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The Untold Story of Jackie Kennedy's Wedding Dress

The Troubling Story Behind Jackie Kennedy’s Wedding Dress By Trailblazing Black Couturier, Ann Lowe

The Untold Story of Jackie Kennedy's Wedding Dress

https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/g33574229/jackie-kennedy-onassis-wedding-dress-details/

Many don't know that the bridal look was created by a Black couturier named Ann Lowe.
The wedding dress Jackie Kennedy, previously Jacqueline Lee Bouvier, wore on September 12, 1953 to marry John F. Kennedy is one of the most famous bridal gowns of the modern era. After photographs emerged of Jackie arriving at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Newport, Rhode Island, the fashion world was forever changed by her full-skirted, portrait-neckline gown. But while you may have seen many pictures of Jackie O's iconic dress before, there are some key facts about the gown that most don't know. Below, we take a closer look at the deeper story behind her wedding look.
It was designed by Ann Lowe.
ann lowe
BETTMANNGETTY IMAGES
Ann Lowe (R) was widely regarded as a talented, barrier-breaking designer, who worked on dresses for some of the country's most wealthiest families, including the Rockefellers, du Ponts, and Roosevelts, according to Elle. Despite her brilliance and success, as a Black seamstress, Ann faced racism and discrimination in her career. It's been reported that when the press asked Jackie who had made her wedding dress, the late first lady allegedly responded, "a colored dressmaker did it." The White House attempted to retract the article and Jackie's secretary explained to Ann that she didn't know she would be referred to as this in the article. By 1964, however, Ann had told the Saturday Evening Post how “sweet” Jackie had been to her.
It wasn’t Jackie's original wedding dress.
...socialite jacqueline bouvier fixing veil of wedding dress outdoors at hammersmith farm on day of her marriage to sen john kennedy  photo by lisa larsen the life picture collection via getty images
LISA LARSEN
Unfortunately, Jackie's first dress got destroyed in an unexpected flood when a pipe burst in Ann's New York City studio, ruining Jackie's dress and the bridesmaid dresses. Jackie's first dress had taken eight weeks to make, and, to make matters worse, the incident occurred a mere 10 days before the ceremony. And so, Ann recruited a few staff members, and after working night and day constantly, ended up recreating the gorgeous gown by the time Jackie's big day had arrived.
The designer lost thousands recreating Jackie's dress.
....senator john fitzgerald kennedy 1917   1963, democratic senator for massachusetts, escorts his bride jacqueline lee bouvier 1929   1994 down the church aisle shortly after their wedding ceremony at newport, rhode island   photo by keystonegetty images
KEYSTONE
According to a post on the National Museum of American History, Ann was expecting to bring in a $700 profit for creating Jackie's gown. But the unfortunate flood cost her lots of money in labor and replacement fabric — as a result, she ended up losing $2,200 in the process. Ann allegedly never told the Kennedys what had happened.
The gown featured 50 yards of ivory silk taffeta.
.....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 via getty images
LISA LARSEN
Despite the unexpected accident, Ann's last-minute hard work paid off in spades. The end result was a gown with a fitted bodice and a bouffant skirt embellished with 50 yards of flounces. To complement the gown, Jackie donned a choker full of pearls and a diamond bracelet, and carried a bouquet of pink and white spray orchids and gardenias. The look would go on to become one of the most notable bridal ensembles in modern history.


She wore a special veil with the dress.
view from behind of jacqueline kennedy 1929   1994 in a battenburg wedding dress as she dances with her husband, future us president john f kennedy 1917   1963 at their wedding reception, newport, rhode island, september 12, 1953 photo by lisa larsenthe life picture collection via getty images
LISA LARSEN
Though Jackie's gown takes center stage, she accessorized her bridal look with a rosepoint lace veil, which her grandmother wore when she got married. The veil was placed over a tiara made of lace and orange blossoms, per The JFK Presidential Library website.
John's father signed off on the design.
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 bachrachgetty images
BACHRACH
The dress, while stunning, wasn't actually what Jackie had in mind when she first started looking for a wedding gown. According to what Julia Faye Smith, author of Ann Lowe's biography, Something to Prove, told Elle, Jackie had been inspired by the looks she had seen in Paris at the time and yearned for something much sleeker and simpler. In the end though, her husband-to-be's father, Joe Kennedy, did not approve of Jackie's initial plan. But when he saw Ann's proposal, he liked her more traditional design.


