When it comes to the best in fashion, design, and style, an unsung underrecognized African American Couturier who created stunning couture masterpieces from the Roaring 20s, through the great depression era, the War years, and far into the early “Me decade,” the 1970s was tops in the fashion industry.
If you think we are speaking of the phenomenal creations of the French icons Coco Chanel, or Christian Dior, think again. This American iconic fashion designer, who is rarely mentioned, ripped right through the fashion industry and forged the new standard one stitch at a time. Her name is Ann Lowe! Some have said if Lowe had been living in France at the time, she would have been famous the world over.
Born in Alabama on December 14, 1898, Lowe grew up creating some of the most sought-after designs and creations by women in the upper echelon of high society. She had an unsurpassed skill for being precise when dreaming up details for her clients, particularly Lowe’s handcrafted delicate floral appliqués. Lowe learned the art of sewing from her mother and grandmother right in the heart of Dixie.
If one was fortunate to own one of Lowe’s haute couture creations, you were sure to be admired by all who saw you; Lowe was a highly sought-after couture designer who created opulent pieces for the wealthiest of people.
ThisIsRnB had the esteemed privilege of touring the seminal Winterthur estate owned by the famous Du Pont family of Delaware, where the largest exhibition to date is mounted with Lowe’s spectacular designs on display featuring exquisite one-of-a-kind gowns and special occasion dresses that were worn by Dutchess’, Royal families around the world, Queens, Princesses, Academy Award winners, heiresses such as Majorie Merriweather, socialites, and the fairest debutantes of the ball.
Lowe designed the iconic wedding gown commissioned for former First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis in the 1920s, which remains one of the most recognized couture pieces of the decade. The first lady was very fond of Lowe’s elegant designs. Most of the elite women confessed to being extremely nervous before making their grand debut, but after consulting and working with Lowe to create beautiful wearable masterpieces, their fears were allayed.
Her designs wowed and were patterned from flowers and were as impeccable and exquisite as the flowers themselves. Lowe was a master and meticulous at incorporating the shades of color into her work which were nothing short of wearable masterpieces. Just having the honor of wearing a beautiful gown or dress created by Lowe, gave them more confidence and pride knowing they secured the best the world had to offer at the time. Some described it as “feeling seen.” The esteemed Ann Lowe was dubbed as “Society’s Best-Kept Secret.”
Lowe eventually moved from Alabama to the Sunshine State at the behest of the (Twin Family) to design custom pieces for the family. From there, Lowe moved to the fashion capital of the world, New York City. She attended design school while working for Saks Fifth Avenue.
The pinnacle of Lowe’s success came in the 1900s to 1960s when her fashions were pivotal in shifting cultural moments undoubtedly impacting the history of fashion.
“Lowe’s ongoing engagement with fashion trends and shifting culture, she serves as more than just a fashion designer, she becomes a window into the lived experiences of a Black designer navigating a career from the Jim Crow South to the metropolis of New York City…”-Alexandra Deutsch
This exhibit is a must-see and sadly closes on January 7th, 2024. but you can pick up a copy of the book by Elizabeth Way that offers great insight and detail about the life, times, legacy, and beauty of this American Icon and trailblazer, Ms. Ann Lowe.