My fascination with Frida Kahlo began in 9th grade when my Spanish teacher introduced me to the Mexican artist’s phenomenal work and I’ve been a fan ever since. Many viewed Frida as mentally stable and handicapped, but I saw her as a woman who lived through her passion despite all the hardships she experienced in her life – and painted what others did not want to see. She was once quoted as saying, “They thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn’t. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.” I recently traveled Mexico City and one of the highlights was visiting the exhibit, “Appearances Can Be Deceiving: The Dresses of Frida Kahlo, a collaboration between the Frida Kahlo Museum and Vogue Mexico.
Now let me start off by saying this was truly an experience of a lifetime. After Frida’s death in 1954, her husband world renown Muralist Diego Rivera, locked the doors to his wife’s bold and colourful wardrobe in fear that the contents would get ruined. When Rivera passed away, the task of guarding these historical pieces went to his close friend Delores Olmedo, who promised that the contents would remain unopened until 15 years after his death. But she actually kept it locked until her own death in 2002 at the age of 93.
Thankfully, the museum’s Director Hilda Trujillo Soto, decided it was time to finally unlock the vault and reveal what was inside. Going to Kahlo’s childhood home in the Coyoacan area of Mexico City, which is now the museum fondly referred to as Casa Azul, was already an intense experience, but knowing I was going to be able to see an exhibit which consisted of 300 pieces of personal items, shoes, clothing, love letters and even journals was almost too much for me to handle. Allegedly, the title of the exhibit alludes to the secrets found in the artist’s journal, that explore the deliberate strategies behind Frida’s style choices. As a die hard fan, I already knew Kahlo was ahead of her time and used fashion for what it is intended for, just another outlet to express herself. From traditional Tehuana dresses, elaborate headpieces, menswear inspired suits, to even a high-heeled red lace up boot for prosthetic leg, Frida’s style always made a statement, both culturally and politically.
Since Vogue was involved, the experience was elevated by also including some key pieces throughout fashion’s history that was influenced by Kahlo’s strong style. BCBG Max Azria’s sunburst pleated georgette dress, corsets from Comme des Garcon and John Paul Gaulthier’s collections, and a Givenchy dress which contained elements found in Kahlo’s paintings designed by Ricardo Tisci.
John Paul Gaultier’s corset dress circa 1994 , inspired by Frida’s plaster support on the right
Tisci’s design for Givenchy’s 2010 collection based on a drawing by Kahlo titled “Appearances Can Be Deceiving” circa 1934
I clearly was in bliss for the duration of my time within Casa Azul, but there was one downfall to the exhibit. It left me wanting more…a lot more. The museum only had five rooms to display Frida’s belongings, which forced the curators to come to the decision that they must rotate the items displayed every few months. It is so amazing to see a woman’s legacy live on with her extensive body of artwork, style, and anecdotes, even so many years after her death.
Frida Kahlo Museum, Calle Londres #247, Col. Del Carmen, Coyoacán.C.P. 04100, México D.F.
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