It was like discovering a hidden pirate’s treasure, for fashion lovers and art lovers alike. After more than half a century, museum curators have unlocked the doors to Frida Kahlo’s closet, at the same time unlocking many secrets of her life.
When Frida died in 1954, her heartbroken husband, famous Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, locked the doors to her closet, capturing inside it hundreds of her personal items just as they were on the day she died. Before he died three years later, the couple’s close friend Dolores Olmedo promised to protect the contents of the closet, keeping it locked her entire life (she died at 93 in 2002).
The day Hilda Trujillo Soto, the director of the Frida Kahlo Museum, finally opened the closet, the scent of Frida’s cigarettes and perfume still clung to her clothes. Can you imagine what that must have felt like? As though Frida’s ghost stood beside her in the room.
In wonder, they slowly explored the items inside: more than 300 items, including love letters, photographs, makeup, jewellery, shoes, and an extraordinary collection of dresses that were well ahead of their time and, according to ABC News, both a political and a cultural statement.
For example her beloved, vibrant ‘Tehuana dresses’ were made by indigenous artisans, and represented Frida’s tribute to the matriarchal Tehuantepec society, whose women were traders and considered equal with men.
If you get the chance to head over to Mexico, take a look at this amazing collection, on display at the Frida Kahlo Museum in a collaborative exhibition between the museum and Vogue Mexico, called Appearances Can Be Decieving: The Dresses of Frida Kahlo. It’s on show until 22 November 2013. I will have to live vicariously through you.
Naomi Bulger (Messages in Bottles)
ps. All images of Frida’s clothes and home from Vogue Mexico