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June 7, 2023
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Ann Lowe

Ann Lowe was born into a family of seamstresses in Montgomery, Alabama, who had started their own dressmaking business. Her mother excelled in needlework and her grandmother was a former enslaved dressmaker. Lowe’s mother died abruptly when she was sixteen years old. Lowe performed a high-profile order from the governor’s wife, establishing her as the family’s new leader. Lowe divorced her husband and relocated to Florida with her son, where she worked for ten years as a live-in dressmaker for a socialite. She went to New York City in 1917 to take sewing classes. She was segregated from her peers since she was the only Black student. In 1928, she relocated to New York City permanently. Lowe’s network of clients was crucial to her success. Her one-of-a-kind gowns composed of excellent fabric and craftsmanship, typically suggesting floral designs, earned her fame among Lowe specialized in debutante gowns, and happy customers would come back to her for their wedding gowns. The couture-quality techniques indicative of Lowe’s handiwork, according to Museum at FIT curator Elizabeth Way, were “gathered tulle and canvas to hold out hems, lace seam bindings, hand sewn organza facings, and weights to promote proper hang.” the wealthy American elite. Lowe established her own business, “Ann Lowe’s Gowns,” in New York City in 1950.

My given name, Fe Noel, is taken from my maiden name, Felisha Noel. As a fashion designer, I strive to make life beautiful, something I’ve wanted to accomplish since I was a child. As a first-generation American living in Brooklyn, New York, I was introduced to fashion at an early age. Felisha Noel has always been inspired by Renaissance art, despite the fact that she has rarely came across ancient pictures that relate to her own sense of self. “Unless they were represented as slaves, black women have always been excluded from those narratives,” says Noel, who founded her label, Fe Noel, eight years ago.

As a child, he witnessed his grandma and many other female role models. In high school, his family sent him to art school, which was a life-changing event for him. He was turned down by FIT and Parsons when trying to get into the business. He established a company called “LaQuan Smith 3D leggings” and became known as the “leggings” person.

Lowe designed Jacqueline Bouvier’s wedding gown, as well as the dresses worn by the bridal party, when she married Senator John Fitzgerald Kennedy in 1953. 50 yards “of silk taffeta… adorned with interwoven bands of tucking, finished with a portrait neckline and a bouffant skirt” is one of the most memorable bridal gowns ever. The occasion was covered by the New York Times, including the dress, but Lowe was not mentioned. Even when she was married to Onassis, Jackie would tell it was created by “a colored woman” when asked. Lowe’s designs were appreciated by high society women for 40 years, from the 1920s to the 1960s. He was one of the first African American fashion designers to earn international fame.

Lowe saw dressing the woman who would become the Senator’s wife to be an honor. But 10 days before the wedding a pipe broke in Lowe’s atelier, flooding her studio. Jackie’s gown, which had taken 2 months to create, was destroyed, as were most of the dresses for the wedding party. Lowe was devastated, but rallied and found a solution. The designer ordered more fabrics, and her team worked day and night until everything was remade. She never told the family what happened, did not bill for additional costs. Lowe ended up absorbing the expense, and even with her commission the costs nearly bankrupted her. 

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