Fancy Party Gowns: The Story of Fashion Designer Ann Cole Lowe Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2018-04-20 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 5 user ratings

" Fancy Party Gowns tells the unknown story of dress designer Ann Cole Lowe. Ann operated a dress making business with her mother until the age of 16 when her mother died. Ann made wedding dress and bridesmaid dress for Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. It's a story of tenacity in the face of discrimination on multiple fronts. This book would be a good addition to a unit on entrepreneurship, women in business, and civil rights. It's a very quick read and could easily be added to a lesson plan. " said.

" The story of this little known dress designer is a gem. Depicting less well known but influential women in history, we can share more stories with children to show them what is possible. Aimed at a young audience, it feels like the racism that Ann Cole Lowe faced was glossed over too much, but as a starting point for the conversation, this book highlights the story of a real African American woman breaking barriers and achieving success. " said.

"I would liked to have given this book 4 stars but only gave 3 stars for several reasons: 1. The illustrations are very well done. BUT - in the author's note or at the end, a few photographs could have been added of both Ann Cole Lowe and her designs.
2. This is good way to introduce young readers to Ann Cole Lowe. BUT more could have been written about her struggles as an African American in the fashion and business world and in our country.
More information and emotion could have been included in the text of this picture book - young readers deserve and want more.
" said.

"Loved the topic - the biography of this ground-breaking African American woman fashion designer and the illustrations. The text really missed something when it came to putting words to the racial injustice imposed upon this family. I didn't like the sentence about her family learning how to work hard to get by thanks to great-grandparents being slaves...that came off wrong. And as another reviewer pointed out, a couple of times the text basically equates racism as "life wasn't fair" - that's quite an understatement! It has good intentions and shows her perseverance and determination to be respected, successful and walk in the front door so I would read this book to students. We might need some more discussion about what kind of roadblocks she really faced in her life." said.

"This book tells the little-known story of Ann Cole Lowe, born in 1898, an African-American fashion designer who overcame a great deal of hardship and prejudice to become a leading star in the fashion world, even designing the wedding dress for Jacqueline Bouvier when she married John F. Kennedy.

Ann grew up in Alabama sewing alongside her mother, who, however, died when Ann was just 16. But Ann kept up with her mother's orders, and even attended design school in New York in 1917. But, as the author reports, she had to sit all alone in a separate room since she was black.

Eventually Ann was able to start her own business. One of the more memorable vignettes in the book is about the time Ann came to the Bouvier mansion in Newport, Rhode Island in 1953 to bring the wedding party dresses for soon-to-be Jacqueline Kennedy. The butler told her she would have to use the back entrance:

“Ann said that if she had to enter through the back door, the bride and bridesmaids wouldn’t be wearing her dresses for the wedding. She entered through the front door.”

Ann continued to design dresses for prominent women, but struggled financially, and in 1960 was forced to close her salon. She died in 1981 at the age of 82.

Illustrations by Laura Freeman are done in a style fashionistas will recognize known as “fashion illustration” or “fashion sketching.” They not only show a representation or design of a garment but are considered as a form of art. One sees less of it now with the greater use of photography, but designers still use this form of art for the initial representation of their ideas. [While Freeman's illustrations of some of Lowe’s finished gowns show women of color wearing them, Lowe’s designs were mostly purchased by wealthy white society women.]

Evaluation: I always loved beautiful gowns as a girl. I would have loved this book, as it combines an inspiring story with a “princess” element that will have broad appeal.
" said.

" The beautifully illustrated story of Ann Cole Lowe who designed gowns for many rich and famous women, including Jacqueline Kennedy's wedding gown. Her gowns were gorgeous!! " said.

" The designer is probably most famous for Jackie Kennedy's wedding dress. " said.

" Loved looking at the illustrated designs - would have poured over those as a young reader!Interesting biography about someone I was unfamiliar with. " said.

April 2018 New Book:

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