Ann Lowe

Ann Lowe

Ann Lowe was born in Clayton, Alabama in 1898 and learned her dressmaking skills from her mother, who made dresses for society women in the South. When Lowe was 16, her mother died suddenly. Ann was left to finish her mother’s last job: The creation of four ballgowns for the First Lady of Alabama. These dresses launched Lowe’s career. She moved to New York and enrolled in S.T. Taylor Design School, which hadn’t realized they’d admitted a Black woman so were required to segregate. In 1950, Lowe opened Ann Lowe’s Gowns in Harlem and became the go-to dress designer for for the highest of high society—the Rockefellers, the Roosevelts, the du Ponts. She was called “society’s best kept secret.” Lowe was highly selective with her clientele: “I love my clothes, and I’m particular about who wears them. I’m not interested in sewing for cafe society or social climbers,” she said. She made the dress that Olivia de Havilland wore to accept her Oscar, but her name was not on the label. Unfortunately, this wouldn’t be the last time that Lowe failed to receive credit. In 1953, Lowe scored a historical commission when she was hired to create the wedding dress of Jacqueline Bouvier (Jackie O). When asked, Jackie O simply said it was by “a colored designer.” Financially, Lowe was taken advantage of by her clientele and by the mid-60s she was in debt, which was paid off by an anonymous friend—some say Jackie O. In 1968 Lowe became the first Black woman to own a store on Madison Avenue