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US NewsJackie Kennedy’s fairy-tale wedding was a nightmare for her African American dress designer

02:05  29 august  2019
02:05  29 august  2019 Source:   washingtonpost.com

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Jackie Kennedy ’ s fairy - tale wedding was a nightmare for her African American dress designer . Ann Lowe was snubbed by the future first lady, who described her as ‘a colored dressmaker’ without naming her . Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy in the wedding gown designed by Ann Lowe on Sept.

The 1953 wedding of Jacqueline Bouvier and then-Sen. John F. Kennedy was so perfect it is still being talked about more than 65 years later. But for Ann Lowe, who designed the bridal gown, it was a nightmare . First, the wedding dress was destroyed 10 days before the ceremony.

Jackie Kennedy’s fairy-tale wedding was a nightmare for her African American dress designer © Toni Frisell/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy in the wedding gown designed by Ann Lowe on September 12, 1953. Groom John F. Kennedy is second from right. (Toni Frisell/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum)

The 1953 wedding of Jacqueline Bouvier and then-Sen. John F. Kennedy was so perfect it is still being talked about more than 65 years later. As recently as 2017, gossip website The List was still calling it “the most beautiful wedding ever.” It was a fairy tale worthy of the legendary couple who would preside over Camelot.

But for Ann Lowe, who designed the bridal gown, it was a nightmare. First, the wedding dress was destroyed 10 days before the ceremony. Then the 24-year-old bride, who did not really like the gown in the first place, snubbed her.

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Lowe, an African - American designer who was a favorite of the society set, had been hired to dress the woman of the hour, the entire bridal party Now, the country’ s first black high-fashion designer is finally getting her due. Three Lowe gowns are on display at the Smithsonian Institution’ s new National

The new National Museum of African American History and Culture opened in Washington D.C. last month, an institution designed to educate its Perhaps best-known for creating Jackie Kennedy ' s wedding gown (as well as the gowns of her bridal attendants), Lowe was a designer during the

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Jackie Kennedy’s fairy-tale wedding was a nightmare for her African American dress designer
Jackie Kennedy’s fairy-tale wedding was a nightmare for her African American dress designer
Jackie Kennedy’s fairy-tale wedding was a nightmare for her African American dress designer
Jackie Kennedy’s fairy-tale wedding was a nightmare for her African American dress designer
Jackie Kennedy’s fairy-tale wedding was a nightmare for her African American dress designer
Jackie Kennedy’s fairy-tale wedding was a nightmare for her African American dress designer
Jackie Kennedy’s fairy-tale wedding was a nightmare for her African American dress designer
Jackie Kennedy’s fairy-tale wedding was a nightmare for her African American dress designer
Jackie Kennedy’s fairy-tale wedding was a nightmare for her African American dress designer
Jackie Kennedy’s fairy-tale wedding was a nightmare for her African American dress designer
Jackie Kennedy’s fairy-tale wedding was a nightmare for her African American dress designer
Jackie Kennedy’s fairy-tale wedding was a nightmare for her African American dress designer
Jackie Kennedy’s fairy-tale wedding was a nightmare for her African American dress designer
Jackie Kennedy’s fairy-tale wedding was a nightmare for her African American dress designer
Jackie Kennedy’s fairy-tale wedding was a nightmare for her African American dress designer
Jackie Kennedy’s fairy-tale wedding was a nightmare for her African American dress designer
Jackie Kennedy’s fairy-tale wedding was a nightmare for her African American dress designer
Jackie Kennedy’s fairy-tale wedding was a nightmare for her African American dress designer
Jackie Kennedy’s fairy-tale wedding was a nightmare for her African American dress designer
Jackie Kennedy’s fairy-tale wedding was a nightmare for her African American dress designer
Jackie Kennedy’s fairy-tale wedding was a nightmare for her African American dress designer

Asked who made the dress, a viral tweet remembered this week, Jackie simply responded ”a colored dressmaker.”

Ann Lowe was born and raised in Clayton, Ala. Her great-grandmother, an enslaved woman, had given birth to a child fathered by her white plantation owner. Her mother and grandmother were both seamstresses to wealthy Alabama elites and as a child, she amused herself by shaping cloth flowers out of the scraps leftover in their work, she told Ebony in 1966.

Jackie Kennedy’s fairy-tale wedding was a nightmare for her African American dress designer © Time Life Pictures Jackie Kennedy (C), wife of Sen., at press conference in hotel room. (Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Her mother died when Lowe was only 16, leaving four ball gowns for the first lady of Alabama unfinished. Lowe completed the order.

