Only the Best: The Exceptional Life and Fashion of Ann Lowe

Chronicle. Oct. 2022. 56p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781452161600.
Gr 1-4–This picture book biography is as elegant as its subject—African American fashion designer Ann Lowe. Messner works with decorative arts historian Powell to present the life of Lowe who, despite facing immense racism as she developed her career in the early part of the 20th century, prevailed as one of the premier designers of her time. The story is one of determination and perseverance, as Lowe faces obstacle after obstacle, from the death of her mother (also her sewing mentor), to being shunned as the only Black student in her fashion school, and having stores take advantage of her designs but refuse to display her name. In a dramatic climax, Lowe has to recover from a flooded work room just days before the wedding of Jacqueline Bouvier and John F. Kennedy, resewing the majority of the dresses she was hired to create. Using repetition and lyrical language, the authors emphasize her determination and desire to present “only the best.” Crisp action words like snip, tuck, pin, drape, and cut provide auditory enjoyment along with abstract ideas such as “measuring fabric against imagination.” Mixed-media artist Robinson creates dimension, texture, and movement with her collage illustrations. The textiles float and flow; depictions of Lowe’s creations are as lush and effervescent as the real garments. A flower motif true to Lowe’s designs courses through the book.
VERDICT A stylish biography worthy of inclusion on all shelves.

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