Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Lilly Pulitzer Nov. 10, 1931 - April 7, 2013 Socialite's Bright, Flowery Dresses Became Uniform for Jet-Setters

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Lilly Pulitzer Nov. 10, 1931 - April 7, 2013 Socialite's Bright, Flowery Dresses Became Uniform for Jet-Setters

Article excerpt

Lilly Pulitzer, the Palm Beach princess of prints who created an enduring fashion uniform for wealthy socialites and jet setters almost by accident, died Sunday at her home in Florida. She was 81.

Her death was confirmed by the Lilly Pulitzer company, which provided no further details.

As the story goes, in its most romanticized version, Ms. Pulitzer's fashion empire, famous for its tropical print shift dresses and lighthearted embrace of jarring color combinations like flamingo pink and apple green, was born out of necessity.

In 1959, after opening a juice stand among the citrus groves of Palm Beach, Ms. Pulitzer, an heiress herself who had married young into the wealthy publishing family, needed a dress that would camouflage the stains of countless orange and grapefruit spills. So she had one made, creating a look that proved to be so popular it would become a mark of membership for old-money families at play for more than five decades. Her vividly flowered housedresses became known, in the shorthand of the rich, simply as Lillys.

Of course, the story was more complicated -- full of joie de vivre though not entirely happy at the beginning -- but then the beauty of Lilly Pulitzer dresses was that they were designed to be something of a disguise. Made of plain cotton, constructed so simply that they could be re-created at home, the modestly priced dresses embodied the "Puritan ethics of balance and value," as Laura Jacobs wrote in a Vanity Fair profile of Ms. Pulitzer in 2003. They were accessible to most, but really wearable only by the few who were so rich that they could afford to have bad taste. A minidress of green peacocks dancing with merry seashells is not for just anyone.

At its height in the 1960s and 1970s, Lilly Pulitzer, with its popular resort wear, had sales of more than $15 million and clients like Jacqueline Kennedy and C.Z. Guest. Revived by a licensing company two decades ago, after Ms. Pulitzer's retirement, the label now has sales of roughly $75 million with modern takes on many of her original prints.

Lillian Lee McKim was born Nov. 10, 1931, in Roslyn, N.Y., the second of three daughters of Robert and Lillian McKim. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.