Image (left): Johnson Publishing Company Archive. Courtesy Ford Foundation, J. Paul Getty Trust, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Smithsonian Institution.

In 1953, American couturier Ann Lowe designed the wedding dress for future First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier’s marriage to John F. Kennedy, a dress that became one of the most recognizable and beloved wedding dresses in America. As a Black designer, Lowe didn’t receive proper credit for her work at the time.

Image (left): Wax flower prototypes. Image (right): Rosette details.

Textile conservator Kate Sahmel accompanied University of Delaware Fashion and Apparel Studies professor Katya Roelse for a recent visit to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston to examine and document the construction of the original dress, which is too fragile to display on a form. Working with University students, Roelse will use the information gathered from this visit to create a reproduction of the dress for the Winterthur exhibition Ann Lowe: American Couturier, opening September 2023.

Katya Roelse (left) University of Delaware Instructor of Fashion and Apparel Studies, with the muslin prototype of the wedding gown she created, and Elizabeth Way (right) Associate Curator, The Museum of FIT, and guest curator of the 2023 exhibition, Ann Lowe: American Couturier, examining the muslin prototype.

The dress features several details characteristic of Lowe’s work, such as the ornate rosettes that embellish the skirt, each with a small spray of wax flowers at the center. A blue ribbon hidden under the skirt at the hem was a delightful surprise and completed the dress with a hopeful charm for her new marriage.

Details of the original wedding dress.