Sharmin Faeq Sadiq from Kurdistan, Iraq supported by the 'Swansea Women's Asylum and Refugee Support Group' 2022

NINA HILTON

NORWAY / 2022
SECTION OF DRESS: Floral Bunad

A motif from Nina’s own Bunad, handed down from her ‘Mormor.’

It was such an honour to work on this project and produce an emblem from a corner of the world which holds a special place in my heart.

My motif is taken from a Norwegian ‘bunad*’ (national dress – pronounced ‘boo-nard’). My mother is Norwegian, and my father is English, and I’ve always been very happy with my dual nationality. I feel it is an immense privilege – growing up with one foot in two camps gives you a unique perspective on the world around you, as you are able to simultaneously be both a part of, and apart from, your cultures and to compare them from an informed position.

The ‘bunad’ in Norway is a thick, heavy dress made of a wool/linen mix. It is cut with extra width hidden in the pleats and bodice so it can be let out over time (as the wearer gets older and heavier)! It is meant to last a lifetime, and it does. The dress is worn over an ornate blouse and proper shoes must be worn with it. There are shawls, belts and purses which accessorise it, but there are rules about how these may be worn. For example, a belt with square metal panels signifies that the wearer is a married woman, while younger, unmarried women wear a belt with circular ones.

Furthermore, although it is referred to as a ‘national’ dress, it is highly regionalised. Every district has its own bunad, denoted by the colours, patterns, and the embroidered motifs. Mine is from Bergen, Norway’s second city, which lies on the south-west coast of the country. This is where my mother and grandmother were born and bred. My dress belonged to my ‘mormor’ – my mother’s mother. Bunads are handed down through the generations, mother to daughter, so when I wear mine, I feel a connection to my now long-gone but still much missed mormor.

The bunad then is a number of things: a symbol of heritage, of national pride, a beautiful display of sewing and needlework skills and yet still a practical item of dress. It is always considered ‘correct’ to wear to a formal occasion in Norway, even today in the 21st century. Weddings, baptisms, confirmations, funerals – even formal parties are places where you wouldn’t be surprised to see people wearing their bunads in Norway. The best day to see bunads of every style and colour is on 17th May every year – constitution day – when the streets are filled nationwide, as people come together to take part in/watch parades, wave flags, eat ice-cream, sing songs and generally party throughout the day in celebration.



Contact: Please connect with Kirstie at reddressembrodiery@gmail.com to put you in touch directly.



OUR SUPPORTERS

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 344 individuals around the world via a Crowdfunded campaign in 2020.

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The Red Dress is one of the most power pieces of clothing I have ever seen
Angelica Colleluci, Head of Design & Productions at Ozwald Boateng
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
I can't remember when they embroidered that piece of silk (2018?) but I feel that something has changed since. 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. Last year, I sent them a drawing and asked them to “interpretate" it the way they wanted; again it came back with a lot of emotions, another beautiful story. Thank you for giving them this opportunity
Nicole Esselan, Founder of Kisany Africa (supporting artisans in DR CONGO and RWANDA)
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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