Uninhabited Dresses: Frida Kahlo, from Icon of Mexico to Fashion Muse

by Alba F. Aragón


This article examines the shifting meanings of Frida Kahlo’s figure and the Tehuana ethnic dress known as her trademark look. It analyzes Appearances Can Be Deceiving: The Dresses of Frida Kahlo, the first exhibit of the artist’s recently recovered wardrobe on view at the Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico City from 2012–14. Engaging the exhibit’s suggestion that the artist casts a “spectral” image over contemporary fashion, this article inquires about the ways history inscribes itself on fashion despite its pretensions of constant innovation. The exhibit is examined in dialogue with Frida Kahlo’s My Dress Hangs There (1933), an image that reflects on modernity and national identity through the tension between competing visions of femininity and fashion represented by Mae West and a disembodied Tehuana dress.

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