Since seeing the Frida Kahlo exhibition at the Victoria and Albert museum I have been thinking of being more like Frida. At least in terms of dressing. Could I make a blouse and skirt that I could wear in London, influenced and inspired by Frida, without looking exactly like this?
The key elements of the style are a round necked (occasionally square necked) waist length, boxy, blouse that is usually worn over a skirt. This T shaped garment is sometimes white or lacy, often brightly coloured and sometimes embroidered. The skirt usually matches or coordinates, and is either below the knee with a longer under skirt, or with a white lace floor length border. An even simpler look is a long, full skirt, a loosely fitted blouse and a shawl draped over the shoulders. Hair is usually worn up and enhanced with flowers, ribbons or plaits. Jewellery includes showy necklaces and earrings. Here is Frida, in New York, where they went crazy for her style.
So here is my suggestion. Fresh from my success in hosting a knit along, what about a Frida sewalong for those that don’t knit?
Shall we spend a month or two (finishing by the end of August say) making a Frida influenced outfit?
You don’t have to interpret this completely literally, but you could. Even though they can be worn together for dramatic purposes, I am thinking a maxi skirt and a blousey top would blend into most wardrobes, and would be fun to make. They could both be embellished with lace, braid, panels, hand or machine embroidery, or they could be relatively plain. You could use one main fabric, or several co-ordinating fabrics in bright colours. You may have an old table-cloth or embroidered hand towels or African prints, or Chinese embroidery or even Mexican artefacts you could combine? If your local climate is considerably cooler than Mexico you might want to think about using velvet, wool or heavier fabrics – this might make a splendid Christmas Day outfit. If you are in a hot climate then this outfit would be perfect in lighter weights. By making separates we get lots of wear – the little top with jeans, or the long skirt with a shirt for work or formal occasions, maybe.
I will look up some simple patterns that we could use or adapt and I will share them over the next month.
Today, the Huipil. Pronounced like Pupil, but with an H.
It’s a simple doubled over rectangle to produce a square. The effect is a bit like a cap sleeved blouse, with no shaping or fastenings. So it can be pulled on over the head. The basic shape is so very simple that all the interest comes from the fabric or embellishment. The Huipil is not essentially different from a T shirt.
I haven’t seen a feasible pattern on the internet so I will make one and share how I did it next week. If you want to buy a pattern Marilla Walker has a “Maya” pattern on Etsy, which is a modern version based on similar Guatamalan Huipul. The key issue is less the shape than the fabric or the embellishment. Many of these blouses are created in strong bright colours, but black/navy or white is equally attractive. And if you go in for some embroidery black or white backgrounds are the best as they make the colours come forward. But braid would be good too, or lace. I am planning a white one as I am not so good with black. The embellishment is traditionally just stripes or geometric patterns but there are many flowered versions too as you can see in the top photograph.
I have put together a Pinterest board with some inspiration on it, but I am going to use what I already have at home. This project is a perfect excuse to use up some of those ethnic fabrics you may have collected, or bought on holiday, but struggle to fit into your day to day wardrobe. Or to use some of those flashy trimmings that you were attracted to on market day but are now sitting sadly in a drawer.
Having just had a look in my cupboard this is what I have found that might come together in a nice outfit. In many of the photographs of Frida we see she has chosen a red-green-white colour scheme, the colours of the Mexican flag. While I don’t find British nationalism the least attractive I thought I might try a red, white and blue colour scheme. Mainly because I have two pieces of fabric I dyed with Indigo, a plain piece of blue silk, some 1930 windmills and houses I got in a charity shop, an old piece of Chinese embroidered silk and a Spanish embroidered tray cloth. It needs more red, but I think I can do that.
Let me know if you will be joining in – maybe just with one item that you will make. It would be great to finish this with images of us all in our home environment, including ready to wear items if you like, with hair, make up, flowers and trimmings, monkeys and hairless dogs if you have them. What do you think? (Grace I am relying on you!!)