When Frida Kahlo died in 1954, Diego Rivera (her husband) established that the room with her wardrobe should remain locked for 50 years.
In April 2004 this room was opened and many pieces of her wardrobe were found, this allowed the Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico to recreate and partly to repair Frida Kahlo dresses and underwear.
The opening of the room and the process of identifying her clothes was described in a book: “Self Portrait in a Velvet Dress. The Fashion of Frida Kahlo”. 2008.
The famous blouses of Frida are called “Huipile” (= blouse). The Huipile is a garment worn by the Maya women in southern Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Western Honduras. Today it is still worn in the area of the isthmus of Tehuantapec, Southern Mexico
The Isthmus of Tehuantepec provides the shortest route over land between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean.
Before the construction of the Panama Canal this was the main traffic artery, and it was known as the Tehuantepec route. Geographically, the isthmus separates North - from Central America.
The Huipile is a garment with great personal and communication power. The pattern of the Huipile reveals the location, the social and family status, the religious background of the woman who wears it. It also makes statements about faith and prosperity. The Huipile is a testimony of the highest Mayan weaving art.
Huipiles are usually made of two or three layers of fabric connected with decorative embroidery. They are then folded and sewn together, with an opening left in the middle for the head. Each Huipile (blouse) and Falta (skirt) is unique. Flower motifs are embroidered by hand. The geometric patterns are hand-woven.
If a woman is lucky, she owns one or two Huipiles to wear daily. Often she owns another Huipile for special occasions such as weddings, festivals and religious ceremonies.
A woman has only a very limited number of Huipiles throughout her life. A well woven Huipile can be worn for 20 to 30 years. Then, when the Huipile can no longer be worn, it is divided into small pieces of cloth and used as a carpet or sown into a quilt.
The Maya art of weaving went almost lost in recent years. Today, however, weaving cooperatives have been founded to revive the Mayan art again. Moreover studies are conducted to preserve the knowledge of the old methods of weaving and colouring the textiles. The use of specific patterns is sacred, as they are related to the "holy dreams of the girls”. For the Mayas, dreams were of great importance, they believed that dreams conveyed messages from the spiritual world.
The Huipiles (blouses) in the exhibition of the Kunstmuseum Gehrke-Remund are original from Mexico. They are exactly in the style as Frida Kahlo used to wear and to paint.
The black and gold Huipile in the exhibition is original from Oaxaca, a rare piece from the period 1920-1930.
Source: from the lecture: "The Dresses of Frida: Meaning, History and Secrets."
Dr. M.C. Remund, Kunstmuseum Gehrke-Remund, Baden-Baden, 2009.
The evolution of Frida Kahlo, from girl of good family to young spouse of Diego Rivera to becoming the most famous female artist of all times, can be followed in her art and her fashion.
The Frida Kahlo collection shows, through vintage photographs, the evolution of Frida’s style, and over 30 dresses as Frida used to wear and paint starting in 1940 when she was 33 years old.
Photos of Frida Kahlo and her family, taken by her father Wilhelm Kahlo, show that Frida came from a conservative family where the girls wore dresses in sailor style, ribbons in the hair and patent leather shoes.
As a young 18 year old woman, she dresses in a conservative fashion with a silk garment and white socks.
Meeting Diego Rivera brought a change in her style, and Frida Kahlo started to wear simple traditional Mexican dresses combined with extraordinary Maya necklaces and elaborated earrings, which Diego gave her as a present.
Over the years, Frida selected the Tehuana blouses (huipils) and dresses of the strong women of the Tehuantepec region as her favourite attire.
Photographic documentation illustrates that, starting in 1940 with the second marriage to Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo wears more exclusive, elaborate Huipils originated in small villages in the regions around Oaxaca, Guerrero and Puebla.
These dresses are a testimony of how Frida style became richer, more colourful and decorated, as with these highly embroderied dresses she wanted to hide the increasing disintegration of her body.
