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The Arts Intel Report

A Cultural Compass
For the World Traveler
A Cultural Compass
For the World Traveler

Ann Lowe: American Couturier

Ann Lowe, photographed for a 1966 issue of Ebony magazine.

Sept 9, 2023 – Jan 7, 2024
Winterthur, 5105 Kennett Pike, Winterthur, DE 19735, USA

In preparation for her marriage to Senator John F. Kennedy, in 1953, Jacqueline Bouvier commissioned her wedding dress from a woman whose name few knew. And had they been told the name—Ann Lowe—most would have said, “Who?” But not society women of the East Coast, or even wealthy women in other parts of the country, who kept their eyes on the East. Lowe was the go-to custom designer for Social Register debutantes, young brides, and women heading to fancy dress balls and formal events. What’s more, she was a Black woman from the Jim Crow South, born in Alabama, where she apprenticed in the family dressmaking business. Lowe worked for a time in Tampa, Florida, and then headed north to Harlem, in 1928, where she ran a series of couture establishments until her retirement, in 1972. Winterthur has been planning a major exhibition on Lowe for some time, and now it’s here. Confections abound, as well as a re-creation of Jackie’s wedding dress. To see this many pieces by Lowe in one place is a serving of important American history—quite phenomenal. The show won’t travel, so off you go to Wilmington. —Laura Jacobs

Photo: Johnson Publishing Company Archive/courtesy of Ford Foundation, J. Paul Getty Trust, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Smithsonian Institution