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Tracing Frida Kahlo’s Influence on the Fashion World

<em>Frida Kahlo with Flowers in Her Hair</em>, portrait by Bernard Silberstein, c. 1940.
Frida Kahlo with Flowers in Her Hair, portrait by Bernard Silberstein, c. 1940.

Fifty years after Frida Kahlo died in her home in Mexico City, her most private rooms were finally opened to the public, revealing a trove of diaries, letters, and hundreds of clothes still perfumed by paint and cigarettes. When the items became available to the Frida Kahlo Museum in 2004, the brocade corsets and hand-embroidered silk skirts were rumored to grow heavy at night, as if her spirit had returned to wear them.

Fashion was as much a part of Kahlo’s paintings as her daily life: She spent hours in front of the mirror getting dressed and loved shopping at department stores as much as the shops in San Francisco’s Chinatown. The book Frida Kahlo: Fashion As the Art of Being, out March 22 from Assouline, juxtaposes Kahlo’s clothing with the fashion and designers she has continued to influence for decades.

While artists and magazine editors have reproduced her bold style countless times (some featuring linen skirts, thick eyebrows, and hair adorned in flowers), she has more recently influenced designers like Riccardo Tisci for Givenchy, Dolce & Gabbana, and Carolina Herrera. Her corsets inspired Madonna’s famed “cone” bustier, designed by Jean Paul Gaultier for her 1990 Blond Ambition tour. Click ahead for a glimpse at her influence over the years.

Photo: Bernard Silberstein/Courtesy of Throckmorton Fine Art; New York

Wearing a full Tehuana dress, including the face‑huipil, c. 1940. This look inspired Raffaella Curiel’s spring 2008 couture collection.

Photo: Florence Arquin

Wearing one of her plaster corsets, which she decorated with the Communist hammer and sickle, c. 1951–52.

Photo: Bernard Silberstein

Frida Kahlo With Flowers in Her Hair, portrait by Bernard Silberstein, c. 1940.

Photo: Iris Brosch

Spanish model Laura Ponte, photographed for in L’Officiel’s February 1998 issue.

Photo: Iris Brosch

The Spanish model Laura Ponte, photographed by Iris Brosch for L’Officiel’s February 1998 issue.

Photo: Maya Hansen/Foto UGO CAMERA / IFEMA 2012

Looks from the Maya Hansen spring 2013 collection, titled “Skully Tulum.”

Photo: Pablo Aguinaco/PABLO AGUINACO D.R.

Shoes in Dolce & Gabbana’s spring 2013 collection took inspiration from Frida’s red leather boots, shown here, with Chinese-motif embroidery and a jingle bell.

Photo: Corinne Dalle Ore

Diego te adoro, 2013, by the French contemporary artist Corinne Dalle-Ore, mixed media on canvas.

Frida Kahlo: Fashion as the Art of Being, out March 22 from Assouline.

Frida Kahlo, Fashion Icon