As a part of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Florida’s 21st Century Community Learning Center programming, instructors from the fashion education program Form 2 Fashion introduced students to the couture techniques Ann Lowe would have used to create her signature flowers. Like many of our students, Ann had an early exposure to fashion, making fabric flowers starting at the age of seven.
Ann Cole Lowe dressed New York society’s most elite women and families for nearly 50 years, earning the title of “Society’s Best Kept Secret.” Her most notable designs were the wedding dress of Jaqueline Bouvier and the Oscar gown for Hollywood actress Olivia de Havilland.
Take a glimpse into the workspace of the young 21st century designers as they craft a garment fit for the runway, paying homage to the great Ann Cole Lowe.
Based in Orlando, Florida, Form 2 Fashion's mission is to teach valuable art & design skills to Central Florida’s youth with the goal of ensuring successful placement in the art, fashion, and design industry. Form 2 Fashion promotes education through fashion by providing early enrichment and a comprehensive and personalized fashion education experience. Students focus on the basics of design, entrepreneurship, illustration, innovation, and senior portfolio review.
Ann Lowe is one of 40 African American designers that are featured in our coloring book, "African Americans in Fashion History."
Ann Cole Lowe was born in 1898, in Clayton, Alabama. She was the great granddaughter of a slave and a plantation owner. Both her mother and grandmother worked as dressmakers for members of high society in Montgomery, Alabama.
Ann learned the art of dressmaking from her mother and grandmother. She watched her mother make fabric flowers and started to replicate them after the flowers growing in the garden. Her mother dies when Ann was 16 and left behind four unfinished dresses that were meant for the governor’s wife and daughters. Ann completed the dresses and had them delivered to the governor’s mansion in time for the Governor’s Inauguration Ball.
Ann moved to Dothan, Alabama with her husband and son. While at the local department store, Ann met Mrs. Josephine Edwards Lee. Mrs. Lee offered Ann a job as a live-in seamstress for her family in Tampa, Florida. Ann accepted the offer and moved to Tampa with her son. At the age of 18, Ann moved to New York and enrolled at S. T. Taylor Design School. Ann graduated ahead of schedule and returned to Tampa. Several years later, Ann moved back to New York and worked for commission at famous department stores such as Neiman Marcus, Henri Bendel, and Saks Fifth Avenue.
In 1950, she opened a new dress salon, Ann Lowe’s Gowns, and began taking dress orders for New York’s high society women. Ann preferred to create gowns for specific clients. She hired seamstresses to sew general orders for other customers. Ann personally designed gowns for famous families such as the Rockefellers family, the Auchincloss family, the Du Ponts, and the Potts family. She created the wedding dress for Mrs. Janet Auchincloss when she married Mr. Hugh Auchincloss (1942) ; the wedding dress for Ms. Jacqueline Bouvier when she married then-Senator John F. Kennedy (1953); the gown for Ms. Olivia de Havilland when she won Best Actress in 1947 at the Academy Awards; and countless others.
Ann did not receive public credit for her work throughout her career. She was often referred to as
“society’s best kept secret.” Ann Lowe retired from designing in 1972. In 1981, Ann died at the age of 82.
Proud Partner of the Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers of Florida and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Florida