Tag Archives: Black fashion designers

Visit the Gown That Introduced Me to Ann Lowe

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Photo: Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens

 

There’s a beautiful costume exhibit at Hillwood right now that will give you a heavy dose of 20th century couture and give you the chance to see an Ann Lowe dress up close.

Hillwood: ingenue to icon

Mrs  Post was an enthusiastic client of Ann Lowe’s salon, but this gown may be the only “Ann Lowe Original” in the museum’s collection.  The dress is also interesting because Mrs  Post wore it in her most famous portrait.

This silk dress is actually the garment that started my Ann Lowe project in 2011. I was lucky enough to be an intern at the museum and the curators wanted to learn more about this dress and its designer–that small side research project grew into my Masters thesis and then into this ongoing and marvelously special project. It’s so exciting to see this gown all ready for the public!

If you can’t get to the exhibit (it closes at the end of December) the curator of the exhibit, Howard Kurtz has a lovely exhibition catalog that is the next best thing.

Read more about Howard’s book here

 

Introducing Ann Lowe

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Ann Lowe (and a model) in her Madison Avenue Studio, 1967 (Ebony Magazine)

There will be a lot of articles here about the woman sitting down on the left–   Ann Lowe.   You could say that Ann Lowe is the reason that this site even exists. Her story is probably the best example of hidden fashion history that I could help to bring to light and she will be all over this blog because there’s just so much to tell you about her. Even the bright silk braid at the top of this page is a detail from one of her dresses (and I’m a lucky girl to own this dress–even if it doesn’t fit me!)

ANN LOWE.


In some books and articles, you may run across her name listed as “Ann Cole Lowe”. That is incorrect.  It’s just “Ann Lowe”. While Cole was her mother’s maiden name, and it appeared in Lowe’s death notice and obituary (which were not written by direct family members) Cole was not a name that Lowe ever used, either personally or professionally, and it never appears in any of her census information, business dealings or social security information as a middle name. 


So, who is Ann Lowe and why do I want to tell you all about her? You might not recognize her name or her face,  but there’s a good chance that you’ve seen at least one of the wedding dresses that she designed over her sixty year career and you can recognize the woman who wore that gown in an instant:

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Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy in her Ann Lowe Gown, 1953

At the top of Lowe’s career in the 1950s and 1960s, she operated custom salons on Madison Avenue, where she created custom debut, wedding and special occasion gowns for the women of high society and created dresses for the top department stores in the country.

But that’s just one little part of her story. She was raised in rural Alabama at the turn of the 20th century and became a leading designer for the women of the most elite families in Tampa, Florida before moving to New York City in 1928 to chase her dream of becoming a top fashion designer. I’ll give you a little spoiler—she made it.

And another…
An Ann Lowe Evening Gown at the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
An Ann Lowe Gown at the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
And another...
…and another (there are ten Ann Lowe dresses at the Met!)

Ann’s story is like a good book— and her biography is something I’m working on right now, so bits and pieces of Lowe’s story will turn up on this site often while I’m writing the rest of it in the BIG project. You’ll be able to check the Ann Lowe heading in the sidebar to fast forward to the latest installment.

If you are a bit impatient to find out a little more, check out these links:

The Remarkable Story of Ann Lowe: From Alabama to Madison Avenue

Pursuing Hidden History in Delaware

Ann Lowe and the Intriguing Couture Tradition of Ak-Sar-Ben

There are so many stories to tell and dresses to show you! The links above are just a tiny taste! I hope you’ll enjoy the adventure.

-Margaret Powell