Lilly Pulitzer Dead at 81…But Her Colorful Happiness Lives On

Lilly Pulitzer Dead

Looking at Lilly Pulitzer’s sunshine-y, happy and colorful prints, it would be easy to believe that a juice stand is where this iconic designer, who died yesterday at the age of 81, got her start.

I’ve never considered myself much of a fan of Lilly Pulitzer’s clothes, mainly because they’re incredibly geographically undesirable for me.  I’ve often found the clothes too happy, carefree and playful for my hard, cynical sarcastic New York sense of self and style.  Yet, not being a fan of Lilly Pulitzer’s fashion does not mean that I don’t appreciate her or the mega-empire that she created.    In fact, a few years ago while down in Florida for a week seeing clients and taking a break from a harsh New York winter, it was only a matter of days (along with editing through the closets of clients who had sections completely devoted to Lilly Pulitzer) before I noticed this strange urge to purchase some Lilly Pulitzer for myself.  Knowing that once I left the sunshine state, and went back to the reality of my life of neutrals and warm layers, I never did buy any.  

Lilly Pulitzer DeadSo, how did this Lilly Pulitzer go from juice stand to saleswoman to designer icon?  Born into affluence in 1931, she eloped with Peter Pulitzer and settled in Palm Beach.  The constant entertainers, who quickly became fixtures in the social circuit, owned orange groves.  Like most socialites, Lilly Pulitzer became a bored housewife and started selling oranges and grapefruits from her husband’s groves.

Necessity often being the mother of invention,  the Lilly Pulitzer shift dress was born after she asked her seamstress to make a colorful dress that would cover the stains from citrus juice and pulp.  From there, along with her friend Lisa Clark, their first store opened selling a sleeveless and sleeved version of the dress for $22.  It didn’t take long for this look to explode with a certain crowd…and I assure you, these women were not selling fruit.  Jackie Kennedy, Lilly Pulitzer’s former classmate, wore the classic shift dress in LIFE Magazine.

Lilly Pulitzer became a status symbol among a certain group of people. Pulitzer was the president, designer and visionary of her company and added things like a liner to the dresses because she preferred to not wear underwear in the Florida heat and when asked by a retailer to design clothing for the fall she simply replied, according to W Magazine, “Oh, but you don’t understand, it’s always summer somewhere.”

Lilly Pulitzer DeadWhile Lilly Pulitzer stumbled a bit in the 1980’s and filed for Chapter 11, the brand was bought by Sugartown Worldwide and the company has been able to maintain the integrity and vision created by Pulitzer while also modernizing it a bit to be more office friendly and versatile.

Regardless of whether or not you are a fan, it’s hard not to look at a Lilly Pulitzer print and not smile a bit, or at least think about your last or next vacation, which is why the company’s well known slogan, “Love, Lilly, and the Pursuit of Happiness” seems so fitting.

In honor of Lilly Pulitzer, and the longtime contribution she made the fashion industry, here are some looks I put together using some current styles available at LillyPulitzer.com

Lilly Pulitzer Dies at 81- Look 1

With mint green being so popular, this Lilly Pulitzer dress is more fully realized by bringing in a punch of coral through the handbag and finished off with smart, stylish metallic accessories.

 

Lilly Pulitzer Dies at 81- Look 2

In a classic, fruity Pulitzer print, you don’t have to hold back with accessories.  The brighter the better.

 

Lilly Pulitzer dies at 81- Look 3

When we think of resort or vacation style, bright come to mind.  This versatile maxi is a great piece to take away on your next trip or to have on hand for summer fun.

 

Lilly Pulitzer Dies at 81- Look 4

There are few colors on the planet at versatile as green.  If you’re looking to get some mileage out of a Lilly Pulitzer piece because, let’s face it, they’re not cheap, then green is a great choice.  Here I paired it with a printed clutch and pulled the purple from the print for the shoes and accessories.  However, you can pair any color with green and it would look great.

 

Lilly Pulitzer Dies at 81- Look 5

If you want head-to-toe Lilly then you can easily pull it off.  All components of this outfit are by Lilly Pulitzer.  Personally, I think it’s a little too much of a good thing, but it is definitely doable.

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