The passing of socialite-cum-designer Lilly Pulitzer inspires a collective look at her enduring legacy and cheerful apparel.
Lilly Pulitzer Advertisement, 1971
Much has been written about the socialite-cum-designer Lilly Pulitzer in the week since her passing on Sunday, 7 April 2013. About her unlikely foray into fashion that began with a juice stand in Palm Beach, Florida, circa 1959. About all the glamorous women she dressed throughout the 1960s and 70s, including a Kennedy or two. About her notorious joie de vivre and “Life’s a Party!” raison d’être (not so much of a stretch, actually, given her background and blue-blood marriage to the grandson of Joseph Pulitzer). Certainly, Lilly Pulitzer Rousseau’s (she divorced in 1969 and later remarried) impact on fashion has been well-documented; what remains to be heard are all the personal stories from the generations of women who grew up with LP in their closets, the daughters whose mothers swooned over unearthed Pulitzer treasures in thrift shops and consignment stores the U.S. over, and the pieces that have been passed from generation to generation and continue to command enthusiasm on ebay and etsy.
Eleanor Barkhorn’s piece in The Atlantic this week touches upon this enduring appeal of Pulitzer apparel, claiming it’s the practicality and wearability of Pulitzer’s clothing that has carved its space in our collective closets for decades, an interesting- and true- fact somewhat at odds with its founder’s privileged roots, making her story all the more remarkable. If Emilio Pucci was Europe’s patrician “Prince of Prints” working concurrently across the ocean, Lilly Pulitzer was America’s laid-back counterpart, a Print Princess who traded in cheerful cottons vs. silk, wearable silhouettes inspired by Florida’s resort lifestyle, banking on accessibility and personality. May her legacy continue to inspire generations, and her whimsical sense of color, print, and design remain forever ingrained in our memory. Rest in Peace, Lilly P.
Below, a brief series of historical images that document Lilly herself and her fashion.
Lilly Pulitzer at her store off Via Mizner, Worth Ave, in Florida circa 1960s
Vintage Lilly Pulitzer , circa 1960s
…and she had cheerful handwriting too. The “Lilly letter” at the beginning of a 70s-era catalogue.
Lilly Pulitzer Catalogue page, Spring 1977
Rose Kennedy in Lilly Pulitzer
Various LP advertisements, L to R: 1978, 1968, 1970
Lilly Pulitzer in her own designs, March 16, 1965, Palm Beach, AP Photo/Robert H. Houston, File
Lilly Pulitzer fabrics being printed at the Key West Hand Print Fabrics shop, Key West, Florida, March 1978. Photo by Karl E. Holland, © State Archives of Florida, image number C684672
Various LP catalogue covers, L to R: Resort-Spring 1974-75, Resort 1976, circa 1970s
Diana Ewing in Lilly Pulitzer pants, photographed by John Shannon in California, July 1972. Photo © Condé Nast Archive/Corbis