The dresses in the Kunstmuseum Gehrke-Remund collection already a rarity in the 1940’s, are the result of months long research from the Museum-Curators. Each piece is an original made in the villages in South Mexico where they were hand-vowen, hand embroidered by the ethnic women who still live in these villages.
Each piece in the collection has a unique story, here below are some of my favourite, not only because of the story connected to Frida wearing the identical dress, but also because of the story of finding them and showing them for the first time in the Museum in Baden-Baden, Germany.
Huipil from Huautla de Jiménez with black skirt as Frida Kahlo wore for her second wedding in San Francisco, 1940. This is an extremely rare cotton Huipil, hand embroidered with wool, decorated with lace, coloured satin ribbons, usually pink and blue.
The garment is divided into three squares at the top and three at the bottom. On the chest and on the back flowers and real size birds are embroidered. The neckline is adorned with a large collar of tulle and satin ribbons alternating blue and pink. Ribbons and lace decorate the sleeves.
The original Huipil is worn with a white cotton skirt with embroidered birds at the end of the skirt hold tightly at the waist with a large red cotton belt. Frida Kahlo used to wear it with a long black skirt.
Huautla de Jiménez (the name means “eagle nest”) is a village at 1700 mt with 30’000 inhabitants in the Mazatec region. It is seven hours journey by bus from Oaxaca on winding mountain roads.
# 72: Frida Kahlo, Self Portrait with Cropped Hair, 1940, # 82: Frida Kahlo, Self Portrait with Braid, 1941; Licensed replica: ©Banco de Mexico Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2008
Huipil from Jalapa de Diaz with red-ruby skirt as Frida wore in a photo session with Leo Matiz, famous VIP photographer, 1940.
This is a very sophisticated and richly decorated Huipil made of green silk material embroidered with flowers in red.
The embroideries not always represent stylized plants or birds, the style varies from family to family. A large white lace collar cut in a round shape adorns the neck.
The Huipil is made of three sections, each section always ends with a white lace, the sleeves are made of the same lace material.
Jalapa de Diaz (the name means “in the sand”) is a village with 26000 inhabitants in the Mazatec region. It is five hours drive from Oaxaca.
Antique Rebozo made in Tenancingo, provenience: Mexico City, 1827.
This is a rebozo as Frida Kahlo used to wear and paint.
It is a loom woven scarf in deep blue (indigo), white wool and cotton with a very long elaborate knotted fringe.
Tenancingo, South West of Mexico City, is best noted for the production of robozos, being documented as early as 1790.
Photo: # 83: Frida Kahlo, Portrait of Lucha Maria, A Girl from Tehuacan, 1942; Licensed replica © Banco de México Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2008
“Self Portrait in a Velvet Dress: The Fashion of Frida Kahlo” by Carlos Phillips Olmedo, Denise Rosenzweig, Magdalena Rosenzweig and Teresa del Conde (2008).
Author: Dr. Mariella Remund
Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera
25 years of passion of two artists larger than life Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera were married from 1929 to 1939 for the first time, and a second time from 1940 till Frida Kahlo’s death in 1954.
The years together were marked by passion and pain that these two great artists felt for each other. The influence of Diego on Frida’s life is indisputable:
He influenced her paintings, her way of dressing and presenting herself as an Aztec Queen.
Frida was eventually Diego’s soul mate, but he realized it only after her death.
Frida wrote in her diary:
“Diego is the name of Love”.
Diego wrote in his autobiography:
“July 13th 1954 was the saddest day of my life. I lost forever my beloved Frida… too late I realized that my love for her was the most wonderful part of my life”.
Painting: # 27: Frieda and Diego Rivera, 1931; licensed replica: ©Banco de Mexico Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2008
Frida Kahlo painted " A few small Nips" in 1935 to illustrate her feelings towards her husband affair with her sister Cristina.
The painting in essence illustrates how easily and lightly Diego mortally hurt her. In the painting the injuries are physically deadly, in Frida's case the mortal pain is emotional (“I have been murdered by life” wrote Frida in one of her letters.)
The painting also shows how this deadly pain inflicted is considered, by the perpetrator (i.e. Diego) irrelevant, not important, just “a few small nips”.
