Frida Kahlo's Fashion including Clothing and Jewellery
Frida Kahlo was a unique character with a great eye for design. Her choices of clothing, jewellery and style, more generally, were just as diverse as her own background.
She saw any trip as an opportunity to drive like a tornado through the local stores in an effort to spot something truly original. They would often be items to accessorise some of her existing clothing, and few would have the vision to see what could be made of them. She simply oozed style and taste, managing to make some bizarre choices suddenly work, in ways we mere mortals could simply not understand. Within her own painting career, one obvious example would be The Frame, where a locally made frame was repurposed into a completed artwork, with her own self portrait placed into the back.
Whilst finding this item in a market, its style works perfectly with her own Mexican surrealist approach, with bright colours and simple, abstract forms. Amongst it all, jewellery was Kahlo's biggest design passion and something that provided her with untold joy throughout her life. It was the traditional styles from her Mexican heritage that most interested her, and this culture itself features a great variety of different influences within its different historical periods and peoples.
Frida Kahlo's Jewellery Collection including Chains, Rings, Pendants and Necklaces
These Mexican influences ranged in period, from traditional stone beads from many centuries ago all the way up to fairly contemporary uses of silver. Kahlo loved to accessorise and so would constantly come with different arrangements of clothing, jewellery and makeup. It was an expression of her creativity and something she truly loved. She famously sported some traditional beads on occasion and it is possible that these actually came from the Maya period, and perhaps were discovered locally during one of the many excavations. She also purchased other historical items such as some re-engineered bangles from original shells. Both Frida and her husband were both proud of their cultural roots but also felt driven to collect as much of his as they could. Diego Rivera, himself, was more interested in Pre-Columbian art.
Additionally, she owned a number of gold necklaces from a variety of periods and styles. Some were indian, others from all manner of locations, and she would often wear several of them together. Some of the photograph portraits that we have from her life will allow you to spot some of these different combinations. We should not forget that she had several gold teeth herself, and so it made sense to match up this material within her choices of jewellery. Many are unaware of these golden teeth because Frida preferred to keep a fairly straight face during most of her self portraits and also in the photographs that were taken professionally of her, as her reputation was building and spreading into the western world.
One of the most obvious ways in which she celebrated traditional Mexican culture would be through the large number of Tehuana dresses that she wore throughout her life. Frida would then add to these beautifully embroidered items with additional accessories and tended to prefer to wear long chains that would hang down to her waist, as well as torzales which are a similar style of jewellery and more specific to that region of the world. During Kahlo's lifetime there was a Mexican contemporary movement towards silver, when gold was previously the historical preference. She would keep an interest in some of these notable designers, including Antonio Pineda and Matilde Poulat, both of whom are still highly regarded today.
Another type of adornment that can be rotated and re-arranged in seemingly countless ways are rings and Kahlo held an extensive collection of locally-sourced, handmade ones that came in all manner of shapes and sizes. There are some photographs of her life which reveal the way in which she would decorate her hands with an almost randomness of colour and energy that perfectly captured her own vibrant personality. The overall jewellery collection of Kahlo was forever changing and developing, as if having its own life. She also constantly exchanged gifts with other artists and would pass on some of her re-engineered items into their own collections.
Sadly, shortly after her passing, many of Frida Kahlo's personal items were stolen in a robbery of which little detail remains. Even as they were preparing her funeral, Diego Rivera had planned to have as many of her favourite items of jewellery on her, but many were nowhere to be seen. Ruth, her daughter, had made the unfortunate discovery and this incident created yet another painful impact during what was already a horrendous time. Thankfully, enough was made of Frida's love for fashion and clothing during her own lifetime that photographs and documentation were made for us to continue to learn about it all today.
Frida's use of Fashion to Disguise her Physical Ailments
An artist who produces so many self portraits will clearly have an inner-focus that inspires their work. Frida Kahlo was aware of her problems but did not want the world to see her internal torment. She was a bubbly character and used fashion to continue this image. It is not that this was not her, it was, but it was only a part of her personality. Makeup, clothing and jewellery would help her to cover the emotional wounds of her earlier life, whilst also helping her to express her own creativity and flair. It is sad to see this bright light constantly struggling with her own hurt, but it was partly this that made her who she was to become.