I am truly obsessed with Lilly Pulitzer to a disgusting point. I am even planning on naming my dog that I am getting later this summer Lilly Pulitzer. Well, Lilly Pulitzer or Bob Costas. I haven't decided yet. They both make really strong statements.
The story of Lilly Pulitzer is as old as time or 1958. I, of course, have it memorized but I am just going to confer with Wikipedia to make sure I get it exactly right. Lilly Pulitzer was born Lillan Lee McKim in Roslyn, New York in 1931. She attended the Chapin School in New York (one of her school mates was little miss Jacqueline Lee and we all know who that is). She then went on to Miss Porter's School and finally Finch College, the college-finishing school in New York City except she forgot to finish. Actually she left after one semester to work as a midwife's assistant in West Virginia (interesting) and a volunteer at the Veterans Hospital in The Bronx. Then in 1950 she got that last name Pulitzer when she married Peter Pulitzer, grandson of publisher Joseph Pulitzer. The young couple moved to Palm Beach, Florida where Peter owned several Florida citrus groves and Lilly opened a juice stand just off Worth Avenue.
Then Lilly made lemonade out of lemons. Actually it was oranges. She found that squeezing juice made a mess on her clothes so to camouflage the juice stains but still look super cute she designed a sleeveless shift dress made of bright, printed cotton. Customers loved the dress so she started making more and selling them at her juice stand. Eventually her "Lillys" took over the business and she decided they could get her farther than juice. Her use of bright colors just made everyone happy and like they were in Palm Beach all the time. In 1959 Lilly became president of her company Lilly Pulitzer. Jackie Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy, and members of the Vanderbilt and Whitney clans loved her designs and from the 1960s to the early 1980s they were considered to be a staple of the preppy wardrobe. Everybody had to have their summer Lillys.
But by 1984 Lilly was tired and decided to retire and close down the entire Lilly operation!!! But then in 1993 (luckily from about 1986 through 1993 I only liked to wear pants so this shut down didn't affect me) the rights to the brand were purchased by Sugartown Worldwide (which was eventually taken over by Oxford) because they wanted to revive the brand!!! Lilly stayed on as a creative consultant and today the company has 75 Lilly Pulitzer signature stores, company-owned retail stores and is sold in stores like Bloomingdales and Neiman Marcus.
In the past few years the brand has really exploded with more clothing as well as shoes, purses, jewelry, tech accessories (I have a Lilly iPad case!!!) and a bunch of other things in flower prints that no one needs. I usually opt for accessories because 1) they are really pretty 2) they are cheaper than a dress (LP knows how to make a buck) 3) unless you are super ballsy you have to be with the right crowd to wear a bright pink dress with orange elephants all over it. If you are in Nantucket, Palm Beach, Fire Island, Kennebunkport, Martha's Vineyard, Cape Cod, Point O' Woods or Dorians on the Upper East Side then Lilly it up (I may have missed a few so consult The Preppy Handbook for more examples).
When I see a Lilly dress I just get happy and not just because they are cheery prints but because someone had a really special idea years ago and generations of people love this clothing. And did you hear, she is coming out with furniture this summer!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh happy day!