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Arts Playlist: Previewing “Ann Lowe: American Couturier” at Winterthur Museum

Ann Lowe notably created Jackie Kennedy’s wedding dress (pictured).
Kyle McKinnon
Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library
Ann Lowe notably created Jackie Kennedy’s wedding dress (replica pictured).

The largest exhibition focused on America’s first successful Black fashion designer opens this weekend at Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library.

“Ann Lowe: American Couturier” highlights the life and work of Ann Lowe, who created couture gowns for debutantes, heiresses, actresses, and social icons, including Jackie Kennedy’s wedding dress.

In this edition of Arts Playlist, Delaware Public Media’s Karl Lengel sits down with Winterthur curator Kim Collison and guest curator Elizabeth Way to learn more about Lowe and the exhibit.

Curators Kim Collison and Elizabeth Way preview the “Ann Lowe: American Couturier” exhibit with Delaware Public Media’s Karl Lengel

Winterthur Museum’s exhibit spotlighting Ann Lowe – the first successful Black fashion designer in America - is now open.

In 1964, the Saturday Evening Post hailed the fashion designer Ann Lowe as “Society’s Best Kept Secret”. Lowe designed Jackie Kennedy’s 1953 wedding dress and was popular among other society notables of the time, including Olivia deHaviland, the Rothschilds and the DuPonts.

The Winterhur presents 40 of her gowns, many that have never been on public display, illuminating Lowe’s design evolution from the 1920s to the 1960s. Elizabeth Way from The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology is guest curator of the exhibition. Way is also the lead author of Winterthur’s upcoming book on Lowe. She says Lowe’s race did not stop a steady flow of patrons.

“But she was also in this nebulous position as a dressmaker, as a fashion designer, and she wasn’t necessarily very well publicized during her life. So there were certain dynamics about class and especially race that did impact her,” said Way.

The Winterhur’s Kim Collison, Curator of Exhibitions, says the museum's long-running research on Lowe’s work and the facility’s curatorial strength made Winterthur the perfect location for the exhibit.

“Because so many of these pieces had been in private collections or are newer to museums, many of them required a great deal of conservation, and Winterhur, with our conservation labs, was able to really conserve the pieces to make them exhibitable here” said Collison.

The Winterhur’s exhibit Ann Lowe: American Couturier is the largest of Lowe’s work to date and runs through January 7th.

Delaware Public Media' s arts coverage is made possible, in part, by support from the Delaware Division of the Arts, a state agency dedicated to nurturing and supporting the arts in Delaware, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.

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Karl Lengel has worked in the lively arts as an actor, announcer, manager, director, administrator and teacher. In broadcast, he has accumulated three decades of on-air experience, most recently in New Orleans as WWNO’s anchor for NPR’s “All Things Considered” and a host for the broadcast/podcast “Louisiana Considered”.
Kyle McKinnon is the Senior Producer for The Green with a passion for storytelling and connecting with people.