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At 18, she shocked administrators at a New York fashion school when she showed up for class; they hadn’t realized they had admitted a black woman until that moment. She was segregated from her classmates; but still she excelled and graduated early.

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After 10 years working in Florida, Lowe returned to New York, where she quickly became the go-to dress designer for the highest of high society — the Rockefellers, the Roosevelts, the du Ponts.

Lowe was proud of this distinction, telling Ebony she was “an awful snob.”

Jackie Kennedy’s fairy-tale wedding was a nightmare for her African American dress designer © Time Life Pictures Jacqueline Bouvier in gorgeous Battenburg wedding dress w. her husband Sen. John Kennedy as they stand in front of church after wedding ceremony. (Photo by Lisa Larsen/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

“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.

In 1953, Lowe scored a major commission; she was hired to create Jacqueline Bouvier’s wedding dress, plus all of the gowns for the bridesmaids and bride’s mother.

Jackie Kennedy’s fairy-tale wedding was a nightmare for her African American dress designer Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy and Senator John F Kennedy Talking at their Wedding Reception, Newport, Rhode Island, USA, by Toni Frissell, September 12, 1953. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

By that point, Lowe had been working with the Bouviers for years, and she had a friendly relationship with 24-year-old Jackie, she later said. But it was not really Jackie’s show. The groom’s father — the famously domineering Joseph Kennedy — was involved in every detail of wedding planning, including the dress, according to author Rosemary E. Reed Miller in a 2007 interview with NPR.

Jackie Kennedy’s fairy-tale wedding was a nightmare for her African American dress designer © Time Life Pictures Socialite Jacqueline Bouvier in wedding dress on landing in home on day of her marriage to Sen. John Kennedy. (Photo by Lisa Larsen/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Jackie had just returned from Paris, and she wanted something simple and French, but the Kennedy patriarch would not have it. Lowe and her assistants spent two months cutting and sewing the ornate folds of the gown out of more than 50 yards of silk taffeta.

Ten days before the wedding, disaster struck. A pipe burst in Lowe’s studio, ruining 10 of the 15 dresses, including the bride’s. She and her team worked day and night to re-create the masterpieces in a fraction of the time. Rather than making a profit on the project, she ended up losing $2,200 — about $21,000 in today’s dollars.

Jackie Kennedy’s fairy-tale wedding was a nightmare for her African American dress designer Bridal portrait of Jacqueline Lee Bouvier (1929 - 1994) shows her in an Anne Lowe-designed wedding dress, a bouquet of flowers in her hands, New York, New York, 1953. (Photo by Bachrach/Getty Images)

Then, after her ordeal, when Lowe hand-delivered the gowns in Newport, R.I., she was told to enter through a service entrance in the back, according to the Smithsonian. She refused, saying either the dresses went with her through the front door or they went back with her to New York.

Joe Kennedy invited the press to cover the “social event of the season,” and reporters breathlessly recounted every detail they could glean.

Jackie Kennedy’s fairy-tale wedding was a nightmare for her African American dress designer Bridal portrait of Jacqueline Lee Bouvier (1929 - 1994) shows her in an Anne Lowe-designed wedding dress, a bouquet of flowers in her hands, New York, New York, 1953. (Photo by Bachrach/Getty Images)

Except one.

“[Jackie] didn’t love the dress, and people asked her who did the dress. She said, ‘I wanted to go to France, but a colored dressmaker did it.’ And Ann Lowe was devastated,” Miller told NPR.

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Lowe was essentially written out of what would have been a career-making gown for anyone else. According to Miller, only The Washington Post’s Nina Hyde reported who the designer was.

Lowe does not seem to have held a grudge about it, though. By 1964, she was telling the Saturday Evening Post how “sweet” Jackie Kennedy, by then a widow and former first lady, had been to her. That same year, Ebony said, Kennedy found out what Lowe had gone through with her wedding dress 11 years earlier.

Jackie Kennedy’s fairy-tale wedding was a nightmare for her African American dress designer © Time Life Pictures Sen. John F. Kennedy & his bride Jacqueline (nee Bouvier) enjoying dinner at their outdoor wedding celebration. (Photo by Lisa Larsen/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Despite her brilliance and reputation, Lowe was frequently taken advantage of by her clientele, who talked her prices down to a fraction of what they were worth. By the mid-1960s, she was tens of thousands of dollars in debt and in trouble with the IRS.

Then, an “anonymous friend” paid her back taxes, cutting her debts in half. Lowe suspected the anonymous friend was Jackie.

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