Ann Lowe was an African-American fashion designer, born in 1898 in rural Alabama far from Park or Madison Avenue. She was the great grand daughter of a former slave and a plantation owner. When she was 19, she enrolled in design school in New York which at the time was brazen and appalling to her instructors. They believed that she wasn’t smart enough to learn the things that they were teaching and that she wasn’t classy enough for the high-class fashion school. Unable to find work in New York after graduation, Ann relocated to Tampa, FL where she established a salon.
She did very well in Tampa and eventually she headed back to New York. This time she was able to find employment. She began working on commission for major stores and boutiques and eventually gained a number of rich and famous clients, like the du Ponts, although most of her work was done anonymously. She designed the dress that Olivia de Haviland wore to accept the Best Actress Academy Award for her portrayal in “To Each His Own” but the label read Sonia Rosenberg.
Most notably she designed the ivory silk dress that a Jacqueline Bouvier wore to wed John F. Kennedy In 1953. She also did al the bridesmaids dresses. Shortly before the wedding all the dresses were destroyed and Lowe and her helpers had to recreate every gown before the wedding. Despite this major accomplishment she was virtually ignored in the press.
Eventually her business closed and she worked for companies like Saks Fifth Avenue and Madeline Couture. She briefly had her own line Ann Lowe Originals. Ann Lowe died in 1981, but her contributions to fashion are remembered today.