The Genteel
February 25, 2021


Frida Kahlo Fashion The Genteel
Jean Paul Gaultier's S/S 1998 ad campaign.

There are many reasons to celebrate German-Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo. Her heart-wrenching, emotionally honest and enigmatic oeuvre has earned her an enduring legacy. But her creative brilliance didn't stop at the canvas - rather, it transcended into her style.

Her rebellious and eccentric tastes revealed themselves in both her art and her wardrobe; there wasn't a ring or necklace too bold, a maxi skirt too vibrant, or a top too patterned. Her middle-parted, braided hair often featured bright ribbons or bloomed flowers. Art Gallery of Ontario Interpretive Planner, David Wistow, tells The Genteel, "[Kahlo] was very chic…She took great care with her make-up and hair…She sometimes wore men's clothes."

Akin to her art, Kahlo's culturally infused style always made a statement, turned heads and pushed societal boundaries. Since Kahlo's death, fashion designers have regularly resurrected her style in their collections. Jean Paul Gaultier's S/S 1998 collection featured a constructive bodice similar to the one in Kahlo's painting, The Broken Column (1934), along with decorative head pieces, full skirts, wide-leg trousers and a lot of attitude. A Gaultier advertisement that season featured an illustrated Frida look-a-like amidst lush vegetation and flowers, stormy weather, a ripped-out heart and large thorns.

Of all the looks, it would be safe to bet that Kahlo would have favoured [Misha] Nonoo's pink flamingo patterned dress, with matching belt.

More recently, Moschino's S/S 2012 collection drew inspiration from Kahlo, with peasant blouses, middle-parted hair and statement headpieces flooding the runway. British designer Misha Nonoo's S/S 2013 RTW collection pondered how a trip to Cuba would influence Kahlo's style. Her answer revealed boldly patterned blouses, white lace, colour blocking (white, bold red, vibrant blue and unexpected teal), high-waist seams, floor length skirts, wide-leg pants, and even crop-tops. Of all the looks, it would be safe to bet that Kahlo would have favoured Nonoo's pink flamingo patterned dress, with matching belt.

In her S/S 2013 collection, Spanish designer Maya Hansen channelled Kahlo through funky prints featuring skulls, red flowers, lizards and praying Virgins. Bright colours, ruffled sleeves, Frida Kahlo head pendants and arrangements that emphasised the spine and reproductive organs, pushed Hansen's collection into the avant garde. Her collection thrived off of Kahlo's eclectic taste and sexual confidence.

What all of these collections have in common is their dark, masculine energy, created through images reminiscent of those found in Kahlo's artwork. From Gaultier to Hansen, designers are lusting for Kahlo's vibrancy, bold attitude and dark undertones. As someone who, "…was especially interested in fashion," according to Wistow, Kahlo would have been humbly proud of her contemporary influence.

Frida Kahlo Fashion The Genteel
Pink flamingo-patterned dress from Misha
Nonoo's Frida-inspired S/S 2013 collection.
Source: shoppers also want a piece of Kahlo: you can find statement t-shirts with Kahlo's expressive glance, bold Kahlo-esque jewellery and custom made Kahlo-inspired kaftans and dresses. even outlines "How-To dress" like the icon, suggesting lariat necklaces and mismatched earrings to get the look.

Kahlo's wardrobe was hidden to the general public until recently; according to, her husband, Diego Rivera, requested that her clothing and possessions be locked away for 50 years after her death. On November 22, the Frida Kahlo Museum, in Mexico City, will reveal the private closet of the artist, turning over 11 outfits every three months. Ximena Gomez, curator at the museum believes that her art and fashion "worked hand-in-hand." He added, "…It was like a construction of her complete image...The same color [sic] palette that she used in her paintings, she used in her dressing." 

Kahlo's exuberant colour palette and her strong and sensual enigma create a moving juxtaposition, making it hard to look away. Her talent surpasses painting; her genius ought to also be credited to her style: for creating a life-long mood board of colours and imagery, that are forever tied to her name. 

Read more about Alina Kulesh's visit to the Art Gallery of Ontario's exhibit, "Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting."



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