Picking up scraps of fabric from the floor and sewing table as my aunt measured and cut out pattern pieces for my clothes, thrilled me as a child. I would bundle up the useable pieces, meaning any scraps of fabric big enough to make something from, and save them in a big basket. At home, I’d drape the fabric pieces over my dolls, same as I had watched my aunt drape the larger pieces of fabric over me or her dressmaker doll, and fashion a miniature wardrobe. When I achieved the right look and style, I’d thread my needle and stitch the fabrics into dresses and skirts. As a new and very young seamstress, I hadn’t learned how to sew buttons, button holes, and zippers, so I kept the dresses and skirts closed on my dolls with a length of ribbon as a fancy sash.
Years later when I was about twelve, my aunt figured I had observed her long enough and was ready to cut out and sew something for myself. I started with simple skirts and shorts. Over time, I worked up to more complex shirts and dresses. When I can find the time, I still enjoy sewing. But these days, most everything I make is with love for my daughter. Some of you might have heard me shout out on Facebook when she announced, “By the way, Mom, I need a Belle costume from Beauty and the Beast for school in three days.” And…speaking of sewing gowns, today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday selection is Fancy Party Gowns: The Story of Fashion Designer Ann Cole Lowe.
Title – Fancy Party Gowns: The Story of Fashion Designer Ann Cole Lowe
Written by – Deborah Blumenthal
Illustrated by – Laura Freeman
Published by – Little Bee Books – 2017
Suitable for ages – 4-8
Topics – African American fashion designer, determination.
Opening – When she was old enough to thread a needle, Ann Cole Lowe’s momma and grandma taught her how to sew.
Wisps of cloth would fall from their worktables like confetti, and Ann would scoop them up and turn them into flowers as bright as roses in the garden.
Ann’s family came from Alabama. Her great-grandma had been a slave, so her family knew about working hard just to get by.
Amazon Review – View it HERE. A beautiful picture book about Ann Cole Lowe, a little-known African-American fashion designer who battled personal and social adversity in order to pursue her passion of making beautiful gowns and went on to become one of society’s top designers.
Why do I like this book? On a personal note, I enjoyed reading a book about a designer who started her fashion career stitching scraps of fabrics she gathered in her mother’s sewing room–same as I enjoyed doing when I was a child. (However, my young seamstress days took me down a different path.) Ann Cole Lowe was an African American fashion designer who, because of her color, had to study alone in a separate classroom. Despite the unfairness, she pushed forward and continued to design one of a kind gowns, eventually earning enough money to open her own Manhattan salon where she was commissioned to sew a very special wedding gown. When wedding bells rang, it was for the future first lady of the United States, Jacqueline Bouvier Kenedy. The story inspires and shows, that with determination, anything is possible.
Want to learn a little more about Ann Cole Lowe? Click HERE.
Learn more about Deborah Blumenthal HERE.
Learn more about Laura Freeman HERE.