By Her Own Design: A Novel of Ann Lowe, Fashion Designer to the Social Register

Morrow. Jun. 2022. 384p. ISBN 9780063059740. pap. $16.99. F
Romance novelist Huguley (“Home to Milford College” series) painstakingly recreates the atmosphere of the early to mid–20th–century United States in her historical fiction debut. Born in Jim Crow Alabama, Ann Lowe learns how to sew from her mother and her grandmother who was born into enslavement. She dreams of designing gowns for high society, but instead marries at a young age to an abusive man. But then a wealthy society matron from Tampa sees Ann’s designs, and this gives Ann the opportunity to leave and start a new life in Florida. Soon Ann’s dresses get talked about, and New York City, and her own shop, beckons. When she receives the commission for the future Jackie Kennedy’s wedding dress, it seems she is at the height of her profession. But there are dark clouds on the horizon that will take all her strength and determination to overcome.
VERDICT Huguley brings to life a largely forgotten but immensely important figure in design history. Her choice to write through Ann’s eyes creates an intimacy that subsumes the historical to give a human perspective and voice. As good historical fiction does, this novel will amaze and impress readers.
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