When Jacqueline Bouvier married John F. Kennedy in 1953, it was the social wedding of the year. The glamorous couple had a bright future ahead of them. Kennedy was a senator from Massachusetts, World War II war hero, and a rising star in the Democratic Party. The future First Lady’s wedding dress was highly anticipated.

Designed by Ann Lowe, the dress became one of the most famous and iconic wedding dresses of the 20th century. The original wedding dress is in the collection of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum and is too fragile to be displayed.

In preparation for the upcoming Winterthur exhibition Ann Lowe: American Couturier, a reproduction was made of the dress by University of Delaware Fashion and Apparel Studies professor Katya Roelse and her students. Making the reproduction was an exacting process. Here are some fascinating facts about it.

  • The dress weighs at least 12 lbs.
  • The original wedding gown has a label with Ann Lowe’s name on it. This is incredibly rare; most of her gowns do not have her name on them.
  • A sweet touch is a six-loop blue bow stitched on the petticoat trim for “something blue.”  Jacqueline Kennedy wore her grandmother’s lace veil, presumably as something borrowed or old. 
  • The pleating across the bust took three days to create, drape, and assemble.
  • The “30-15” sleeves, which refer to the reported 30 hours and 15 minutes it took Lowe to develop the design, required a full day of work to drape and hand sew. The sleeve is a signature detail of Ann Lowe’s designs and is featured in many of her gowns.
  • The dress is 70% hand sewn.
  • It took two people approximately 18 hours over 3 days to completely measure the original.
  • Cutting the fabric for the reproduction took 15 hours. Sewing the dress (hand and machine sewing) took around 250 hours.
  • There are about 35 yards of fabric in the main part of the dress. Of these, about 20 yards were used to make the swags and rosettes which, trimmed and sewn, are transformed into 154 yards.
  • There are 10 yards of silk faille between the petticoat, corset, and the petticoat trim.
  • It took four people six days to gather, pin, and hand sew the swags and rosettes
  • It took six hours to hand baste the gathered trim, another six to pin and place it, and 20 hours to hand sew.
  • It took five hours to create, pin, and hand sew the ten layered rows of fabric at the hem of the gown that spiral into seven circular rosettes. Hand sewing them to the dress took at least another 50 hours. 

Follow along as we share more exciting behind-the-scenes features of the making of the exhibition Ann Lowe: American Couturier, opening September 9, 2023.