Frida Kahlo (July 6, 1907–July 13, 1954) is that woman who used fashion to shield her physical vulnerabilities while boldly projecting her femininity. For many, she is a continuous source of inspiration! I have always admired her strength and constant courage, her artistry, her full brows, red lips and flushed cheeks.
In 2014 I was in Mexico City and I had the opportunity to tour Frida Kahlo’s house, both her birth and death place. Casa Azul looks as if she was still there! This cozy blue house displays Frida’s paintings, her atelier, her wardrobe, accessories and cosmetics.
All Frida’s personal belongings reveal her femininity and her inner beauty: numerous flower crowns, large necklaces, drop earrings (she particularly loved a pair of hand earrings from Picasso), red lipsticks, Guerlain Shalima perfumes, Revlon nail polishes, cat-eye sunglasses, colorful fringed shoes, several embroidered Tehuana style floor-length dresses.
From the medical point of view, Frida suffered a lot during her lifetime: as a child she had Poliomyelitis (muscle weakness resulting in an inability to move); before she turned 18, she suffered a dreadful bus accident that destroyed her spine and pelvis and kept her in bed for 2 years; after the accident, she had relapses of extreme pain for the remainder of her life; eventually, she lost her leg to amputation. All this pain is reflected in her work. Of her paintings, 55 are self-portraits which often incorporate symbolic portrayals of physical and psychological wounds.
“I paint myself because I am often alone and because I am the subject I know best…I think that little by little, I’ll be able to solve my own problems and survive.”
Frida wore the Tehuana dresses as homage to her Mexican heritage but also because they concealed her lower body. By putting colorful flowers in her braids, by wearing those floral drop earrings, over-sized necklaces, and bright red lipstick, Frida knew these will retain the attention of the people she was talking to. The conversational partner had no other option but to look her in the eyes and to be absorbed by her personality. She had no flaws!
I knew some things about Frida and her paintings before going to Mexico but the experience in Casa Azul struck a chord in me. I can only esteem the spirit of this Mexican lady who never gave up! She was a remarkable woman who rose above her pain!
How many of us have used beauty and fashion as a way of coping with disability or the so called “imperfections”?
Frida Khalo, the Mexicana, teaches us still how to embrace our natural features and how to use it in our advantage by adding just a bit of makeup.