Ann Cole Lowe, fashion designer
In 1953, Lowe designed Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ wedding dress for her marriage to John F. Kennedy. The voluminous, off-the-shoulder dress was constructed out of 50 yards of ivory silk taffeta. Just 10 days before the wedding ceremony a water line broke in Lowe’s New York City studio and ruined the former First Lady’s gown along with all 10 pink bridesmaids dresses. Lowe worked tirelessly to recreate all 11 designs in time for the Rhode Island nuptials. Sadly, Lowe did not get the credit she deserved for designing and creating Jackie’s all-important dress. Jackie is said to have told people that her gown was made by a “colored woman dressmaker” and Lowe was only mentioned by name in the Washington Post where fashion editor Nine Hyde simply wrote “… the dress was designed by a Negro, Ann Lowe.”
Jackie O wasn’t Lowe’s first or only high profile client. Lowe also designed for New York society families like the Rockefellers and the Vanderbilts. The talented fashion designer also created the gown that actress Olivia de Havilland wore when she accepted the Oscar for Best Actress in 1946.In the 1960’s, Lowe opened Ann Lowe Originals inside the Saks Fifth Ave department store on Madison Avenue in New York. Her amazing work still lives on in the permanent archives at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Black Fashion Museum and The Smithsonian
During a 1965 appearance on the Mike Douglas Show, Lowe explained that the driving force behind her work was not a quest for fame or fortune but a desire “to prove that a Negro can become a major dress designer.”
Lowe was also inspired by a true love for couture design and her lifelong exposure to custom dressmaking. “I feel so happy when I am making clothes,” she explained in the Oakland Tribune interview, “that I could just jump up and down with joy.”
Lowe’s dresses were important to her. “I like for my dresses to be admired,” she told theSaturday Evening Post in 1964. “I like to hear about it—the oohs and ahs as they come into the ballroom. Like when someone tells me, ‘the Ann Lowe dresses were doing all of the dancing at the cotillion last night.’ That’s what I like to hear.” Lowe passed away in 1981 at the age of 83.