Ann II

Ann Lowe was an “awful snob.”  In her own words.  Her other words were as follows, “I love my clothes and I’m particular about who wears them.  I am not interested in sewing for café society or social climbers.  I do not cater to Mary and Sue.  I sew for the families of the Social Register.”  This would prove true by the names of her clients.  The DuPonts, the Rockefellers, Roosevelts, Posts, Biddle’s, Auchincloss’.  And of course, the Bouvier’s.  Her clientele ran blue.  On paper, this is extremely impressive and a surefire way to keep a business profitable.  Reality, on the other hand, can often be bleak. 


Her most famous dress had to be Jackie Kennedy’s wedding dress.  It really started when Ann made a debutant dress for her sister Lee and stepsister Nina.  Ann wasn’t the first choice, but after the dressmaker who should have been cheaper ended up costing more money, Ann was first runner-up.  Had Jackie Kennedy gotten her way she would have worn a French designer who would give her a simple and chic look.  Jackie would have loved the minimalist bride of today.  Alas, it wasn’t Jackie’s way.  It was Joseph Kennedy, JFK’s father’s, way.  You have to remember, this was the marriage of two powerful families to make a powerful dynasty.  It was decided that Jackie would use an American designer as a sign of diplomacy.  A very common practice among powerful political circles to this day.

Since Ann had already proven herself by saving the day with Jackie’s sister’s dresses, she was the chosen one to signal diplomacy.  The vision for the dress was a modern Southern Belle.  It was made of ivory silk with a portrait neckline and adorned with Ann’s signature flower details.  The construction of the dress is extremely impressive from the corset to the blue ribbon hidden under the skirt at the hemline.  It didn’t come easy.  Ann spent eight weeks constructing Jackie’s dress along with the bridesmaid’s dresses. Until a pipe burst flooding the atelier.  Ann and her emergency team of seamstresses spent two days cutting and then three days sewing.  Like a true professional, the client would never know.  Making the Kennedy wedding dress should have netted Ms. Lowe a $2200 profit but instead, it was a $700 loss.  That wouldn’t be the only pain.  When she went to deliver the dress she was told to take the back entrance.  Ms. Lowe was not here for that and made a remark about taking the dresses back to New York if she wouldn’t go through the front.  Then she marched in the front door. 

After all the work she put into the dresses it is rumored that Jackie Kennedy didn’t like her wedding dress.  Something that would support this claim is the flippant remark “a Coloured dressmaker did it” when asked who made her dress. Publicity from the most important wedding would have done wonders for Ann Lowe’s business but not being credited did nothing for her plus she was $700 in the hole.  There’s another rumour that Jackie Kennedy is the one who paid Ann’s debt to the IRS 11 years later.  Ann had called her sweet over a decade later and mentioned she was a friend who knew of the trouble. 

Clients taking advantage of Ann while not giving her credit was a pattern.  Ann Lowe is also the creator of Olivia de Haviland’s dress for the Oscars.  She would win that night.  She would also take Ann’s tag off the dress and once again, a career-making moment, was gone.  Ann would undercharge her worth and she never became a household name.  There are several factors that play into that because it wasn’t an accident that we don’t put her next to Christian Dior and Pierre Balmain where she belongs. It was by a design of a different kind.

The most important thing for me to take away from Ann was how much love she had for what she did.  That created perfection from her.  It translated into her work and if we see her clothing today in museums, we can see how it holds up to this day.  She was excellent and her name is in my history books. Her name is a staple in my understanding of fashion.

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