‘Beauty by Design: Fashioning the Renaissance’ opens to the public


On the 15th November, the exciting Beauty by Design exhibition opened to the public at the Edinburgh Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

Launched in September 2012, the project was devised by Mal Burkinshaw and Dr Jill Burke, a specialist in Italian Renaissance visual culture within the School of History of Art. It brings together experts from a variety of areas (History of Art and Costume, Fashion Design, History, Psychology, and Education), who were interested in considering how Renaissance art could be used to question contemporary notions of beauty and body image.

The beautiful bodies of the Renaissance – the fleshy women of Titian or Rubens or the androgynous forms of Michelangelo or Leonardo – are a long way away from today’s size zero model, yet both have been considered ideals of beauty in these diverse societies.

This project’s aim is to communicate the need for a global recognition and commitment to improve self-esteem through emotionally considerate design, marketing and branding. The project aims to promote and reinstate a healthier attitude towards diversity of body image and beauty. The research team will seek to unravel historical codes of beauty and innovate towards new fashion design and communication solutions.

The project underpins the activity of the Edinburgh College of Art and All Walks Beyond the Catwalk Diversity Network. 

Mal-Jacket - Esther Inglis (1)

Mal Burkinshaw, Silhouettes en Dentelle – Series 1. 2013-14. Sophie Hallette lace, hand-appliquéd onto tailored jackets in nylon netting. 



Claire Ferguson, Double Exposure, 2014. Pima cotton and monofilament with Sophie Hallette lace.



Sally-Ann Provan, Headpiece: Memento Flori. Laser-cut acrylic, gold-plated pins, glass pearls and crystals.