A trailblazer in fashion whose name has fallen through the cracks of history is Anne Lowe. Born in Alabama in 1898, Ms. Lowe was the daughter and granddaughter of celebrated seamstresses who were known for sewing for the first ladies of Alabama. Anne’s mother passed away suddenly when Anne was 16, forcing her to complete her mother’s unfinished needlework for the governor’s wife.
Anne enrolled in S.T. Taylor Design School in New York. Although she was ignored and avoided by white classmates, she concentrated on her work. Moving to Tampa, Fla., she opened a small studio there, then returned to New York where she worked as a commissioned designer for some of the major houses in the Fashion District. The houses took all the credit, and Anne’s name was never mentioned. She pressed on, and soon she was designer to society’s top families, such as the du Ponts, Roosevelts, Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, and notably, she designed and made the gown actress Olivia de Haviland wore when she received her Oscar for “To Each His Own.”
“Ann Lowe was known as society’s best kept secret…You would have thought her clothing was Parisian couture, but she charged much less to create the same thing. They all went to her for their debutante balls and weddings.” Michael Henry Adams.00
Anne Lowe’s quiet claim to fame, however, was the wedding gown she designed for Jacqueline Bouvier in 1953, when she married John F. Kennedy. Ms. Lowe was also commissioned to make the 10 pink bridesmaid’s gowns and hats. In an effort to promote Sen. Kennedy’s imminent political career, the wedding received high recognition, the designer’s name was left out of most newspapers. Nina Hyde, social, fashion editor of the Washington Post at the time, stated “… the dress was designed by a Negro, Ann Lowe.”