Susana Martínez Vidal, author of Frida Kahlo: Fashion as the Art of Being, and Circe Henestrosa, curator of the exhibition Appearances Can Be Deceiving: The Dresses of Frida Kahlo at Mexico City’s Frida Kahlo Museum, discussed the enduring fashion legacy of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo at last week’s sold-out Fashion Culture event held by The Museum at FIT in the Katie Murphy Amphitheatre. During her life, Kahlo used personal style and dress as an extension of her artwork and in turn became an enduring influence and icon in fashion, influencing designers and editors now more than ever.
Henestrosa reflected on her experience examining Kahlo’s never-before-seen wardrobe for the November 2012 exhibition. Vidal elaborated on how, inspired by this showcase, she looked at Kahlo’s significance to contemporary designers and prediction of many personal style trends of today.
Despite socializing in some of the most stylish circles of the art world, Kahlo did not dress in contemporary fashions. Instead, she celebrated her identity as mestizaje (mixed European and Amerindian) by often wearing traditional Tehuana garments.
Long before Kim Kardashian, Vidal asserts that Kahlo was the “Queen of the Selfie.” Kahlo stated “I am my own muse, I am the subject I know best.” Her examination of herself was not only in her self-portraiture but also in her self adornment. “We found and incredibly feminine woman who loved perfume and makeup and dressing up” states Henestrosa, “it was something you could only perceive by going through her belongings.”
Kahlo not only embraced her natural looks but enhanced them, creating a personal brand that is recognized and referenced in fashion editorial today. Believing in the idea of jolie laide—beautiful ugly—she drew attention to her unibrow by penciling it darker, and heavily decorated the casts and prostheses she wore instead of trying to conceal disabilities.