The incredible untold story of how Ann Lowe, a Black woman and granddaughter of slaves, rose above personal struggles and racial prejudice to design and create one of America's most famous wedding dresses of all time for Jackie Kennedy.
1953, New York City
Less than a week before the society wedding of the year where Jacqueline Bouvier will marry John F. Kennedy, a pipe bursts at Ann Lowe’s dress shop and ruins eleven dresses, including the expensive wedding dress, a dress that will be judged by thousands. A Black designer who has fought every step of the way, Ann knows this is only one struggle after a lifetime of them. She and her seamstresses will find the way to re-create the dresses. It may take all day and all night for the next week to accomplish the task, but they will do it.
Raised in Jim Crow Alabama, Ann learned the art of sewing from her mother and her grandmother, a former slave, who are the most talented seamstresses in the state. After Ann elopes at twelve with an older man who soon proves himself to be an abusive alcoholic, her dreams of becoming a celebrated designer seem to be put on hold. But then a wealthy Tampa socialite sees Ann’s talent and offers her an amazing opportunity—the chance to sew and design clothing for Florida’s society elite. Taking her young son in the middle of the night, Ann escapes her husband and embarks on the adventure of a lifetime.
Based on the true story of one of the most famous designers of the twenties through the sixties who has since been unjustly forgotten, By Her Own Design is an unforgettable novel of determination despite countless obstacles and a triumph celebrated by the world.
Piper Huguley is the author of the Home to Milford College and the Migrations of the Heart series. She is a multiple-time Golden Heart finalist. Piper blogs about the history behind her novels on her website. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and son.
"I could feel the love with which Piper Huguley crafted this tale about the life of Ann Cole Lowe, yet another "hidden figure" in American history. Huguley expertly morphs each one of Lowe's heartbreaks into triumph and hope." — Kaia Alderson, author of Sisters in Arms
"From the first words of By Her Own Design, Ann Lowe's vibrant, determined voice positively leaps off the page. Piper Huguley captures lightning in a bottle, an ideal match between writer and subject. In Huguley's talented hands, Lowe's remarkable story surges out of the shadows, practically demanding to be told and shared and celebrated." — Greer Macallister, bestselling author of The Magician's Lie and The Arctic Fury
"As intricate and impressive as one of Ann Lowe's designs, Piper Huguley's By Her Own Design isn't just the story of a dress, or even a life. It's a whirlwind trip through an America in flux, from the days of hobble skirts to the wobbly image of Lady Diana Spencer on a square tv screen, seen through the eyes of a woman so real and raw that you'll feel like you're living it all with her. This is biographical fiction at its very best!" — Lauren Willig, New York Times bestselling author of Band of Sisters
"By Her Own Design is a vivid, powerful, and ultimately hopeful novel about “hidden figure” Ann Cole Lowe and her fight to create and deliver Jacqueline Kennedy’s wedding dress—as well as her life-long battle for love, family, and legacy. Brava Piper Huguley, who brings a fascinating chapter of history to vibrant life. I loved it!" — Susan Elia MacNeal, New York Times bestselling author of the Maggie Hope series and Mother Daughter Traitor Spy
“By Her Own Design captivated me completely, from beginning to end. Ann Lowe’s voice rings out powerfully from the pages, and the reader will reckon with the world through her eyes—eyes that saw both beauty and pain, triumph and erasure. Piper Huguley has written a masterpiece for the ages, richly crafted with glamorous detail and unflinching emotion.” — Paulette Kennedy, author of Parting the Veil
"I can’t remember the last time a book has enchanted me so much. Piper Huguley writes with an unparalleled voice, bringing the reader deep into the ambitious heart of one of the most influential figures in the history of western fashion. I couldn’t put this novel down." — Libbie Grant, author of The Prophet’s Wife
"Piper Huguley’s By Her Own Design is a breathtaking journey. With masterful craftsmanship, Huguley brings to life the story of Ann Lowe, the first African-American fashion designer. Lowe learns her craft at her mother and grandmother’s knees and ascends to the highest levels of the fashion industry in New York despite every possible challenge being thrown her way. Huguley’s deft rendering of Lowe’s tale is at once heart-rending and uplifting. Compulsively readable, with a rich cast of characters and flawless pacing. I fully predict this book will be a breakout hit of the season. Not to be missed!" — Aimie K. Runyan, bestselling author of The School for German Brides
"I flew through the pages of this fascinating novel about Ann Lowe and her incredible rise in the fashion industry. In By Her Own Design, Piper Huguley has written a wonderfully inspiring and intimate book that will leave readers hungry to read more about women who have been overlooked for far too long. Don't miss this one!" — Elise Hooper, author of Angels of the Pacific
For too many years fashion designer Ann Lowe's work has gone uncredited, but Piper Huguley's utterly compelling novel celebrates her incredible designs and work in a gripping story as intricately detailed as one Lowe's gowns. Huguley is masterful in bringing Lowe's voice to life through her struggles and her triumphs. By Her Own Design is a must-read! — Julia Kelly, international bestselling author of The Last Dance of the Debutante
"By Her Own Design’s powerful voice and dedicated research bring an unsung heroine into the well-deserved spotlight. Fierce and fashionable Ann Lowe, long erased from history as the unnamed "colored dressmaker" behind Jackie Kennedy's famous wedding dress, claws her way here from a Jim Crow Alabama childhood to a storied career as dress designer for the social elite. Her climb is mesmerizing-- Piper Huguley has crafted a heroine for the ages!" — Kate Quinn, NY Times Bestselling author of The Diamond Eye
“Piper Huguley’s By Her Own Design is a sumptuous quilt with lyrical lace and detailed thread work that made an iconic life feel authentic and heartwarming… Readers will love getting to know Ann Lowe and the story behind the designs.” — Vanessa Riley, Bestselling Author of Island Queen
"The facts of Ann Lowe's life are remarkable, but Huguley has taken us a step further, harnessing the art of fiction to invoke the emotions of her experiences and bring Ann Lowe to life." — Elizabeth Way, Associate Curator, The Museum at FIT and editor of Black Designers in American Fashion.
"Piper Huguely’s captivating and eye-opening novel By Her Own Design, explores the life of Ann Lowe, a gifted woman descended from slaves, who overcomes brutal racial prejudice and personal strife to become a dress designer for society’s elite, ultimately designing Jacqueline Bouvier's iconic wedding gown. Like Lowe’s gorgeous and whimsical dress designs, Huguley’s By Her Own Design is beautifully crafted with meticulous attention to detail, pulling this extraordinary woman out of the shadows of history and bringing her into the light for posterity." — Jane Healey, bestselling author of The Secret Stealers
"A remarkable, exciting read, not only because Huguley brings to life a brilliant fashion designer who's been lost to history, but because she practically channels the spirit and voice of Ann Lowe. This is a book to be devoured."
— Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author of The Magnolia Palace
"Piper Huguley's novel follows the arc of Ann Lowe's amazing life from her childhood in Alabama fashioning ethereal silk flowers to the greatest commission of her career, the wedding dress of Jacqueline Bouvier to John F Kennedy. The challenges of that life and her determination to succeed are beautifully recounted in this wonderful story." — Dr. Kate Strasdin, Senior Lecturer, Cultural Studies at Falmouth University
"An extraordinary woman steps from the pages of this novel, full of courage and tenacity despite the limitations placed on her because of the color of her skin. I love the distinctive voice of Ann Lowe: she’s a true original. It's difficult to write in first person but Piper Huguley completely nails it, giving us a character who sounds and feels utterly authentic. It's a compelling read." — Gill Paul, author of The Manhattan Girls