Frida Kahlo was both surrealist painter and unwitting fashion icon. Her image is immediately recognizable and her clothing was carefully chosen to reflect her feelings about femininity, politics, and her own physical limitations. Frida’s vibrantly colored and richly embroidered garments were tweaked versions of traditional Mexican clothing, with corset-style bodices and long flowing skirts. But the roots of her style are much deeper than they appear on the surface. Like most women, Frida dressed to look and feel beautiful but, unbeknownst to some, also to mask her ailments and near-constant physical pain.
Her full skirts hid legs damaged by childhood polio and a horrific bus accident at 17. That accident left her with a heavily scarred body and lifelong health problems that over 40 surgeries could not correct. During a three-month stay in a hospital, Frida began painting the full-body casts she had to wear for long stretches of time. Eventually, she created her own structured corsets that allowed her to walk upright, though in constant pain. She covered these leather structures with fabric corset tops or bright, feminine blouses.
As Frida became more incapacitated, her garments became more elaborate and colorful. When her right leg was amputated, about a year before her death, she fitted her prosthetic with a bright red embroidered boot—and she added a Chinese bell to the laces for greater effect. Her approach to fashion was almost one of defiance; she wanted to make herself feel beautiful in spite of her physical limitations, but she also wanted to portray an air of confidence to the world at large. Last year, for the first time since her death, some of Frida Kahlo’s personal garments were displayed and photographed.
Images from Collectors Weekly, Vulture, and NYMag.com
I have always found Frida Kahlo fascinating. Interesting to learn about why she dressed the way she did, especially the boot. Beautiful dresses.
Frieda Kahlo is a bright star and glowing sun which dances in all of us. A brave and courageous women with such beauty. Thank you for this wonderful share.
Thanks for the post- Frida is one of my heroes. A great summer read is ” The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo” by F G Haghenbeck. Inspired by both Frida and your designs!
If you are ever in Mexcio City, Frieda’s home, The Blue House is open as a museum. I never miss a visit to the Blue House and can spend hours because of the details and color. On Saturdays not far from her house is the Saturday Market which is full of indegenious textiles and clothing.
Frida Kahlo, always an inspirational wonderment to me but sadly now when I look at these photographs what I see is the cigarette in her hand. And I am sorry I am not rich enough to have handmade shoes for my leg and feet issues. I am going to learn. Then I can help others so afflicted with a sense of style. Okay, I am old but I am ever hopeful. LOL And speaking of inspiration, thank you Natalie Chanin for all that you do.
“My Friducha” Diego his husband said all the time.