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Goldsmiths' Official Student Magazine

Frida Kahlo’s impact on fashion and culture

April 6, 2018
Emma Hart looks at the legacy of fashion icon, Frida Kahlo and how her influence still stands strong.

Today, sixty four years after Frida Kahlo’s death, her unique sense of style still has a significant impact on modern fashion. Arguably one of the most influential Latino female artists, Kahlo’s cultural and stylistic impact survives alongside her legacy. Subsequently, this June an exhibition of Kahlo’s clothing and personal items will be shown at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the collection has never before been exhibited outside of Mexico. Here, the public will be able to enjoy some of Kahlo’s most famous clothing, including her floral print blouses, loose maxi skirts, hair pieces, and other items that made her the influential fashion figure she is today.

Throughout her life, Kahlo had a keen interest in fashion and clothes shopping; as a young woman she derived her style from that of the increasing popularity of the flapper she would have witnessed whilst travelling the USA. In fact, much of Kahlo’s style was inspired by Mexican rural clothing and folk-wear, as evident in her distinct emphasis on floral patterns and flower headpieces, long and loose fitting garments and ankle length dresses. Bold colours, florals and bright prints filled her wardrobe, a stark contrast to the more risqué and elusive style of the flapper. Through her artistic and stylistic expression, Kahlo didn’t care for 1920s feminine beauty ideals, and disregarded the ongoing tension in 1920s society between maintaining Victorian standards of beauty and breaking this image through the more revealing and glamorous flapper. Even in a period when facial hair on women was not encouraged, evident in the trademark thin and sparse brows of 1920s female film stars like Clara Bow, Kahlo was renowned for her monobrow and upper lip hair, and was even known to darken it from time to time. Her androgynous appearance and style has great influence on the less typically feminine shapes and style in fashion today, and she was even known to dress as a man in full suits during her youth.



Kahlo’s influence can be seen in the style of fashion moguls and models today. Kim Kardashian is one of many women who has been inspired by Kahlo, as evident in the decadent beaded and floral Balmain dress she wore in 2015. Additionally, millennial fashion and beauty influencers have also been influenced by Kahlo, in particular Sara K, a social media influencer with a near one million subscribers on the platform Youtube, who recreated Kahlo’s makeup in a video which stands with more than 800,000 views. Here, it is clear not only fashion has been impacted by Kahlo’s sense of style, but the beauty industry also. In the past two years, there has been an increasing demand for a more ‘natural’ style of makeup, as evident in the increasing popularity of makeup company ‘Glossier’, which promotes beauty products which give your makeup a more natural finish, much like Kahlo’s own minimalist makeup.

 

Most prominently, Kahlo has had significant impact on the increase of Chicano culture and style. Not only have Chicanos been greatly influenced by Kahlo’s life and artwork, but their distinct sense of dress has been shaped by her individualistic fashion sense. It is evident here that the Chicano movement is not only inspired solely by Kahlo’s clothing, but due to the fact she broke feminine beauty ideals and refused to conform to conventional fashion throughout her life. This ideal has resonated in the movement, and has helped to form their sense of cultural identity and distinctive collective style. Here, we can see how Kahlo resonates today as a prominent influence in the fashion industry. Her unique sense of style has inspired fashion brands like Dolce and Gabbana and Alberta Ferretti, but also stands as a symbol of Latino culture as well as female power and defiance. As a woman who lived and travelled Latin America and the USA in the early 20th century, she not only used artistic expression but clothing as an outlet to defy female beauty standards and traditional ideals of femininity.

 

Images, Nickolas Muray

Words, Emma Hart