Ode to Frida Kahlo | The Story In Dress

You've probably heard of Frida Kahlo, the artist, before.  I  had not, as I am weak in the humanities and the arts...... but I love to learn.  This is my 'Ode to Frida Kahlo | The Story in Dress'.
A Mexican surrealist painter who was known for her self-portraits, Frida Kahlo born in 1907 and died in 1954, lived a most enigmatic life.  Married to the artist, Diego Rivera, her marriage was fraught with affairs on both sides and much sadness yet she maintained loyalty to Rivera her entire life. She was stricken with polio in childhood that left one leg shorter than the other with the greatest tragedy happening in her teen years, when a bus she was riding in, was in a terrible accident injuring her by completely impaling her body by a metal rod.  Incredible that she could survive such an event in those times, she endured many operations and much pain her entire life.  Yet interesting to me, I rarely found her defined as 'disabled' or 'handicapped' in my readings.  During the years when women's dress hems were rising, Frida embraced the traditional Tehuana Dress that originated in the Oaxaca, a southeastern region of Mexico, dressing in the native traditional way that became her 'signature' look.  Her way of dress  'defined' her and in a few rare photos showing her in pants, it actually looks odd to me.  The long skirts and boxy tops probably provided more comfortable wear considering her constant physical pain, casts and limitations.   But this is a sewing blog and we need to get on with the rest of the story......
My Frida story began on June 9, 2018 when the beautiful Elpida posted her gorgeous hand-painted 'Frida' skirt in her Burda Studio account.  The skirt is not only hand-painted, but includes crochet flowers in Frida's hair and a real earring, below, and to say it caught my eye does not do this piece of work justice.  It is stunning!  At this point I'd never heard of a woman named Frida before and if you were to scroll down and read the comments at Elpida's post, mine responded that 'I was not familiar with Frida and had enjoyed learning more about her after a quick Google search'.  But who can forget this sort of image!! It was stuck in my mind.... the strong eyebrows, cheekbones and red lips with flowers in her hair.  Elpida has graciously given me permission to post her beautiful photo and I want to thank her again.  And if you are not familiar with Elpida's work, please check out her Burda Studio as well as her Instagram account.  She is an artist!  She also has another photo posted in her Burda Studio you may want to see of her Frida skirt.
Not too long after this exposure to Frida Kahlo, my family was watching the movie 'Coco' for one of our traditional Friday homemade pizza and family movie nights, when the 'Frida' scene appeared..... and suddenly I realized I 'knew' who this character represented.  This link held an interesting article to read about the scene as it is quite funny, complete with the character painting self-portraits holding the monkey that Frida was known to enjoy.....
Photo Credit
..... duplicating Frida's dress and hair well.  Have to tell you I felt quite 'smart' as I shared what little I knew about Frida with my family as the lightbulb went off in my head with this connection.  Btw, 'Coco' is a great movie we all enjoyed.
On July 17, 2018 Kate from the wonderful blog Fabrickated began a 'Dress Like Frida Sewalong' , so by now at least knowing who Frida was, sort of!, I enjoyed reading Kate's blog post and clicked on the resources she linked and posted there.  But I was not interested in participating in the Sewalong at the time, because my time is limited, my handmade wardrobe is still limited and I.need.wearable.clothes!  To be perfectly honest..... Frida's style of dress is not my style at all.  But I continued reading Kate's posts and her 2nd post defined and featured the making of a huipil, (pronounced 'wee-peel'), Frida's traditional top of choice.  One of her commenters mentioned this video  of the making of a traditional huipil that I watched and found most interesting.  But I knew I could not do this..... as a huipil is adorned with beading and trims and again.... is simply not my style.

By then the curiosity spirit had been aroused and I came upon the most fascinating documentary of anything I've found on Frida called 'My Dress Hangs There:  Frida Kahlo as Fashion Icon' done by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.  Highly recommend taking the time to watch this little over 1 hour video, if you don't read or watch anything else about Frida as it covers, not only her fashion, but her life in a biographical way.  Scholarly and very well done.  Still felt there was no way I wanted to sew any clothing remotely anything like what she wore.

Then a few of my IG friends were posting some of their works in progress, Sue who blogs over at fadanista was one.... and they all looked like they were having such fun pulling together prints, beads, trims and even creative textiles for their hair.  I thought how nice but I did not have time as I needed wearable clothes in 'my style'.

