When the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo died in 1954, her husband muralist Diego Rivera locked her clothes and jewelry- all personal possessions- into a bathroom. Diego instructed that the room to be unlocked fifteen years after his own death. Forgotten, they stayed there for fifty years.
No one knew what was behind that locked door. Staring back from a life more notorious than most, were 300 items of Frida’s. Her jewelry, clothing, hair accessories, a prosthetic leg, leather corsets, painted plaster casts and body molds.
All the physical and emotional pain, joy and vitality is told through stories carried in Frida’s clothing and accessories. This treasure trove is organized into an exhibition titled Appearances Can Be Deceiving: The Dresses of Frida Kahlo,featuring eleven of Kahlo’s ensembles rotating every three months, showing forty outfits over the course of a year.
Conservators and curators said while excavating the hidden room, it was as if Frida was alongside them in the room. Her colorful clothing emitted a sense of happiness, while her hospital items, the casts and even medicine, were powerful to witness and held onto her sadness.
Vogue Mexico is producing a room for the exhibition that will feature commissioned work from contemporary designers who have been influenced by Kahlo. A rep for the magazine declined to reveal the specific designers working on the project, but said that “they are international designers and one Mexican designer — all of them are very recognized in the fashion industry.”
The fashion curator Circe Henestrosa dug through the time capsule and organized the exhibition. Henestrosa says,“Garments are very powerful tools for social and cultural interpretation. These objects and garments tell you so much about the wearer and yes, the items do have a smell….how to describe the smell….it’s her. It’s a unique, beautiful smell, of her skin.”
Focusing on the issues of “disability” and “ethnicity,” the exhibition will be displayed in Frida Kahlo’s former home in Coyoacan, a suburb of Mexico City, the Frida Kahlo Museum (Casa Azul) through November 2013.