Body beautiful: plastics

30 March 2022

In MoDiP we like to support and respond to various activities that happen across the AUB.  This term our cultural partner TheGallery has been hosting a magnificent exhibition about fashion and diversity.  Body Beautiful: Diversity on the Catwalk embraces inclusivity and body positivity and is open until 29 April 2022. The MoDiP team have been helping to invigilate the space and have enjoyed seeing the visitors exploring the themes and displays.


Invigilating the Body Beautiful: Diversity on the Catwalk exhibition to support our AUB colleagues. Image credit: L. Dennis

We have also put together our own exhibition in response to the theme of fashion and diversity.  Body beautiful: plastics, looks at how this group of materials play an important role in empowering us to manage our own identity by enabling us to maintain and restore our bodies, enhance and transform our shape, and express our individuality.

Maintaining and restoring our bodies

Plastics have contributed to the development of prosthetic devices due to their wide range of mechanical, electrical, chemical and thermal qualities.  They are inert, non-toxic and durable, with the ability to perform in the precise environmental conditions found within the human body. Different types of prosthetics are designed to achieve different objectives.  For example, some are designed predominantly for appearance, to look as realistic as possible, whilst others are purely functional, designed with usability as their main purpose.

Objects in this case:

Artificial eye and hip joint. Image credit: L. Dennis

Denture and leg. Image credit: L. Dennis

Enhancing and transforming our shape

In all cultures the human body has, at some point, been enhanced or artificially transformed to create a silhouette which conforms to traditions or fashions of the day.  Whether trying to achieve an hourglass figure, a curve-less form, or a more toned, athletic build, plastics materials can provide the required structure and support.

From synthetic ‘whalebone’ to elastane shapewear and silicone enhancing pads, this case exhibits a range of garments designed to target specific areas of the body.

Objects in this case:

Spanx tank and Wonderbra. Image credit: L. Dennis

Expressing ourselves

There are many ways in which people can express individuality.  We can do it through the clothes we wear and the way we conduct ourselves.  We can also change our appearance temporarily, through wearing removable jewellery, hairpieces and false nails, as well as more permanently, by adopting piercings and 3-dimensional tattoos. Whilst body modification has been practised around the world for thousands of years using a variety of natural materials, more recently biocompatible plastics have become increasingly common, particularly for those objects implanted under the skin.

Objects in this case:


Toenails and subdermal implants. Image credit L. Dennis

We look forward to the next opportunity we get to support our colleagues and be inspired by the work they are doing.

Louise Dennis, Curator of MoDiP