Saturday, January 19, 2008

Jackie Kennedy's wedding gown designer, Ann Lowe

The wedding gown on the right was worn by Jacqueline Bouvier on September 12, 1953, the day she married John F Kennedy. It is a part of African-American History. Why? This dress was designed by African-American fashion designer Ann Lowe.

Ann Lowe was born in Alabama in 1899, the daughter and granddaughter of dressmakers who designed for Alabama's first ladies. When Ann was 16 her mother passed away, and Ann completed the projects her mother had been working on. She then went on to design school in New York, where she was shunned by her white classmates. She didn't let them get to her. Instead, she concentrated on her studies. It paid off. Her customers included the DuPonts, Roosevelts, Posts, Biddles, Rockefellers, Auchinclosses, and other families that were listed in the Social Register. They loved her work. She was known as "society's best kept scecret," because, of course, no one would admit their clothing was being designed by a black woman. I can't help but wonder how different her life and career would have been today. Perhaps she would have been as well known and has wealthy as Vera Wang.

Things were, indeed, difficult for Ms Lowe. She never gave up, however, especially when a ruptured water line flooded her store 10 days before the future First Lady's wedding, destroying the dress and all others that had been made for the occasion. But Ms Lowe managed to remake all the dresses in time for the wedding. Later, in 1962 she lost her store due to back taxes, and lost her eye due to glaucoma. After the glaucoma surgery, when she was released from the hospital, she found that an annonymous benefactor had paid her all her debts. (The Kennedys, perhaps?) However, she developed cataracts in her other eye. Luckily, surgery saved the eye and she went ahead with plans to open a store on Madision Avenue. She retired in the '70s and passed away in the early '80s.

I have seen pictures of the wedding dress before, but they were always side views. I had thought there was only one circle detail on the side, but they seem to be all around the dress. To be honest, I don't really care for the dress. (Neither did Jackie, I've read. Her mother insisted that she wear it.) However, none of that matters today. What matters is that Ann Lowe be recognized for who she is: an African-American Fashion Pioneer.
With Thanks from
Bernadette Pasley
(In Honor and Thanks to Martin Luther King)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, may all your wishes come true!