We know that Frida Kahlo often worked on her paintings over the years, adding items and always strengthening her statement. “A Few Small Nips” is an example of this development which we can follow from the photos taken between 1935 and 1948 since she kept this painting in her Blue House.
Painting: Frida Kahlo, A few small Nips, 1935; Licensed replica: ©Banco de Mexico Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2008.
Originally the painting had a normal wooden frame in brown colour and few blood spots; over time she added a small bamboo bird cage on the top left, to match exactly the white dove, which now is inside the cage. As we see from the photo and the reconstruction we made of the cage in the painting, the door of the cage is slightly open but not enough to allow the dove to fly away and be free.
This imagery of being prisoner of her love for Diego can be also found in the Painting Nr. 87: “Diego in my thoughts”.
She also planted a knife on the frame of the painting, a reminder of how much Diego hurt her.
Over the years she kept adding blood on the painting, she painted the frame in red-blood, and added blood-coloured spots on the frame as well.
She also stabbed and damaged the frame with the knife; every knife mark was a reminder of the pain Diego inflicted her with his “irrelevant” affairs.
The painting “A few small Nips” must be shown in its completeness, as Frida had it in display in her studio: with the cage and the knife, to be able to understand the full meaning Frida gave this painting.
On October 13 1925 (4 weeks after Frida's accident), she wrote a letter to Alejandro Gomez Arias:"... When you come, please bring some chocolate and a Balero, the same we had on the day (of the accident) which I lost on the bus .Your friend, who is looking like a line on the landscape. Friducha
"Because of the tiny little umbrella I was very sad. Life begins tomorrow... "
Many years later, Frida talked about her accident:
"I remember it was the 17th September 1925 ... Shortly after we (Frida and Alejandro) had entered the bus, the collision happened.
First we were in another bus, but I had lost a little umbrella, and we got out to look for it, that´s why we got on that bus, which mutilated me.
The accident happened ... My first thought was for a pretty colorful Balero, which I had bought that day. I wanted to look for it in the belief that all of this would not have any consequences. "
Source: Frida Kahlo, "Now that you're leaving me, I love you more than ever,"
2007 SchirmerGraf, Munich.
For further infos about the Balero game: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cup-and-ball
#70: Frida Kahlo, Votive painting, after 1926; Licensed replica © Banco de México Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2008.
Die Farben der Frida Kahlo
Grün, Weiß, Rot sind die Farben der mexikanischen Fahne. Aber Mexiko ist mehr.
Die Farben Mexikos sind voller Kraft, bunt und positiv.
So wie auch Frida Kahlo ihr Leben trotz ihrer gesundheitlichen Probleme lebte und liebte.
Kräftiges Blau, Rot, Grün und vor allem Gelb. Farben, die eine besondere Ausstrahlung haben, kontrastreich und voller Lebensfreude.
Leuchtendes Gelb und warmes Orange spiegeln die Sonne und Wärme Mexikos wieder.
Zu den Farben schrieb Frida Kahlo in ihr Tagebuch:
Grün: warmes und gutes Licht.
Rötlich Violett: aztekisch. Die lebendigste und älteste Farbe.
Braun: Farbe von „Mole“, des vergehenden Blattes. Erde.
Gelb: Wahnsinn, Krankheit, Angst. Teil der Sonne und der Freude.
Kobaltblau: Elektrizität und Reinheit, Farbe der Liebe.
Schwarz: nichts ist schwarz, wirklich nichts.
Blattgrün: Blätter, Traurigkeit, Wissenschaft. Ganz Deutschland hat diese Farbe
Grüngelb: noch größerer Wahnsinn und Geheimnis Alle Phantome tragen Anzüge dieser Farbe (..) oder zumindest Unterwäsche.
Dunkelgrün: die Farbe schlechter Nachrichten und guter Geschäfte.
Marineblau: Ferne. Auch Zärtlichkeit kann dieses Blau haben.
Magenta: Blut? Nun ja, wer weiß