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.
Resplandor (Spanish), meaning “The Brilliant, The Glowing”.
Original from Salina de Cruz, Oaxaca, Mexico. Salina de Cruz is of “Zapotec” ethnicity, one of the most important pre-columbian cultures. The dresses that Frida Kahlo used to wear and paint come from this area and ethnical culture.
The Resplandor is a typical headdress of the Tehuana women in the province of Oaxaca, Mexico. The pleated part fits tightly around the face, the Resplandor is hand made in white lace with colored satin ribbons and starched, white pleated ruffles.
Two “Resplandor” are in the Frida Kahlo collection.
“Being able to have and exhibit the two “Resplandor” is of high cultural and artistic value. To our knowledge no museum in Europe has even shown such pieces before”, said Mr. Gehrke, Museum Director of the Kunstmuseum Gehrke-Remund, Germany.
Frida Kahlo painted herself wearing the “Resplandor” in two of her self- portraits.
She started painting the fist one in 1940, the year of her divorce from Diego Rivera: “Self-portrait as a Tehuana or Diego in my thoughts”, eight years later she painted the second one “Self-portrait, 1948”.
Both paintings (hand painted licensed replicas from © Banco de México Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2008) can be seen, next to the “Resplandor”.