When iconic Mexican painter Frida Kahlo died in 1954, her husband Diego Rivera was devastated—so much so that he kept all her belongings sealed in the bathroom of their home and bade that the whole lot stay hidden until 15 years after his own death. Diego passed away in 1957, a mere three years later, but the items remained stowed away up until 2004, when the Frida Kahlo Museum decided to catalog them.
Another lucky 13 years later, you can now see Frida's colorful closet for yourself without having to take a trip to Mexico. Photographed by Ishiuchi Miyako, her previously-unrevealed wardrobe comes together in the book Frida by Ishiuchi, now available for purchase through Amazon!
More than just serious inspiration for the most vibrant and textured of looks, Frida by Ishiuchi is an appreciation of how Frida used fashion and art to cope with the physical challenges that hounded her her entire life, starting with the near-fatal car accident she survived in 1925.
With one leg shortened by childhood polio, Frida sought to cover herself with the brightly-hued clothing of traditional indigenous Mexican peasants: long skirts, huipils and rebozos, elaborate flowered headdresses, and masses of jewelry. She was brilliant at transforming medically-neccesary accoutrements into wearable works of art—for example, the full body cast she painted to resemble a matryoshka doll's casing.
Diego, himself a renowned artist, once said in reference to his wife's dress: "Mexican women who do not wear [Mexican clothing] ... are mentally and emotionally dependent on a foreign class to which they wish to belong."
Frida's visually decadent wardrobe is as reflective of her deep-rooted love for Mexico's culture as her simultaneously political and introspective paintings—some of the most notable include My Birth (1932), What The Water Gave Me (1938), The Two Fridas (1939), and Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird (1940).
Warmly received by the other prominent artists of her time—Pablo Picasso and Joan Miro included—Frida was also celebrated in the fashion world. She was the subject of a 1937 fashion spread in Vogue, photographed by Toni Frissell; plus, Elsa Schiaparelli was even known to have created a dress inspired by her.
Haunted by illness 'til her death, Frida may have "lived dying" (or so her good friend, writer Andrés Henestrosa, said), but her vivacious, patriotic, symbolic style is, safe to say, eternally alive.