It's still hot and humid here and recently I'd picked up a small piece of crepe fabric wanting another summer top.  As I was fingering the fabric, wondering what pattern I should choose, I found myself thinking..... this looks like fabric Frida might've worn.  Bright colors, symmetrical design.  Hmmmm.  As I thumbed through my pattern stash and came upon Simplicity 2188 I realized this is a top made from a modified rectangular piece of fabric with a pleated neckline...... a huipil...... in a nutshell.  At that point I knew this little top had to be made.  As I laid out the fabric for pattern placement, it was chosen deliberately for the flowers and leaves to lay this way with the thought of Frida and what she might have worn.  From what I can tell, some of the tops she wore were plain, though honestly most were embellished with trims, embroidery and beading.  I've already blogged all the details of this top here and disregard that red arrow, below, as this is the photo I used on the construction blog post to point out a sewing detail.  You can see from the pattern, that from the shoulder seam to the hem it is pretty straight, particularly after the pleats from the neckline would pull it in more at the upper side seams.
After making the top I realized then I could create my own modern, completely wearable version of an outfit paying homage to Frida, but still be in 'my style'.  That's when the Burda skirt pattern was picked up and completed.  You can read all the details here, but that goldenrod yellow top-stitching thread was deliberately chosen to coordinate with this yellow top with this full ensemble in mind.  By now I was SO excited about this outfit!!!  There might have even been a few dreams about how to pull it all together by now.  ;)
So, with great joy and excitement.... I want to present my 'Ode to Frida' ensemble.  My version of a huipil and my version of a long skirt.  This is very much a wearable outfit for me.  For this blog post I added a colorful scarf at the waist for a belt, but will probably wear the top tucked in, with a jacket or cardi, as this heavy suede skirt is meant more for a Fall/Winter season.
There's more jewelry on today, more blush on the cheeks and the reddest lipstick I own to sort of recreate, in great respect, Frida's 'look'.  The hair is up and french braided and I have to tell you I have not spent that much time on my hair since probably going on a date back in high school!  I completely fail in the 'Frida look'..... but you get the idea.... there was great effort to pull together this blog post for today.
An old period chair was even lugged outside as a prop.  No cigarette though.  ;)
Channeling Frida.
Now this is the real me with my sweet pup and I cannot tell you how much I have enjoyed this process.  I hope Kate is okay with my interpretation of her sewalong..... as isn't that really what this is all about.... creating our own clothes, in our own fashion sense and individuality.  That's what Frida certainly did!
A few more resources I'd like to share with you.....
......I found this Harper's Bazaar article interesting, as well as The New York Times. 

......Kate has published a 3rd week and a 4th week on the Sewalong and I think she's got a few more upcoming posts on Frida planned.    And a big Thank You to Kate for triggering this interest in Frida for me.

My chapter and journey on Frida Kahlo is complete now and I hope you might have enjoyed learning a little more about her.  May we all never lose our 'love of learning'!!

Happy Sewing All!  :)


  1. I really like this colorful outfit in you! And it was fun reading your post and the story behind the outfit. I love that you recreated the pictures! :)

    1. Thank you so much Katharina! It was a fun post to put together!! :)

  2. Oh well done Lisa! I think it is perfect! Thank you for the extra information, I was aweare of her but not of her history. How awesome that historians have focused on her abilities, not her disabilities which must be a reflection of how she lived her life.

    1. Though diminutive in stature, and plagued with many health problems.... seems Frida was a powerful force to be reckoned with. Thank you so much for such a kind comment! :)

  3. I am sure Frida would approve, but I prefer Lisa I think! Frida was quite something and I think had to fight back against what life had dished out to her. I don't think any of us could really understand her experience, without actually feeling what it was like to be her.

  4. The thing I really like about this challenge is that we are all adapting Frida's style to suit our own and I think you've nailed it! You have the essence of Frida but produced something that is definitely your style. I've loved learning more about Frida - all I knew about her was her colourful bent and monobrow, but there was a lot to learn! I found the movie Frida on Netflix but I think there's been a bit of artistic license taken. I have also read a couple of books but am off to follow your links. Thank you for sharing!


Thank you for taking the time to leave a note.~Lisa