Lekazia Turner, embroiderer from Jamaica, 2022



SECTION OF DRESS: ‘From Victim to Victory’

15 female survivors of conflict related sexual violence collaborate to create a powerful motif for the Red Dress.

Kirstie writes:

I was fortunate to be able to connect with 15 of the women survivors who have co-produced “Speaking Out” with the War Childhood Museum in Sarajevo, an exhibition dedicated to survivors of conflict related sexual violence.

Ahead of the exhibition opening I spent a day with the women, beginning by sitting around the Red Dress whilst I shared some of its stories, introduced them to the embroideries and a number of the artisans. The women were visibly moved and connected to some of the experiences shared by other women survivors deeply, but mostly the room was filled with smiles and a feeling of solidarity.

There has been no support for the women of B&H these last 30 years, and sadly social stigma has made it very difficult for many survivors to speak about their trauma, let alone try and seek justice and reparations from a system that is still far from adequate. They have had to carry their experiences, and for most it will have shaped and defined their lives.

The women decided they would like to create one collaborative motif onto the Red Dress which they thoughtfully designed together. Stitched in the bright blue and yellow of their national flag, it diptychs a circular shape surrounded by each of the women’s’ first initial. The words inside the circle (in English) are B&H (short for Bosnia & Herzegovina) and “From victim to victory”.

Spending the day with the group was a privilege, and I was struck by their strength, and by their support and affection for one another. They stitched together, chatted about their lives and sang traditional Bosnian songs throughout the afternoon.

If you would like to learn more about the invaluable work of the War Childhood Museum, please see their website: https://warchildhood.org/


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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