- Fancy Party Gowns: The Story of Ann Cole Lowe by Deborah Blumenthal
ISBN 978-1-4998-0239-9 $17.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 2-4
When Cinderella went to the ball, she had a fairy godmother to dress her in style. When Jacqueline Bouvier wed John F. Kennedy, and when Olivia de Havilland accepted her Academy Award, there was no magical couturière on call but there was Ann Lowe, an African-American designer who had been running her mother’s clothing business, and then her own, for decades. This picture-book biography traces Lowe’s career from childhood, as she learned to sew from her mother and grandmother and quickly developed a passion for haute couture. After formal training at a design school in 1917 New York, where she was treated as a second-class student by her white peers, she worked her way up to owning a Manhattan salon. There she specialized in outfitting white A-listers and debutantes in glamorous, one-of-a-kind gowns, many of which are now featured in museums and, as might [End Page 209] be expected, a presidential library. Blumenthal selects quotations from Lowe that highlight how she viewed her own career: a desire “to prove that a Negro can become a major dress designer,” and the pride of following her creations’ successes (“‘I like to hear about it,’ said Ann. ‘The oohs and aahs as they come into the ballroom’”). Freeman’s bold, collage-style illustrations feature many of Lowe’s signature gowns, but actual photographs, particularly of the voluminous Kennedy gown, will surely be missed. No resources are included, but a brief author’s note is appended.