Frida Kahlo, long after her death in 1954 is still perceived as an icon. Frida’s strong character can be seen not only in her intriguing paintings, that are directly linked to her life, but also in her famous colorful clothing.
Frida Kahlo used her clothing to give her emotional strength to overcome her physical challenges. She used it as her shield. When Frida was only 18, she was in a near-fatal bus accident that took two years of recovery and would cause her extreme pain for the rest of her life. The artist famously transformed medical-related objects into wearable works of art. Below you will see a full body cast that she wore after the accident, which she painted and transformed into a movable sculpture. Another was a prosthetic limb. When her leg was amputated in 1953, she turned the artificial limb into a spectacular object that was complete with a red lace-up boot and bell attached.
After Kahlo’s death, her husband Diego Rivera sealed her belongings in the bathroom of their Mexico City home. He said to keep them hidden until 15 years after his death. He died in 1957, but nearly 300 items remained stowed away for 50 years. It wasn’t until 2004 that the Frida Kahlo Museum decided to catalog them.
In 2012 in collaboration with Vogue México, the museum opened the first exhibition of Kahlo’s personal garments, presenting her attire through the lens of disability and female empowerment, as well as her continued influence on fashion. The exhibition focused on the ways Kahlo used her iconic style, often composed of traditional Tehuana garments, to project her feminist and socialist beliefs while also masking her debilitating injuries.
Then the Japanese photographer Ishiuchi Miyako had the honor of documenting the makeshift Frida Kahlo closet. Using a 35mm camera and natural light, she photographed more than 300 previously-unseen items. This culminated into a book called Frida by Ishiuchi that’s now available through Amazon. Ishiuchi’s color photographs transform Kahlo’s dresses, corsets, shoes, gloves, jewelry and other pieces of clothing into objects freighted with personal struggle, cultural awareness and sartorial inventiveness.
Just check out all these beautiful pieces of Frida Kahlo’s clothing. All images are via Ishiuchi Miyako and courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery, unless otherwise stated.