With our museum, we want to set an example for diversity and question beauty norms. The exhibition therefore also pays tribute to different body shapes, older women and women with disabilities or limitations due to childbirth, accidents and illness, revealing how diverse beauty can be.
"Beauty" is always subject to change over time and was defined differently in different epochs. Connections between the social and political situation of the respective epoch can be recognised. While in times of hardship the focus was more on strong, well-fed bodies, in the modern world of abundance a slim, trained body is considered aesthetic. The exhibition documents the development of the ideal of beauty from antiquity to the present and exemplifies the complexity and diversity of the perennial myth of "beauty".
Even today, the natural ageing process is still fraught with many taboos. Young and flawless bodies are generally regarded as the aesthetic ideal, while ageing people are almost invisible in the media. The exhibition uses strong female personalities such as the 80-year-old surfer icon Kathy Kohner-Zuckerman or the 97-year-old Munich opera singer Ruth Megary to illustrate that passionate sporting activity or the self-confident wearing of a swimsuit are neither dependent on figure nor age.
In addition to disabilities that exist from birth, physical limitations can also arise through accident or illness and fundamentally change the lives of the people affected. The exhibition shows that beauty and disability are by no means opposites and pays tribute, among others, to the snowboarder Brenna Huckaby, who was the first model with a prosthetic leg to be pictured in a bikini on the cover of the "Swimsuit Issue" of "Sports Illustrated", as well as to the commitment of the German swimwear manufacturer "Anita", which with its "Anita care" line produces breast prostheses and articles specially tailored to the needs of breast amputees.
The era of the so-called "skinny models" reached its peak at the end of the 20th and early 21st century. As the international fashion industry came in for massive criticism due to numerous models suffering from eating disorders, they increasingly resorted to plus-size models: while the measurements of regular mannequins correspond to a dress size 34/36, "curvys" wear clothing sizes 40 to 52. In the exhibition, both international plus-size models such as Ashley Graham and German mannequins and bloggers such as Angelina Kirsch or Charlotte Kuhrt are celebrated as revolutionaries of the fashion and media world who challenge the slim beauty ideal through their commitment to a diverse and positively occupied body image.
Although pregnancy and motherhood are inextricably interwoven with a multitude of women's lives and are considered the epitome of femininity, in the past women in these significant stages of life were often declared asexual beings, forbidden for moral reasons to dress revealingly or expose their bodies. In the exhibition, pregnancy is problematised as an aesthetic and social taboo and, with the help of courageous protagonists such as the Brazilian actress Leila Diniz or the Hollywood icon Demi Moore, it is illustrated that showing a baby bump still came up against moral limits in the recent past.
Bikini-wearing "advertising girls" have their origins in the pin-up art that emerged during the Second World War. Lightly clad women were often depicted on the noses of American wartime airmen to add a touch of optimism to the horrors of war. Soon after, pin-up girls were also seen on matchboxes, biscuit tins or tin cans and became increasingly established in advertising concepts everywhere. In addition to this historical outline, the exhibition also discusses how women in bikinis were increasingly instrumentalised as product advertising media in the course of the sexual revolution in the late 1960s and why the depiction of lightly clad women's bodies currently enrages people.