What Would Frida Wear?

Interactive Online Exhibit

Introduction and Brief Biography

What Would Frida Wear?

Iconic Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (1907-54) was well known for her tendencies to wear native Mexican clothing as an expression of her personal politics. As an ardent nationalist, Frida wore the traditional dress of many regions in Mexico. This online exhibit answers the question, What would Frida wear?, by offering examples of traditional Mexican dress from Arizona State Museum's Cordry Collection.

A Brief Biography of Frida Kahlo

Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón was born in Coyoacan, Mexico City, Mexico, on July 6, 1907 to a German father and mestiza mother. In 1925 she was involved in a trolley accident which left her with permanent injuries. Among these were vertebrae fractures, pelvis fractures, fractures in her right foot and a serious abdominal wound caused by a handrail. She was expected never to recover enough to walk again, although she eventually did. The rest of her life was punctuated with treatments and surgeries, including the amputation of her right leg, in order to mitigate the effects of her injuries.

In 1929, she married Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. The two were divorced in 1939 and remarried in 1940. Much has been written about their stormy relationship. It is enough to say here that Rivera was clearly a pivotal force in Frida's life and she in his.

Thoughout her life Frida was a fierce nationalist and a vocal socialist. As a reflection of her beliefs, Frida often wore the indigenous clothing of Mexico. This can be seen both in photographs of her and in her paintings. Frida completed 143 paintings during her lifetime, 55 of which are self-portraits. Many of these self-portraits are among her most famous works. Her works were often classified as surrealist, although she did not like this label. The colors and many of the symbols used in her work are clearly influenced by Mexican tradition.

She died in 1954 at the age of 47.

About the Cordry Collection

The Donald and Dorothy Cordry Collection at ASM is one portion of a larger collection of Mexican masks, costumes, jewelry and other items, that represents the passion of an American couple who lived for many years in Cuernavaca, Morelos. The couple had always hoped their collection would be used as a teaching collection, and upon Donald's death in 1980, Mrs. Cordry sold as well as donated portions to museums throughout the country.

The Cordry Collection at ASM consists of over 1,300 items, not including numerous photographs and slides. In addition to the Mexican items, there are almost 350 molas and other ethnographic items from the Cuna people in Panama. Almost a quarter of the collection, 322 items, makes up the Mexican Indian costume collection. These items consist of bags, belts, cloths, headcloths, tortilla cloths, huipiles, and quechquemitls. Most of the costume items are women's, but some children's and men's clothing is represented as well.

ASM holds Mexican costumes from other donors as well, some of which Frida would no doubt have wanted to wear, so we have given her the opportunity to do so.

Click here to see more examples of Mexican Indian costumes from the Cordry Collection.
Click here to peruse photographs from the Cordry Collection.