FRIDA KAHLO on find­ing your style

Irish Daily Mail - YOU - - YOU ICONS -

Born near Mex­ico City in 1907, Frida Kahlo caught po­lio aged six, which left her with a limp, then as a stu­dent she broke her pelvis and spine in a hor­rific tram crash. She faced re­peated gru­elling op­er­a­tions for the re­main­der of her life. How­ever, she trans­muted her mis­for­tune into fierce, pow­er­ful art that still moves us to­day.

Frida’s self-por­traits ex­hibit her stun­ning wardrobe and her fa­mous fa­cial hair: she was said by some to pur­posely darken her mono­brow and ’tache, which she cel­e­brated in op­po­si­tion to the ideals of hair­less fem­i­nine beauty. Fash­ion may seem like the least pro­found el­e­ment in her ca­reer, but it is deeply en­twined with her other con­cerns – her sym­pa­thy with the op­pressed and her ef­forts to cel­e­brate the fe­male ex­pe­ri­ence in all its vis­ceral glory. She was her art. She used her twist on tra­di­tional Mex­i­can clothes to make her­self feel stronger on days when she was in pain and to as­sert her iden­tity as part of the top celebrity art cou­ple of the time. On her death, her hus­band and fel­low artist Diego Rivera locked her wardrobe and asked for its con­tents to re­main hid­den for 50 years. They were fi­nally re­vealed in 2004, show­ing how sig­nif­i­cant her clothes were to her life, and are cur­rently on show in the V&A mu­seum in Lon­don.

Frida’s clothes dis­played her ex­u­ber­ance and wit, her iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with the work­ing class of her coun­try and its tra­di­tions, and ex­pressed her unique con­cept of beauty. Like her, you don’t need to be de­fined by the hy­per-sex­u­alised celebrity stan­dards of at­trac­tive­ness that bom­bard us re­lent­lessly. You have the means to choose how and why you dec­o­rate your­self: to cre­ate your own style, to re­flect your unique per­son­al­ity, to act as both ar­mour and ad­vert for your­self, and just for the sheer joy of dress­ing up. ■ This is an edited ex­tract from What Would Boudicca Do? Ev­ery­day Prob­lems Solved by His­tory’s Most Re­mark­able Women by El­iz­a­beth Fo­ley and Beth Coates, which will be pub­lished by Faber & Faber on 6 Septem­ber, price €12.99


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