Dare to Wear. Diana Dias Leao. Walker Gallery Liverpool. 1-10-10

The artist and glassmaker Diana Dias Leao has used her experience of working in fashion to create a beautiful collection of glass dresses and barbed wire corsets which are on exhibition at the Walker Gallery in Liverpool. They are intended to be inspirational, and her overriding intention is to show that “even though the image is glittering it is the person inside who is priceless”. Their beauty is made from sharpness and harsh materials, and through them she is exploring issues around bulimia, anorexia and body image. Although they are not meant to be worn there is a photo in the exhibition of a model looking stunning wearing one of them and they have been modelled on a catwalk.

They are lovely to look at, shimmering and glittering, and they are beautifully made. The workmanship is detailed and delicate and they have a purity about them somehow which I liked very much. I like the fact that she has used the ideal female form unashamedly. Most of the women who look at these dresses would never fit into them, but this is part of the point. Lack of body confidence and poor self image is something which is common in women of all shapes and sizes and a woman who could fit into these dresses and look stunning might well feel just as unattractive and vulnerable as those who can’t. The outer beauty of the dresses is undercut by the fact that they would be difficult and awkward to wear. Beauty often has to follow hard work and even pain, so that a woman can achieve an outward shell which she feels able to show the world. These dresses celebrate the beauty of the female form and remind us of the price that some women pay to achieve it. It goes without saying that it is the person inside that matters far more than any outward appearance, and most people would automatically agree with that, but there is a lot of history to prove that this truth has been far from universally accepted in practice. We may talk the talk, but Diana Dias Leao is reminding us that it is about time we walked the walk too. Well done her for making exhibits so beautiful and thought provoking. As a plain woman I salute her!

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