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Style Icon: Frida Kahlo

by Amy Azzarito

Frida Kahlo’s style is certainly easy to identify; after all, her favorite subject was herself, and whether in New York, Paris or Mexico, she stood out in her pre-Columbian jewelry and Tehuana costumes. Thinking about Frida, her style and her life, what stands out the most was how she managed to continue living and working even when in extreme physical pain. Polio at age six left her with a limp and one leg visibly thinner than the other. Then a trolley car accident when she was 18 left her seriously injured (and unable to have children), and she had to endure more than 30 operations throughout her life. Frida had a volatile marriage with fellow Mexican artist (and philanderer) Diego Rivera. (There are some great home movies of Frida and Diego .) She coped by having affairs of her own, sometimes even with Rivera’s conquests. She died in 1954, at age 47, almost certainly a suicide. — Amy Azzarito

(For a bit more Frida, check out Amy Merrick’s Living In: Frida)

Image above: Nickolas Muray, 1892–1965 
American (b. Hungary), Frida on White Bench, New York 1939, Carbon process print from the

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More Frida after the jump . . .

Kahlo’s family home, a colonial-style house named the where Frida lived as a child and later as an adult, was filled with pre-Columbian idols and tropical plants. The house forms a U around a central courtyard — it was turned into a museum four years after Frida’s death and is certainly on my bucket list of places to visit.

Image above: Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird (Autorretrato con collar de espinas y colibrí), 1940 Frida Kahlo, Mexican Oil on canvas 24 5/8 x 18 7/8 inches, Nickolas Muray Collection, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, The University of Texas at Austin via the

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Suggested For You


  • I’m loving that blue chair…which I think would be a great photo shoot prop. I’d either sit in for a wee bit of knitting wearing a kicky pair of wedgies OR fill up the chair itself with skeins of yarn. Probably yellow. BTW, was Kahlo a knitter? Just wondering. Seems like she would have been. I can see her doing free-form (no pattern) knitting.

  • Ana Juan’s illustrations for the children’s book Frida, about Senora Kahlo, are among the most beautiful to grace a page.

  • The Etsy shop Snapdragon 13 has an amazing assortment of hand-embroidered Frida art dolls. Many of the embellishments are inspired by her self-portraits…

  • you’re commodifying the life of one of the most revolutionary female artists of our time by pushing pillows and a molcajete sold on amazon? I love design sponge for most of your content, but this just feels gross.

    • alice

      i don’t see these posts as commodifying frida’s life or work. all of us here find inspiration for our lives in various places: movies, books, homes, personal styles, etc. this particular column is devoted to finding inspiration in an iconic figure’s style or work. i don’t see that as the same thing as commodifying.


  • This is so serendipitous… I just returned from a month in Mexico & the cherry on top was spending the last day visiting Casa Azul, Frida & Diego’s studio and taking in the amazing murals Diego painted at the National Palace. Seeing their art close up was so incredible & inspiring… I didn’t want to ever leave the lush courtyard garden of her home. Make sure you check this one off your bucket list, Amy!

    • Hi Jodi! Wow – sounds like an amazing trip. I’d love to see Casa Azul – I’m sure photographs don’t do justice to the amazing colors.
      xo Amy

  • Hello Amy~

    I’m with you on Casa Azul being on the bucket list, and am fiercely jealous of anyone who’s had the chance – lucky! Frida has always been an inspiration to me, regarding her art, her passion, and her remarkable life story. But to look at her is a feast for the senses….she definitely had her own style, and I LOVE it.

    Incidentally, my sister married a Rivera, and he actually is a descendent of Diego Rivera. I almost collapsed with serendipity when this occurred…..lol….


    • Hi Heidi – What! That is so cool!
      I think it’s amazing to think that someone could work through so much pain and distraction. Maybe we should all take a D*S trip to Mexico!
      xo Amy

  • Let me add another instance of serendipity. Having just bought a wonderful single called Frida Kahlo’s Delight by Irish singer Riona Sally Hartman minutes earlier, I was listening to it whilst reading this post. An inspiration to many it seems.

  • From a well seasoned D*S lover…I had the great good fortune to visit Casa Azul in 1979. As an art student, I knew about Frida and Diego and my husband and I were the only visitors that day. What a treasured memory. It was as if the house were still lived in and Frida’s bedroom had the feel of her presence. My favorite room was the kitchen with their initials spelled out in miniature olla on the wall.

  • So I am a Mexican woman born to parents from the US and one day a few years ago we invited the woman that my parents first lived with when they came here… whose house incidentally was a few doors down from Frida’s. I asked Señora Medina (who was a nurse and, as much as I loved her and her house and her song birds, I hated going to visit her when I knew it was time for shots) if she had ever met Frida and she just kind of smiled and said that she used to give her her shots and she told us how Diego would walk over pushing Frida in her wheelchair. My dad then asked if she had ever been given a painting in payment and Señora Medina laughed and explained that she never thought they would ever be worth anything. Two weeks ago I walked over to Frida’s house and was so pleased to find not only that walking through there never gets old (and what’s more, you can now buy a license to take pictures inside the house!) but that they have also expanded into the lot next door and that that space is used as extra exhibit space. And now when you go to her house, the ticket includes a ticket to go to Diego Rivera’s Museo Anahuacalli which the building itself is really quite beautiful. I can’t recommend enough a visit to her home and Anahuacalli but I also highly suggest that you go to Diego’s studio in another part of the city called San Angel (not too far from Coyoacan, the name of the area where the Casa Azul is). It seems like not a lot of people know about it but it is truly wonderful and every time I go my favorite part is looking at all of his painting tools. Also, if you go to the studio on a Saturday there is a market that sells some artesanias but mostly focuses on selling paintings by local artists. A lot of it is very contemporary blah-ness but last time I went there were some more unique vendors too. Plus that area is full of cute (but not economically priced by our standards) restaurants with delicious food so you could really spend all day there. Ok, sorry for such a long comment but I would hate for you to come and possibly miss out on the other two. What’s more, if you make it here and would like someone to show you around, I would be glad to do that. Thank you for highlighting such a fantastic, strong artist and woman!

    • Mariann – That is an amazing story. Thank you so much for sharing with us. I’m now even more motivated to try to make a Mexico trip! Thanks! Amy

  • My sweet friend Connie just told me about this site. And the first thing I opened was about Frida! I have always felt such a connection- from living at one time in LA and being exposed to her influence, following museum shows, thinking about color usage as inspired by her work… My husband even had the opportunity to work on the film about her and I slowly but surely completed a fiber art piece inspired by Frida’s self portraits (w/a little Mona Lisa thrown in…..!)
    This is a wonderful website- Thanks Grace, I will be following.

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  • Thank you for sharing the nicho from my shop here! Frida is one of my favorite artists. It’s an honor to have something included in this post and on this fabulous website!

  • Another source of beautiful, handmade Mexican silver jewelry is Zinnia Folk Arts in Minneapolis (www.zinniafolkarts.com). My wife loves the jewelry and other folk art at that store.

    • Wow! Thank you! Frida is an inspiring woman and Mexico is an inspiring place. Thanks for the compliment–even if it’s 3 years later! Zinnia

  • Such an amazing and strong spirit! I’m currently reading a great book right now entitled The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver, which is a work of fictional about a man who is half American and half Mexican and works for Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo… beautifully written and inspirational for all creative types and admirers.

  • Frida is truly an icon and inspiration to all creative women. I love her work and this article just reminds me how special and strong woman she was. Thanks for sharing!

    AGNESE from theblogness.com

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