Frida Kahlo’s Colorful Wardrobe Finally Revealed After Being Hidden for 50 Years

frida kahlo

Photo credit: Nickolas Muray

Long after her death in 1954, artist Frida Kahlo continues to be a household name. Her intriguing—and now iconic—paintings and personal style have endured through the years and still inspire people today. Like her art, her clothing was full of color and had a visual richness that remains perpetually en vogue. But perhaps best of all, the objects she owned provide us insight to her life behind closed doors.

Kahlo used fashion to give her emotional strength to overcome her physical challenges. When she was only 18, she was in a near-fatal bus accident that took two years of recovery and would cause her pain for the rest of her life. Despite this difficulty, she transformed medical-related objects into wearable works of art. One was a full body cast that she wore after the accident, which she painted and transformed into a movable sculpture. Another was a prosthetic limb. After her leg was amputated in 1953, she turned the artificial limb into a spectacular object that was complete with a red lace-up boot and bell attached.

After Kahlo’s passing, her husband Diego Rivera sealed her belongings in the bathroom of their Mexico City home. Grief-stricken, he said to keep them hidden until 15 years after his death. He died in 1957, but the items remained stowed away for 50 years. It wasn't until 2004 that the Frida Kahlo Museum decided to catalog them.

Japanese photographer Ishiuchi Miyako had the honor of documenting the makeshift Frida Kahlo closet. Using a 35mm camera and natural light, she photographed more than 300 previously-unseen items. This culminated into a book called Frida by Ishiuchi that’s now available through Amazon.

Artist Frida Kahlo's paintings and personal style remain an inspiration today.

frida kahlo closet

Kahlo had polio as a child with made her right leg thinner than her left. Additionally, she fractured it in 11 places after her bus accident. Long dresses like this helped conceal her legs.

frida kahlo closet

Kahlo's prosthetic limb with embroidered lace-up boots.

frida kahlo closet

Kahlo's full body cast that she wore for three months after her bus accident.

frida kahlo wardrobe

Kahlo's full body cast (detail).

She used combined fashion and art as a way to cope with physical challenges that affected her over the course of her life.

frida kahlo closet

A green silk skirt attached to a corset.

frida kahlo wardrobe

One of Kahlo's corsets.

frida kahlo wardrobe
frida kahlo wardrobe

Lacy headdress.

After Kahlo's death in 1954, her husband Diego Rivera ordered her belongings to be locked in a bathroom until 15 years after his death.

frida kahlo closet frida kahlo closet frida kahlo closet frida kahlo closet

The makeshift Frida Kahlo closet remained sealed for 50 years, when the were finally revealed in 2004.

frida kahlo clothing

Fringe boots with a stacked righ heel.

frida kahlo clothing frida kahlo clothing frida kahlo clothing
frida kahlo clothing

Kahlo's swimsuit.

h/t: [Bored Panda, Everyday Vintage]

All images via Ishiuchi Miyako and courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery, unless otherwise stated.

Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met, Manager of My Modern Met Store, and co-host of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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