This year marks the 90th anniversary of the traumatic trolley accident that hospitalized artist Frida Kahlo and inspired, perhaps cruelly, her artistic path. Despite her global popularity, there’s still more to learn about this extraordinary artist. For five journalists, exploring the textiles of Frida Kahlo’s homeland gives her rich legacy a new texture. Julie Schwietert Collazo reports at Contributoria:
[Frida Kahlo’s] persona was created, in large part, through the clothes and accessories in which Kahlo chose to outfit herself. Kahlo was never one to blend into the scenery. “Everything about her, from her hairstyle to the hem of her dress, breathed a kind of roguish glee…” wrote her stepdaughter, Guadalupe Rivera, in the book Frida’s Fiestas. “Roguish” and “gleeful” might not be the first adjectives that come to mind as a viewer looks at one of Frida’s self-portraits; though there are photographs and videos of Kahlo smiling and laughing, in nearly all of her paintings she depicts herself soberly, with a steady, often hard gaze and a serious expression.
But her clothing and accessories – rich, textured velvets and silks; bold, hand-coloured and embroidered threads; and statement pieces of jewellery made of local materials such as coral, jade, and volcanic stone – they all did seem alive. From the day of her wedding to Diego Rivera, wrote Guadalupe Rivera, Kahlo decided to dress herself “in the Oaxaca style… heavy with embroidery, ribbons and floral motifs….” The clothing, most of it handmade by indigenous communities from the isthmus of Tehuantepec in the state of Oaxaca, set Kahlo apart from her contemporaries, who were increasingly moving away from traditional Mexican dress and were instead embracing “modern” European designs (think, for example, of a Chanel suit).