The Global Collaboration: 343 Embroiderers Unite Across 46 Countries for the 13-Year Triumph of the ‘Red Dress Project

Since we are all innately creative beings, we often share our skills and talents to produce creative outputs. However, it’s very rare to see people from all over the world join hands to create something special. We are talking about the Red Dress project that has been sent around the world to be embroidered by 343 people (336 women and 7 men) from 46 different countries. This global wonder is made out of 84 pieces of burgundy silk dupion, and the style, colors, and patterns of the dress are very unique and diverse.

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Image source: thereddress_embroidery

British artist Kirstie Macleod initiated the project in 2009 and it was completed recently in 2022. Women from all across the world embroidered their own essence into this wonderful dress.

Image source: thereddress_embroidery

136 professionals who were commissioned for the project got paid for their work and they also receive a portion of all ongoing exhibition fees. The rest of them just volunteered to contribute their work at some events in various countries.

Image source: thereddress_embroidery

This project was aimed at “an investigation into identity, with a desire to connect with women from the around without borders and boundaries.” The idea that started as a sketch on the back of a napkin has grown into a beautiful piece of clothing  and it “has also become a platform for self-expression and an opportunity for voices to be amplified and heard.”

Image source: thereddress_embroidery

The dress is being displayed in museums and galleries as it tours around the world. Women of various ages and ethnicities have been photographed wearing the dress showing the diverse cultural and traditional experiences the dress has been through.

Image source: thereddress_embroidery

According to the project’s website:

“Embroiderers include female refugees from Palestine and Syria, women seeking asylum in the UK from Iraq, China, Nigeria and Namibia, victims of war in Kosovo, Rwanda, and DR Congo; impoverished women in South Africa, Mexico, and Egypt; individuals in Kenya, Japan, Turkey, Sweden, Peru, Czech Republic, Dubai, Afghanistan, Australia, Argentina, 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.”

Image source: thereddress_embroidery

A small panel of the dress embroidered by two women in Kosovo was shared by Kirstie Macleod on Instagram.

The women shared their reflections of war and stitched these words into the white birds they embroidered –

“Better one winter in your own country than a hundred springs away.”

“The greatest wealth is to live content with little.”

“Freedom has come. Love yourself first.”

“Love all. Trust some. Hate none.”

“A winter is a winter. Be nice, everyone.”

“We live in peace now.”

Image source: thereddress_embroidery

“From established professional artisans to first-time embroiderers, the women were encouraged to share something that expressed their personal identities as well as their cultures. Some used traditional embroidery styles that had been practiced for hundreds of years where they are from. Others stitched in meaningful elements of their life stories. Some of the women are also using textile work to rebuild their lives and earn a consistent living.”

Image source: thereddress_embroidery

“The Red Dress’s 13-year creation journey around the world is now completed with the dress assembled in its final configuration. Covered in millions of stitches, the 6.2 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.”

Image source: thereddress_embroidery

This project was indeed a brilliant idea to connect women from all parts of the world and let them share their stories.

Image source: thereddress_embroidery

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