FRIDA KAHLO on finding your style
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
“FRIDA’S CLOTHES DISPLAYED HER EXUBERANCE, WIT AND HER UNIQUE CONCEPT OF BEAUTY ”