Friday, 7 May 2010

Frida Kahlo

I finally got my superbly belated Christmas present from the Wolf (don't ask!), which was a copy of Self Portrait in a Velvet Dress: Frida's Wardrobe by Carlos Philip Olmedo et al. It is a lavishly illustrated book about the wardrobe of Frida Kahlo, the famous Mexican painter.

When Frida died in 1954, her husband Diego Rivera stipulated that her bathroom and dressing room be closed off for 50 years. When these rooms were opened up, a whole wardrobe of Frida's clothing was found, including many of the outfits she wore in her self-portraits.

It is amazing to see these items of clothing, so familiar from paintings, in 'real-life'. Not only are there a large collection of skirts and huipils (blouses made from an uncut piece of fabric, sewn together at the sides), but there are also detailed photos of her embroidered Chinese boots, ribbons for her hair, and the plaster corsets and prosthetic leg her illness forced her to wear.

I must confess that Frida Kahlo is probably my greatest fashion icon. She was only 5' 3", fine-boned, and half crippled by a terrible accident she suffered as a teenager, causing her to suffer a life-time of painful operations on her spine and right leg. Yet resplendent in her flamboyant Mexican costumes she appears both graceful and imposing.

The Compass Rose has a nice review of Self Portrait with a Velvet Dress, with quite a few photographs of the inside pages, which will whet your appetite. My favourite paper doll creator, Donald Hendricks, has also made this beautiful Frida doll. See here for the rest of her clothes, and check out the other wonderful dolls on the Legacy Designs website, including a second Frida Kahlo doll.

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