Frida Kahlo was born in Coyoacán during the Mexican revolution. Although her artistic style was notably vibrant, her life was filled with misfortune. Despite facing continuous hardship and heartbreak, Kahlo remained true to her passion for art and for life. She is now a cultural icon and an inspiration to many.
Aside from her impressive art, she is remembered for her charming attire, inspired by her Mexican heritage. Her bright floral headpieces, chunky statement jewelry, and thick braids made her style instantly recognizable. She wore bold patterns and bolder colours. Decorated with lace and ribbons, her dresses were beautifully embroidered. Kahlo was a gender-bending bad ass non-conformist. She didn’t care for the fashion of her time or for traditional beauty ideals, wearing a mono-brow proudly and incorporating her facial hair into her many self-portraits. Even as a young woman, her admiration for her father led Kahlo to wear suits and keep her hair short which was at this time considered an extremely bold move.
As a child, Kahlo contracted polio in her right leg, making it noticeably shorter than her left. Aged eighteen, she miraculously survived a bus crash in which her abdomen was impaled by a hand rail. During a year spent bedridden in a full body cast, she began painting self-portraits to ease her loneliness. Her trauma encouraged the confrontation of melancholy themes in her work.
Kahlo shared her work with artist Diego Rivera whom she eventually married. Rivera inspired Kahlo’s style of painting and her colourful fashion. Kahlo personally designed many of her clothes, often creating items that hid her various imperfections. Like her long traditional skirts which hid the scars from her many surgeries. Kahlo’s leg was eventually amputated so she created a prosthetic, complete with a bright red shoe and a decorative bell. Kahlo was forced to wear full torso plaster casts which she painted and integrated into her garments. Corsets made of steel and leather functioned to support her weak body but were also integrated into a work of art.
Unfortunately, Kahlo was unable to bear a child as a result of her injuries. Both Kahlo and Rivera became unfaithful to one another. Rivera had an affair with Kahlo’s younger sister which lead to their eventual divorce. In response, Kahlo cut her hair short and refused to wear the colourful clothing which Diego admired so much. Her on again/off again relationship with Diego led her to eventually grow her hair long and begin wearing her colourful garments once again. After Kahlo’s death in 1954, Rivera locked away her wardrobe. It remained a hidden treasure trove until 2004.
Frida Kahlo’s style was a reflection of her personal life, her politics, and her artistic objectives. She had the ability to convey her story not only on canvas but through her uniquely cultivated wardrobe. Unsurprisingly, her clothing has inspired a number of designers including Jean-Paul Gaultier and Alexander McQueen. Kahlo’s life was physically and emotionally painful, yet even as her health deteriorated, she stayed true to her art. Her positive attitude always prevailed. Her experiences allowed her to become one of the most interesting and exceptional women in history.
Kahlo famously said; ‘Passion is the bridge that takes you from pain to change.‘