Style Court

Nine Years of Textiles, Art History, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes

5.21.2015

Connecting Threads (More Frida)

[Detail: Another look at the very recent collaboration between Madewell and JM Drygoods, this time with hand-embroidery by artisans from the San Vicente Coatlán community in Oaxaca.]

I'm a little envious of the Wellesley students in James Oles's Frida Kahlo seminar. After hearing him speak at the NYBG's symposium, Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera: Mexican Art in the 20th Century (the entire talk is up on the Garden's YouTube channel), I was left wanting to learn more.

[Frida Kahlo by Fritz Henle 1936]

His focus was Kahlo's cross-dressing but not the sort that initially comes to mind. While she did famously don menswear, what Dr. Oles zeroed in on was her cross-cultural cross-dressing. You know, the indigenous Tehuana garb among other things. And with sharp insights and dry humor, Oles makes the point that Kahlo certainly wasn't the first rather elite woman--or man--to take fashion inspiration from the working class. From huaraches to huipils, Oles explores a range of trad Mexican and Mexican-inspired clothes worn way, way back by non-local Cortes as well as more recently by contemporary women.