What One Photographer Found Inside Frida Kahlo's Closet

On what would have been Frida Kahlo's 110th birthday, we're revisiting images from the 2015 Frida exhibit at the Michael Hoppen gallery in London.

Frida Kahlo is to fashion people as The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, or The Ramones are to music people. Most likely, your walls (or Tumblr feeds) have been graced by her artwork, and you’ve cited her as an icon or inspiration at some point in your life. Despite her being such an integral part of the aesthetic canon, the physical relics and symbols of Kahlo's artistry — her clothes, accessories, crowns, and makeup — haven’t been seen since her death. Until now, that is.

Photographer Ishiuchi Miyako shot Frida’s personal belongings that were hidden in the bathroom of “The Blue House” that she and husband Diego Rivera shared in Mexico City. Locked away since her death in 1954, the contents were purposefully hidden by Rivera, with the instructions that they remain hidden away until 15 years after his death (he died in 1957, but the room wasn’t unlocked until 2004).

Miyako’s previous work documented the clothing worn in post-war Japan. In Frida, a book and exhibit that ran in London in 2015, the photographer catalogs the items that have come to define her legacy, and the ones the artist used to hide her body. Kahlo had polio and was in a devastating car accident when she was young, and had her leg amputated later in life, so she tended to cover her lower half with long Tehuana-style dresses. Later, while recovering from numerous surgeries, she had to wear full-body casts, which she adorned with painted-on symbols and swaths of fabric.

The exhibit's press release reads: “Miyako sifts through the ephemera left behind by an individual, and in doing so makes intimate revelations about [her].” Click through to see a selection of images.

© Ishiuchi Miyako. Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery.
Pink boots. Notice the different heel heights between the two.
© Ishiuchi Miyako. Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery.
Kahlo's leg was amputated in 1953, and she designed this red boot to fit over a prosthetic. It's embroidered with Chinese-style filigree and a little bell.
© Ishiuchi Miyako. Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery.
Revlon nail polish bottles from Kahlo's collection.
© Ishiuchi Miyako. Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery.
A Tehuana-style dress with a red bottom and green top.
© Ishiuchi Miyako. Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery.
A green swimming suit.
© Ishiuchi Miyako. Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery.
The back of yellow dress with Chinese-style embroidery and a corset bodice that Kahlo wore for medical reasons.
© Ishiuchi Miyako. Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery.
A signature Tehuana-style lacy headdress.
© Ishiuchi Miyako. Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery.
Black gloves.
© Ishiuchi Miyako. Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery.
This red skirt comes with a medical corset on top that Kahlo hacked to have a large hole in it, mirrors, and a painted-on hammer-and-sickle.
© Ishiuchi Miyako. Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery.
Close-up of the corset's hole and decoration.
© Ishiuchi Miyako. Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery.
Cat-eye sunglasses.