Women in Fashion: Ann Cole Lowe

Since it’s women’s history month, I’ve decided to find women who made an impact in fashion in the 18 and 1900s!

This weeks post will be about a woman named Ann Cole Lowe. Ann was the first black woman to become a noted fashion designer (1920s-1960s). Ann grew up in Clayton, Alabama. Her mother and grandma were seamstresses, which gave her the push she needed to begin her interest in fashion at a young age. She would shape cloth flowers out of the leftover scraps of fabric. When Ann was 16 her mother passed on, she left behind 4 ball gowns and they weren’t finished, Ann finished them! That’s when Miss Ann took off in the fashion world.

At 18 Ann signed up for New York fashion school, which was segregated at the time, she was extraordinary and graduated early. She worked in Florida for 10 years before moving back to New York. In New York she was the go to dress designer for the elites, (Rockefeller’s, Roosevelt’s, and the du Ponts). She would do all of the work, but got none of the credit for example, she designed the dress Olivia de Havilland wore to the 1947 Oscars, where Sonia Rosenberg’s name was sewn onto the label of the dress.

Not the dress of Olivia H.

In 1953, Ann was hired to create Jackie Bouvier’s wedding dress, plus all of the gowns for the bridesmaids and the bride‘s mother. It took her and her assistants two months cutting and sewing the ornate folds of the gown out of more than 50 yards of silk taffeta. 10 days before the wedding a pipe burst it in Ann’s studio, it ruined 10 to 15 dresses, including the bride to be‘s dress. Ann and her team worked around the clock and finished the dresses in a fraction of the time. When bringing the dresses to the family she had to go through the back, and she refused, saying “either the dresses went with her through the front door, or they went back with her to New York.” Everyone loved Jackie B’s, later Kennedy, dress, except her. When asked who made the dress, she said, “I wanted to go to France, but a color dressmaker did it.” 

Jackie Kennedy’s dress made by Ann Lowe

Jackie and Ann were close as she was working for the family, so when hearing how she was addressed, she was sad. She was black, she didn’t get respectable recognition because she was black, but she never complained or dragged her feet, she persevered because she’s a strong black woman!

Olivia wearing the dress made by Ann.
Dress made by Ann

I love hearing Ann’s story of how she persevered when the odds were against her. She was an amazing designer and woman for redoing Jackie Kennedy’s dresses when they were ruined. She was also brave for not settling for going through the back when returning the dresses. I love to see it!

More to come later this week. Thank you for reading this week’s blog post, I hope you enjoyed reading. As always…

Asè

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