Jackie had mixed feelings about the gown.
subject jackie onassis is wearing her grandmothers wedding gown as she marries john f kennedy  hammerstein farm newport, rhode island september 12, 1953photographer  lisa larsentime life staffmerlin  893688
LISA LARSEN
According to Time, the then-24-year-old bride was actually a bit self-conscious about her dress, thinking she "looked like a lampshade" in it. That said, Julia maintains that although the bride had a different vision in mind, "Jackie probably had some say in the design of her own gown."
John's father signed off on the design.
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 bachrachgetty images
BACHRACH
The dress, while stunning, wasn't actually what Jackie had in mind when she first started looking for a wedding gown. According to what Julia Faye Smith, author of Ann Lowe's biography, Something to Prove, told Elle, Jackie had been inspired by the looks she had seen in Paris at the time and yearned for something much sleeker and simpler. In the end though, her husband-to-be's father, Joe Kennedy, did not approve of Jackie's initial plan. But when he saw Ann's proposal, he liked her more traditional design.


Jackie had mixed feelings about the gown.
subject jackie onassis is wearing her grandmothers wedding gown as she marries john f kennedy  hammerstein farm newport, rhode island september 12, 1953photographer  lisa larsentime life staffmerlin  893688
LISA LARSEN
According to Time, the then-24-year-old bride was actually a bit self-conscious about her dress, thinking she "looked like a lampshade" in it. That said, Julia maintains that although the bride had a different vision in mind, "Jackie probably had some say in the design of her own gown."

The Troubling Story Behind Jackie Kennedy’s Wedding Dress By Trailblazing Black Couturier, Ann Lowe
BY ELLE TIMMS

https://www.vogue.co.uk/fashion/article/jackie-kennedy-wedding-dress

Designing the future first lady’s wedding dress should have been a career-defining moment for Ann Lowe. Almost 70 years later, her story is still practically unknown. 
When it comes to legendary romances, the courtship, fairy tale wedding, and subsequent marriage of John F Kennedy and Jacqueline Lee Bouvier is one of the most frequently told tales of the last century. Jackie Kennedy’s spectacular, ivory silk taffeta, portrait-neckline wedding dress remains one of the most imitated styles for brides ever since.
Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy in the wedding gown designed by Ann Lowe, sitting down next to John F Kennedy at their wedding on 12 September, 1953.
Less known is the story of its designer, Ann Lowe, the wildly talented trailblazing African-American couturier who catered to much of New York’s high society throughout the ’50s, including the Rockefellers, the Roosevelts, and the du Ponts. 


Lowe regularly crafted gowns for the International Debutantes Ball, was a self-confessed “awful snob”, and is said to have been devastated when she was snubbed by the 24-year-old future first lady. Not to mention the responsibility of making Jackie Kennedy’s wedding dress having its own set of challenging circumstances, to begin with. “I love my clothes, and I’m particular about who wears them. I’m not interested in sewing for cafe society or social climbers,” Lowe told Ebony magazine in 1966.


An official bridal portrait of Jacqueline Lee Bouvier in 1953.








The trouble began ten days before Kennedy’s ceremony when a pipe bust in Lowe’s studio and destroyed the original wedding dress plus a further nine out of 15 bridesmaids gowns. The main gown had taken two months and more than 50 yards of silk taffeta to create. The designer’s team worked tirelessly to catch up and remake the intricate pieces, at a loss of $2,200 — about $21,000 (or £16,000) in today’s money. 




According to author Rosemary E. Reed Miller during a 2007 interview with NPR, the groom’s famously domineering father, Joseph Kennedy, was involved in every detail of the day — and that included the dress. Having just returned from Paris, Jackie wanted something simple, chic, and French. The more ostentatious design was in fact the preference of her soon-to-be father-in-law, who had also been responsible for inviting a huge amount of press to cover the society wedding of the season. 


Reporters at the time disclosed every detail of the day, bar the designer of the dress. According to Miller, only The Washington Post’s Nina Hyde shared Ann Lowe’s name. 


It should have been a career highlight for a woman who had worked against the odds to reach such a point. Instead, Lowe was written out of the moment.


Ann Lowe adjusting the bodice of a gown worn by Alice Baker, pictured in 1962.






Growing up in Alabama, Lowe’s mother and grandmother were both seamstresses to the state’s wealthy elites. In 1914, when Lowe was just 16, she took on the responsibility of finishing four ball gowns for the first lady of Alabama, which had been left incomplete when her mother died. At 18, she arrived at a New York fashion school only to be segregated from her white classmates. She excelled and graduated early, before spending 10 years working in Florida and settling in New York. 


It appears that by 1964 – by which point Jackie Kennedy was a widowed former first lady – any hard feelings from 11 years prior had softened. Lowe was quoted in the Saturday Evening Post to say the bride had been “sweet”, and Ebony magazine suggests this was when Kennedy learned of Lowe’s original ordeal. 


Soon after, thousands of dollars in debt and trouble with the Internal Revenue Service were cleared for Lowe when an “anonymous friend” paid her back taxes, cutting her debts in half. According to The Washington Post, Lowe suspects the friend to have been Jackie. 


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