Sponsored: Online costume design exhibition launches exploring tropes about women with disabilities and chronic illness

Breaking Apart the Sick Girl Trope can now be seen online Photo Shannen Lythgoe

Thanet-based costume designer and textile artist Katie Hogben is presenting a brand new costume design exhibition online as part of her Arts Council England funded creative project, Breaking Apart the Sick Girl Trope. The exhibition ran in-person from Thursday 27th October to Wednesday 2nd November at Pie Factory Margate – and it is now available to explore on the project’s website via an online exhibition, photography gallery and videos.

Photo Shannen Lythgoe

You can enter the online exhibition here: https://thesickgirltrope.wordpress.com/online-exhibition/

You can explore the photography gallery and videos here: https://thesickgirltrope.wordpress.com/gallery/

Photo Shannen Lythgoe

Breaking Apart the Sick Girl Trope is an art project exploring tropes in storytelling associated with women who have a chronic illness or disability. It looks at all forms of storytelling – including novels, short stories, plays, poetry, film, TV, fine art, and video games.

Photo Shannen Lythgoe

The project started in early 2022 with five free creative online discussion sessions for women and non-binary people with personal experience of chronic illness or disability, investigating common ‘sick girl’ stereotypes that are damaging, and proposing authentic alternatives.

Photo Shannen Lythgoe

The in-person exhibition attracted 503 people, and the online exhibition and supporting materials on the project’s website have so far been viewed over 2,000 times. Feedback from visitors so far includes: “The exhibition is one of the best things I’ve ever seen. It’s a powerful, informative, heartbreaking and inspiring journey through the different tropes. The costumes are beautiful and so thought provoking.”

Photo Shannen Lythgoe

Other visitors have said: 

“As impressed by the incredible dressmaking skills as by the brilliant concept. Really inspiring and thought provoking exhibition.”

“Thank you so much for doing this! So accessible, so thought provoking.”

Photo Shannen Lythgoe

In the online exhibition you can see costumes created specifically for the exhibition visualizing common damaging tropes and authentic experiences of women with a chronic illness or disability. Artworks from women and non-binary people who took part in the creative sessions also feature, presenting their own examples and interpretations.

Photo Shannen Lythgoe

The exhibition includes quotes from literature and examples of famous paintings that present damaging tropes, as well as sewing samplers highlighting how the costumes were made.

Katie Hogben was passionate about making sure the exhibition was as accessible as possible, which is why this online version of the exhibition was created for those unable to travel to the in-person exhibition in Margate.

You can watch the interpretation film explaining the inspiration behind the exhibition here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJkOJrMLh-I&t=57s

You can experience a video walkthrough of the exhibition here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F8D0VEPUHe4&t=38s

If you have questions about the exhibition or would like to find out more about this project, email Katie Hogben at [email protected]. You can also sign up to Katie’s mailing list here and join the project’s Facebook group here.

About the artist

Katie Hogben is a costume designer, textile artist, writer and producer. Since 2010 she has led on costume design and production on over 20 theatrical productions, films and photoshoots, receiving training at London College of Fashion and Central Saint Martins. She has an MA in Screenwriting from the National Film and Television School. Katie also works in arts marketing, her experience including Thanet’s own Power of Women festival, Turner Contemporary and Philharmonia Orchestra in London.

Photo Shannen Lythgoe

In her creative work, Katie has a particular interest in the experiences of the most vulnerable in society. In 2012, Katie set up the project Revealing the Invisible, which explored the aspects of chronic illness that are invisible, such as Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue, Brain Fog and Depression, through fine art exhibitions, writing and film.

Find out more about Breaking Apart the Sick Girl Trope and artist Katie Hogben at www.thesickgirltrope.wordpress.com

Katie would like to say a huge thank you to Arts Council England for funding Breaking Apart the Sick Girl Trope.


  1. As an ignoramus, I once again have to ask the question as to how to identify the difference between a dress designed by a person in pain and a person not in pain – and why it has to be funded by the Arts Council ?

    And why is it restricted to women and non-binary people ? Why are men excluded ? Surely that enters the realms of sexism ? I am sure that if I mounted an exhibition restricted to invisible suffering by men and non-binary persons, I am sure I would be pilloried . . .

  2. I must admit I have no idea what this is meant to mean.

    The articles in the pictures look the same as anything else. The clothes look no different to any other clothing.

    What am I missing ?

    I really dont understand it and is there a similar thing for men ?

  3. As a Woman/Female, I truly think this country has lost the plot.
    The young woman in question is clearly talented and I am sure means well, but quite honestly what on earth is it all about.
    I have made lots of clothes over the years, feeling unwell, at times depressed, but what has that got to do with the finished article.
    We ALL feel like that at times, men & women. You just get on with things in life.
    To give funding to something like this is, words fail me!
    I can understand why any man would read this article and truly not know what it is all about.
    I as a female don’t.

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