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.
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.
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.