Frida Kahlo's Wardrobe
It seemed that there was little more to say or learn about Frida Kahlo, when in April 2004 her wardrobe was discovered here at La Casa Azul. In the upper part of the house, in the white tiled bathroom adjacent to the artist’s room, her wardrobe and personal belongings had been kept for more than 50 years by specific request of her husband, Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, and later by their patron and friend Dolores Olmedo. Around 300 traditional and non traditional garments, jewelry, medicines and orthopaedic devices were discovered.
Appearances Can Be Deceiving: Frida Kahlo’s Wardrobe displays these objects for the very first time and is a study of Kahlo’s construction of her own identity. The exhibition focuses on the construction of Kahlo’s style through disability, tradition, fashion and dress. It also shows how Kahlo’s personal style remains a source of inspiration for international artists and fashion designers.
It was the Tehuana dress that Kahlo chose as her signature dress; to define her identity and to portray her cultural heritage and political beliefs. Her wardrobe is mostly composed of Mexican traditional pieces from Oaxaca and other parts of the country. Nonetheless, there are also ethnic garments from Guatemala and China, as well as an interesting collection of European and American blouses.
The Tehuana dress is the pure representation of that meeting – the geometric focus on the heavily adorned upper body, the short square chain stitch blouses and the gender political statements that the dress implies. Frida and the Tehuana come together in a perfect union of identity, beauty and design.
The adornment of the Tehuana dress is centred around the upper part of the body. Chain stitch blouses, flowers, highly decorated jewelry, earrings, necklaces and rings will always be concentrated from the torso up, obliging the viewer to focus on Frida's upper body and providing her with the opportunity to edit and fragment herself, distracting the viewer from her legs and lower part of her body.
The huipil, due to its geometric short square construction, would help her to look taller and, when she was seated, allowed the fabric not to bunch up around her waist, thereby avoiding discomfort or drawing attention to itself.
These designers have drafted parallels between fashion and disability, marrying these ideas through the haunting image of Kahlo’s corset in the avant-garde.1
The designers take their own stance on what is of value in Kahlo’s image, a perfect example of post modernist deconstruction and, in the case of Gaultier by creating a kind of burlesque exoticism, while for Kawakubo the meaning has an almost religious connotation. For Rees it is about the human anatomy.
1 Judith Clark, Spectres: When Fashion Turns Back, Londres, V&A Publications, 2004, p. 40.
Riccardo Tisci for Givenchy
Kahlo’s style is celebrated as contemporary and relevant. Frida’s sense of self, reinterpreted through her family traditions and her disability, is clearly shown in Tisci's collection, her tormented memory represented through his materials and motifs. Flowers in lace make allusion to tradition, both as symbols of life and death; the memory of a skeletal silhouette in fine embroidery with the pelvis uncovered reminds us of the artist’s lifelong battle with
spinal pain, but also to her accident - it was then that Kahlo was left with the impossibility of conceiving a child. The jackets look like wings, the wings of a dove that recurred in Kahlo’s work, especially when in the throes of pain she would cling on to the hope of being able to escape from her own body.
Givenchy Haute Couture by Riccardo Tisci.
La Llorada, jumpsuit in blush coloured tulle embroidered with lace and silk satin motifs worn with a flesh coloured bodysuit in stretch tulle embroidered with lace appliqués and a jacket in silk gazar embroidered with matching hand cut silk fringes. Fall / Winter 2010.
Dirección General: Carlos Phillips
La Dirección de esta exposición estuvo a cargo de:
Hilda Trujillo Soto
Coordinación Ejecutiva: Alejandra López
Curaduría e investigación: Circe Henestrosa
Diseño museográfico: Judith Clark
Fotografías: Miguel Tovar
Promotores del proyecto: Eva Hughes, Kelly Talamas, Sue Chapman Producción de la exposición: MDM Props Ltd, con agradecimiento especial a María Katehis
Producción de los maniquíes: La Rosa, Milano, con especial agradecimiento a Lella Sciortino
Estilización de tocados y maniquíes: Ángelo Seminara
Asistente de estilización de tocados y maniquíes: Anna Fernández, Akira Yamada
Asistente curatorial: María Elena González, Daniela Monasterios
Asistente de museografía: Lucie Layers
Conservación y restauración de textiles: Renato Camarillo
Manejo de archivos: María Elena González, Alejandra López, Mariana Cantú
Diseño gráfico:Charlie Smith Design
Edición de contenidos: Alessandra Grignaschi, Dave Ellison
Revisión de contenidos: María Luisa Cárdenas
Programa educativo: Luana López, María Luisa Cárdenas
Difusión: Patricia Cordero, Maricarmen Rodríguez
Coordinación de patrocinios:Ximena Gómez
Apoyo en montaje: Karla Niño de Rivera, Lucía Enríquez
Contenidos pedagógicos: Beatriz Ruiz, Bárbara Barragán
Material de apoyo del proyecto educativo:Luisa Fernanda Matute, Karina Bermejo
Administración: Laura Zavala, Gabriela López
Coordinación técnica: Teresa Hernández-Vela
Adaptación de los espacios:Alejandra López, Ximena Gómez, Construcciones Esmeralda
Apoyo de conservación: Esmeralda Corrales, Leticia Cruz, Rosario Hernández, Olivia Medina
Promotores del proyecto:Eva Hughes, Kelly Talamas
Préstamo de obra: Especial agradecimiento a Riccardo Tisci, Laure Aillagon y Elizabeth van Hammee en GIVENCHY; Jean Paul Gaultier y Thoaï Niradeth en Jean Paul Gaultier; Marilyn Porlan en Comme des Garçons; Dai Rees, Cibeles Henestrosa y Muriel Mercier.