Anna Lowe - Belfast Fashion Illustrator

A recent dive into our archives helped me to uncover some information about a talented fashion illustrator once active in Belfast named Anna Lowe.

Working from an office in Crescent Gardens, not far from the Ulster Museum, Anna’s drawings featured in international editions of Vogue and Harpers Bazaar, as well as local papers and shop windows across Northern Ireland. Her elegant illustrations capture the 1950s era and showcase Lowe’s talent for depicting different types of fabrics on paper.

In 1983, Anna’s sister, Mrs Dangerfield, offered these illustrations to the Ulster Museum to add to its Fashion Collection and provided the information we have now about her life and career.

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Childhood interest in fashion

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Showcards for Belfast stores

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Keeping up with the latest trends

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International and local clients

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Lingerie illustrations

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Lewinter knitwear

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Childhood interest in fashion

Anna Lowe was the daughter of the Very Rev WJ Lowe, MA DD. She was born July 27th 1895 in Londonderry and died 30th Nov 1975, aged 80. Her interest in fashion was apparent at an early age and she designed many of her own clothes as a child and would go on to train in Belfast Technical College.

Image: BELUM.T2146.40 and BELUM.T2146.38: Anna Lowe was sometimes commissioned to illustrate young girl’s fashions as well as women’s. These spirited illustrations of bridesmaid dresses for girls hearken back to Anna Lowe’s childhood interest in fashion
BELUM.T2146.40 and BELUM.T2146.38: Anna Lowe was sometimes commissioned to illustrate young girl’s fashions as well as women’s. These spirited illustrations of bridesmaid dresses for girls hearken back to Anna Lowe’s childhood interest in fashion

 

Showcards for Belfast stores

Anna’s drawings were often made into showcards for Belfast shops, such as Goorwitchs – a high-end drapery in Castle Place in the city centre. These showcards were placed in shop windows to advertise merchandise, but were gradually replaced by photographic work. Shop staff would place orders for showcard illustrations by phoning Anna directly and sending the goods they wanted her to illustrate to her home where she would put them on a mannequin to draw.

Image: Left: BELUM.T2146.4: A showcard illustration designed by Anna Lowe to adverstise new coats for sale in Goorwitch’s, Belfast. The fur trim on the collar of the top coat is expertly rendered. Right: BELUM.T2146.37: showcard indian ink and watercolour for Anny Lewinter knitwear, showing a woman in half-length holding a small female figure in her palm
Left: BELUM.T2146.4: A showcard illustration designed by Anna Lowe to adverstise new coats for sale in Goorwitch’s, Belfast. The fur trim on the collar of the top coat is expertly rendered. Right: BELUM.T2146.37: showcard indian ink and watercolour for Anny Lewinter knitwear, showing a woman in half-length holding a small female figure in her palm

 

Keeping up with the latest trends

Though based in Belfast, Anna was able to keep up to date with the latest fashions thanks to her sister who lived in London. She would regularly send catalogues from high end department stores such as Harrods.

Image: Left: BELUM.T2146.5: An illustration showing the military-inspired style that was popular during the World War II era. Right: BELUM.T2146.9: A page of sketches illustrating ‘New Look’ styles based on Christian Dior designs popular after the war. Anna Lowe kept up to date with the latest fashions through her contacts in London.
Left: BELUM.T2146.5: An illustration showing the military-inspired style that was popular during the World War II era. Right: BELUM.T2146.9: A page of sketches illustrating ‘New Look’ styles based on Christian Dior designs popular after the war. Anna Lowe kept up to date with the latest fashions through her contacts in London.

 

International and local clients

Anna Lowe’s elegant illustrations attracted many high-end international as well as local clients. Her work was regularly featured in Belfast Telegraph and Newsletter, but she also did work for Harpers Bazaar and for Vogue magazine’s US, French and Austrian editions.

Image: Left: BELUM.T2146.10: Illustration of purple skirt suit with a wintery backdrop. Right: BELUM.T2146.6: Illustration of a fanciful veiled hat
Left: BELUM.T2146.10: Illustration of purple skirt suit with a wintery backdrop. Right: BELUM.T2146.6: Illustration of a fanciful veiled hat

These examples show Anna Lowe’s ability to illustrate high end fashions that would have been featured in publications such as Vogue and Harpers Bazaar.

Image: Left: BELUM.T2146.1: Three quarter length female in red twinset mid 1950's. Middle: BELUM.T2146.2: Three quarter length female in red twinset which is open mid 1950's. Right: BELUM.T2146.3: Three quarter length female in red cardigan 1950's
Left: BELUM.T2146.1: Three quarter length female in red twinset mid 1950's. Middle: BELUM.T2146.2: Three quarter length female in red twinset which is open mid 1950's. Right: BELUM.T2146.3: Three quarter length female in red cardigan 1950's

Though Anna Lowe had an international clientele, this set of three illustrations for knitwear show the influence of Irish artists such as Paul Henry in her work. These were probably commissioned for Anny Lewinter knitwear of Newtownards.

 

Lingerie illustrations

Lowe’s clients also included lingerie manufacturers, such as Rose of London who advertised using her work on escalator walls on the underground. Lowe also produced underwear drawings for shops in Belfast.

Image: Left to right: BELUM.T2146.7: blue paper with poster painted drawing of a strapless bra. Lowe made expert use of negative space and highlighting when depicting forms on coloured backgrounds. BELUM.T2146.8: Grey green paper poster painted drawing of bra and girdle. BELUM.T2146.41: Black and white paintings of stockinged legs. Lowe was excellent at rendering the textures of different fabrics using a limited colour palette. BELUM.T2146.42: Black and white side view of stockinged legs. The strappy white platforms are also typical of 1950s fashion.
Left to right: BELUM.T2146.7: blue paper with poster painted drawing of a strapless bra. Lowe made expert use of negative space and highlighting when depicting forms on coloured backgrounds. BELUM.T2146.8: Grey green paper poster painted drawing of bra and girdle. BELUM.T2146.41: Black and white paintings of stockinged legs. Lowe was excellent at rendering the textures of different fabrics using a limited colour palette. BELUM.T2146.42: Black and white side view of stockinged legs. The strappy white platforms are also typical of 1950s fashion.

 

Lewinter knitwear

One of Anna Lowe’s most regular clients was Anny Lewinter, a couture knitwear factory in Newtownards that specialised in high quality knitwear for export. Anny’s husband, Zoltan Lewinter Frankl, was a patron of the arts in Northern Ireland and was the person Anna dealt with most closely when producing drawings for the Lewinter company.

The following series of eight illustrations are some of Anna’s most colourful work, and show a range of Lewinter knitwear designs, depicted by Lowe using poster paint and ink on coloured paper.