I’m going to try to continue to feature little tidbits in black history that are often forgotten or unknown. So far I have featured Sara Baartman, Jean Baptiste Point DuSable, Claudette Colvin, Donyale Luna, and Nina Mae McKinney. This time around it’s dress designer Ann Lowe.
The most photographed wedding dress in U.S. history was worn by Jacqueline Kennedy in 1953 for her wedding to John F. Kennedy Jr. The dress, made with 50 yards of silk taffeta and embellished with interwoven bands of tucking and tiny wax flowers took two months to create.
The dress is so famous that it is now displayed in the Kennedy Library where it looks as beautiful now as it did over 50 years ago.
A few years ago I was shocked to learn that the dress was designed by a black woman, Ann Lowe.
Ann, born in Alabama in 1899, is the daughter and granddaughter of dressmakers for Alabama’s first ladies. After her mother passed away at the age of 16, Ann took over her mothers projects and later went to design school in New York. While in design school, although she was not accepted by her white classmates, she was accepted by Societies Elite and became known as “Societies Best Kept Secret”. The reason for the title was because although customers loved her work, they would not admit that there clothing was designed by a black woman.
After buying dresses from Ann, Jacqueline Kennedy decided to also have her design her wedding dress, as well as 10 others for wedding guests. Aside from Jacqueline’s wedding dress, Ann also opened a store in Saks Fifth Ave and her own store on Madison Ave where she made over 2,000 dresses for New York socialites.
For more on Ann, click here for a book, Threads of Time:The Fabric of History that covers 16 black women designers.