Sunday, December 9, 2012

Rediscovering Frida Kahlo’s Wardrobe: Feminist Fashion Icon or Cripple Chic?

Since the publication in 1983 of Hayden Herrera’s groundbreaking biography of Frida Kahlo, “Fridamania” in all its forms has flowered around the world. Her art and her appearance have become so intertwined thanks to her powerfully evocative self-portraiture that separating the two seems impossible. And, yet, Kahlo’s signature wardrobe itself eluded scholars for years, thanks to husband and fellow artist Diego Rivera’s request that Frida’s clothing and personal effects be sealed away for 50 years after her death in 1954. Since 2004, curators at The Frida Kahlo Museum, which stands at the site of the famous “Blue House” Kahlo and Rivera shared during their tempestuous marriage, have worked to conserve Kahlo’s clothing. Smoke and Mirrors: Frida Kahlo’s Dresses (a rough translation of the original Spanish title) allows the public not only to see her iconic tehuana dresses again, but also to see the prosthetics and supports Kahlo wore under those dresses to help her cope with her various physical disabilities. As amazing as it is to see Kahlo’s clothing resurface in all its color, I find it slightly disturbing to also see the braces and other devices she never wanted us to see. Smoke and Mirrors possesses a disturbing duality along the lines of Kahlo’s own painting The Two Fridas (shown above). Is opening Frida Kahlo’s wardrobe a triumph of feminist fashion iconography or crass “cripple chic”? Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of :"Rediscovering Frida Kahlo’s Wardrobe: FeministFashion Icon or Cripple Chic?"

[Image: Frida Kahlo. The Two Fridas, 1939 (detail). Image source.]

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