One of my first stops when I was exploring Mexico City had to be ‘La Casa Azul’, the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo’s home where she was born, grew up and finally passed away. The house is now a museum filled with photographs, memoribilia, personal belongings and now features a special temporary exhibition of her clothing and accessories. The exhibition ‘Appearances can be deceiving’, sponsored by Vogue, just opened and I was so excited to be able to be one of the first to see it – it consists of Frida Kahlo’s clothes, accessories and also some designer dresses inspired by her distinctive style (Jean Paul Gaultier, Givenchy, etc).
Entry to the museum is about 75 pesos plus 45 pesos or so if you want to take photographs (without flash). The house is just stunning, and preserved impeccably. You feel as if it would have looked exactly the same way in the 1950s. There is a courtyard just to your right as you enter the house, with trees, plants and flowers everywhere. You enter to the left and are guided through most of the house including Frida’s kitchen and dining room, Diego’s bedroom (where his hat and workclothes hang) and on to Frida’s studio area, her bedroom and day room, which leads right out to the courtyard and steps down to the wonderful garden. The entire house is really traditionally Mexican in style, lots of bright yellows, reds and greens, wonderful pottery and sculptures, Frida’s pride in her heritage is clear to see throughout her home, as it is in her artwork and dress. To get there, I took the metro to the area of Coyoacán, a very arty neighbourhood with lots of markets and restaurants. I have to say I got a bit lost but found my way eventually! When I finally arrived, the blue painted walls seemed to pop out of the line of houses along the dusty Mexican street.
It was so wonderful to see Frida’s belongings up close; items such as her easel, paints and brushes, collection of books, furniture. In the corner of her bedroom, her ashes are on display in an urn and her funeral mask lies on her bed, a small four poster which has a mirror mounted on the board facing down that she used to paint her many self portraits.
The recently opened ‘Appearances Can be Deceiving’ exhibition is on the opposite side of the museum and currently is showing about ten different outfits of Frida’s (I think there will be a rotation as there are many more). Her clothing is only now going on exhibit, as Diego had demanded that her clothes be kept in storage for a number of years (at least 50, I think) after her death. Frida’s style is always something that has attracted me, the vibrant colours and fabrics, braids, jewellery and of course the unmistakeable brows, have drawn me in ever since I was first introduced to her art.
The exhibition explores the themes of Frida’s ethnicity and disability, and how Frida used fashion as a way to address these issues, such as the ways in which she chose to hide the parts of her body that had been affected by polio (one leg was smaller and shorter than the other, something she made up for my increasing the heel size in one shoe), and the tram accident that left her infertile and with permanent spine damage. She was fiercely proud of her traditional Mexican heritage and so all of her clothing reflects this. The exhibition ends with designs by contemporary designers such as Jean Paul Gaultier and Givenchy, clearly showing the great influence Frida has had and will no doubt continue to have on fashion for many, many years to come.