On a lovely morning of September 12, 1953, more than 750 guests filled
St. Mary's Church in Newport, Rhode Island to watch as John Kennedy and
Jacqueline Bouvier exchanged wedding vows in a ceremony presided over
by Archbishop Richard Cushing. For the occasion, the church had been decorated
with pink gladioli and white chrysanthemums. Boston tenor Luigi Vena sang
"Ave Maria." Following the 40-minute ceremony at which a papal blessing
was read, the new couple emerged into a throng of 3,000 well-wishers as
they made their way by motorcycle escort to Hammersmith Farm, the
Auchincloss estate overlooking Naragansett Bay.
Jacqueline Bouvier's wedding gown required 50 yards of ivory silk taffeta
and took more than two months to make. It was the creation of Ann Lowe,
an African-American dress-maker born in Clayton, Alabama, who had
designed gowns for the matrons of high society including the duPont, Lodge,
and Auchincloss families. The Bouvier wedding dress featured a portrait
neckline and bouffant skirt decorated with interwoven bands of tucking
and tiny wax flowers. Ms. Lowe also designed the pink faille silk gowns
and matching Tudor caps worn by the bridal attendants.
After two hours of greeting family and friends in a receiving line, the bridal
couple joined the 1,200 invited guests for champagne and dancing to the
music of Meyer Davis and his orchestra. For the first dance, the Kennedys
chose "I Married an Angel." Following the cutting of the five tier wedding
cake, a luncheon of fruit cup, creamed chicken and ice cream sculpted to
resemble roses was served.
Of course, the majority of the guests were also dressed in particularly fine attire.
Being such a high profile event, many of them would have chosen to wear the
1950s equivalent of top couturiers such as Armani, D&G clothing and Prada, or
other renowned designers. However, no-one was in any danger of over-
shadowing the bride in her elaborate and eye-catching gown.
Senator and Mrs. Kennedy departed Hammersmith Farm amid a shower
of paper rose petals. They traveled to New York to spend the night at the
Waldorf Astoria before going on to Acapulco, Mexico for a two-week honeymoon.
“The dress was the most photographed wedding dress in American history,”
said Rosemary E. Reed Miller, author of the book, ‘The Threads of Time,’
Profiles of African American Designers from 1850 to 1950. “Many people
do not know the dress, which is housed in the Kennedy Library in Boston,
was designed by an African American designer from New York City. History
is full of contributions of unknown Blacks from all sorts fields.”
For further information: Tel 202- 234-1212, or go the website:
www. Toastandstrawberries.com. the book is available there and on Amazon.Com
Rosemary E.Reed Miller,Toast and Strawberries,Dupont Circle, Wash., DC 20009,
Tel 202-2341212,Author of:
THE THREADS OF TIME THE FABRIC OF HISTORY, 21 Profiles of
African American Dressmakers and Designers from 1860 to 1960,
index, b & w photos, 192 pp., paperback, $19.99,B & W photos,
T&S Press,2003,ISBN 0-970-9713-0-