect we share about the importance of embroidery in our lives, and the support we derive from the friendships made through stitch, than Kirstie Macleod’s Red Dress.
Caroline Zoob, Editor of Stitchers Journal 2022
This beautiful object highlights the common ground between individuals, bringing together different identities and uniting people, we are honoured to contribute to it.
Tiny Kox, PACE President at the Council of Europe, Strasbourg 2023
The Red Dress has become an icon of the international textile world.
Suzanne Smith, Textile Society 2022
The Red Dress in its final incarnation, a magnificent, regal robe, symbolises the empowerment of women through the creation of something beautiful, something which began with bowed heads and tired fingers but also with faith and joy, an openness and willingness to be a part of something which they could not see at that time but in which they could believe had meaning and worth connecting with other women around the world.
Lady Alison Myners, Chair of the Royal Academy Trust 2020
The Red Dress is in some respects similar to Mail Art, the populist artistic movement centred on sending small scale works through the postal service. It initially developed out of the Fluxus movement in the 1950s and 60s – but on a larger scale – the journey of the work is part of its identity, process, and in fact function. A signifier of the temporal and physical nature of the process inherent in the creation of the piece. The surface of the dress layered with embroidery slowly transforming into a specific topographical map – completely particular to the work’s journey – and reflective of the burgeoning sculptural landscape of the object.
Paul Black, Artlyst 2015
It’s her (Kirstie’s) red silk Dupion bodice and voluminous skirt created for the Red Dress that fully demonstrates her commitment to embroidery and the immense respect for the international community of makers.
Denna Jones. Embroidery Magazine 2010
...the fact that they could embroider what they wanted and that it is appreciated has given them some strength, some confidence that I didn’t feel so strongly before they created the embroideries.
Nicole Esselan, Founder of Kisany Africa, supporting artisans in DR CONGO and RWANDA who created embroidery on the Red Dress in 2018
This is both an extraordinary work of collective art and profound and eloquent social commentary. It is also an example of how potent the Attire language is capable of becoming.
Attires Mind (Fashion Blogger) 2020
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