We all know Frida Kahlo’s art and her very special fashion.
Frida Kahlo’s fashion is very personal and part of her imaginative world, which mixes Mexican traditions and personal needs.
Since the tragic accident at the age of 18 on her way home from school, Frida Kahlo suffered numerous fractures to her spine, femur and ribs.
Her life was punctuated by operations and long stays in bed, but she never gave up being fashionable.
Frida’s fashion was to hide her physical defects
Wide skirts very practical for her difficulty in walking, taken from the Mexican tradition.
Square cut blouses to hide medical corsets and a back brace.
A particular attention to the face, underlined by the flowers in the hair, almost a crown. But also scarves draped over the body to soften back stiffness or braided in the hair to divert attention from the rigid body.
Frida’s fashion and Mexican scarves
The same Mexican scarves used on the shoulders or along the hips, the most famous Mexican ones, place of origin of the Kahlo, called “Rebozo“, also used to carry objects or transport children.
The Rebozo are scarves in cotton, wool or silk and have very mixed origins. Perhaps they are scarves known before the Spanish colonization, certainly the term Rebozo appears in Spanish in 1562.
Scarves are a very significant decorative element. Especially the ones braided in the hair.
With scarves, the Kahlo’s head takes on an almost votive connotation, of popular madonna, of a votive figure like those of the altars created in the houses by the Mexican population.
She is very careful in calibrating colors and shapes, and she is both popular and sophisticated.
Mixing the two planes, the intellectual and the popular, are a sign of great open-mindedness and artistic.
The Kahlo is aware of the strength of her talent and will never fail her ideas and image.
She will never be repetitive, becoming iconic instead.
And just as you cannot separate Frida Kahlo from her artistic work, so you cannot separate the artist Frida from the fashion Frida.
For this reason we still admire this artist on two parallel levels: her artistic work and her personality.
Frida Kahlo’s fashion is imaginative
Frida Kahlo’s fashion is full of colours, metaphors, cultured and popular quotations, symbolic, religious and political references, redundant with details, objects and phrases.
The staff at La Casa Azul (now Museum), where she lived and where her clothes are kept, says that at sunset her brocade skirts and shawls become heavier and they like to imagine that it is the Kahlo herself who returns to wear her clothes when the visitors are gone.
All this could make sense in a country like Mexico, where life and death are closely intertwined and where death is represented with bright, bright colours and where life and death travel together cheerfully and melancholy.
Frida Kahlo wore clothes that spoke of life as her body gave way to death.
And all her artistic imagery spoke parallel to life and death.
The South Project and Kahlo fashion
My project on the South has deliberately introduced Frida Kahlo’s fashion because no one like her has given space to an imaginary full of colours, shapes and traditions mixed with a strong personality and a clear political sense of liberation both of women in general and of women artists.
No one like her has been able to talk to us about femininity and rights, about upsetting physical pain and difficulties in life, about cheerful, colourful, very personal fashion that recalls the centuries-old traditions of Mexico.
Kahlo’s disabilities have been decorated, cared for, embellished with fabrics and scarves, flowers and jewellery.
Her body has always been weakened and has found strength in art and fashion.
There is no portrait in which she appears weak, but it always sends back an image of strength, of power, of conscious femininity.
Her corporeity transcends handicap.
The self-image of the Kahlo has never left room for suffering, but for full awareness of her talent.
And it is also a clear Mexican manifesto of independence, out of the conventional schemes of European and Western clothes.
Frida Kahlo’s fashion has given strength and self-sufficiency to the artist
She decorated and covered with colors and shapes, a body that wanted to determine itself and take possession of the world.
Kahlo’s fashion is a revenge on disability, on the often tragic destiny, on accidents along the way, on closure after an illness.
Fashion can give voice to a body that could remain anonymous and invisible.
How Frida Kahlo’s fashion inspired me
I hadn’t made all these considerations immediately and I hadn’t read anything about why Kahlo used fashion so explicitly.
I had used her image and paintings to create scarves.
I wanted to narrate the strength of the South of the world (which is one of the themes that interest me a lot in these years) and its countless traditions.
I created several scarves by reviewing some of its themes with my way of drawing.
The fashion of Frida Kahlo and teenagers
One day I was contacted by a client I had just met, an Italian, who wanted to give one of these scarves to her pre-teen daughter.
Sincerely, the idea made me a little tremble at the girl’s age.
Would she ever wear such an important scarf?
There was no doubt her mother could have kept it until she was older.
What problems were there? Only mine, perhaps prejudiced?
The customer was really very small in age, I would say the first non-adult client in my life.
But the mother had a very long sight and without hesitation she bought it.
Why am I telling you this?
Simple, the little girl as soon as she received the scarf, she started to say that it was a magic cloak and that wearing it she was getting over her cough and cold.
Not only that, she started wearing it for the hard times at school, for the important proofs of life.
So I gathered all the thoughts that were going through my head and thought that Frida Kahlo’s pop scarf made sense, instilled courage and strength.
As if Frida’s image was a talisman.
Don’t you have any idea how incredible this is?
No one encouraged the little customer’s thinking, she was completely independent in the choice of her scarf.
Frida Kahlo after amputating her leg, a year before she died, said with extreme courage “What do I need feet for? I have wings to fly”.
Frida Kahlo’s magnificent, broken body lived on an unparalleled inner and outer power.
I always remain silent and smile, but I am often told that wearing my scarves makes me feel strong, invincible, confident customers.
I simply believe that every work of art, like every scarf, awaits its collector.
And that when you wear something you really like, you always feel beautiful.
Perhaps the secret is that: to acquire power by feeling beautiful, even with a simple scarf.
That evokes incredible powers and art, like Frida Kahlo and her fashion.