Frida Kahlo, her real look, on display in Mexico

Associated Press Modified: October 3, 2012 at 7:48 pm •  Published: October 3, 2012
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"The story of Frida started to change with the discovery of her things," Trujillo said.

Her life of suffering was the subject of her paintings, and it inspired books, plays and the 2002 movie "Frida" starring Mexican actress Salma Hayek. Kahlo-mania outside Mexico started in the 1980s with the publication of her biography by Hayden Herrera that was widely read outside art circles.

Fashion designers and photographers have since been captivated by Kahlo and have put together collections, such as Gaultier's 1998 homage. As recently as last month for Madrid Fashion Week, the spring 2013 designs of Maya Hansen featured corseted dresses, flowers and skeleton patterns.

The show, "Appearances Can Be Deceiving: The Dresses of Frida Kahlo," will include a black velvet short cape with lace border, a twist on the popular capelet of the time; a worn silk blouse with square neckline of embroidered red, yellow and lavender flowers; and a purple cotton blouse with patterns of red and yellow squares. Also on display will be a long purple skirt with white flowers that look like poppies, a yellow long-sleeved ruffle shirt with a pattern of fall leaves and a muslin skirt of sangria color.

Poignantly, the exhibit will show the white corset that Kahlo featured in her self-portrait "The Broken Column." And there will be an earring that was a gift from Pablo Picasso and was featured in another 1940 painting of herself. Its mate has not been found.

Restorers and the exhibit's curator say many of Kahlo's blouses were custom made. She bought the fabrics and took them to Indian seamstresses. Some were made of velvet cherry, the fabric often used for traditional elegant dresses in Oaxaca region known as the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.

Henestrosa, the curator, said the Tehuana dress, named after Indian women of that region, was Kahlo's signature piece of clothing. She wore it with large gold earrings and flowers in her braided hair.

"It is not a dress she chose by accident. The women run that society. The women symbolize power," Henestrosa said.

The dress became her signature look in her many self-portraits — copied by women worldwide.

"This is going to amplify her influence much more," said Trujillo, the museum director.

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Associated Press writer Isaac Garrido contributed to this report.

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Adriana Gomez Licon on Twitter: http://twitter.com/agomezlicon