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Ann Lowe’s Barrier-Breaking Mid-Century Couture: How a Black designer made her way among the white élite

by Judith Thurman

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Despite assiduous research, much of what is known about Ann Lowe’s life — especially her youth — comes from interviews that she gave as an elderly woman. One can’t discount her lapses of memory, or her genius for embellishment. But one also can’t discount the paucity of public records documenting the births, marriages, and deaths of African-Americans, not to mention their accomplishments. Several dozen of Lowe’s dresses have been lovingly preserved — out of thousands. The fabric of her biography is an imperfect patchwork.

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