I like my money right where I can see it: hanging in my closet. -- Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City

15 April 2013

A Colorful Life-In Appreciation-Lilly Pulitzer Rousseau

 “Anything is possible with sunshine and a little pink.”
 Lilly Pulitzer Rousseau (1931-2013)
Lilly Pulitzer was a freespirit.  The Palm Beach socialite loved a party and believed style should be comfortable, easy and above all fun.  She walked barefoot down Worth Avenue and truly embodied what became her namesake style-The Lilly. 

 Can a simple dress change your day-if it is a Lilly it can. 

What's a Lilly?  Well, it couldn't be easier-three holes for arms and to put your head through, two darts, two slits on each side, sewn of simple cotton in the most fun and colorful prints... and you're dressed.  Sure it's a simple shift but in Lilly's hands -it became an icon. 

 "Style isn't just about what you wear, it's about how you live" 
 Slim Aarons photo via
In the late 1950s, Lilly Pulitzer had time on her hands, a wealthy husband who owned citrus groves, and the need to do something with her days, so she opened a juice stand just near Palm Beach's main shopping street.  Lilly soon discovered, however, that all that juice made stains so rather than pop on an apron she popped on what would become her signature dress.

“I didn't set out to be unusual or different. I just wanted to do things my way.”
 Lilly  gave her seamstress some basic cotton fabric with a large fruity print and asked her to whip up something that she could wear easily at the stand to hide all the juice stains.  At the same time her friend Laura Robbins Clark who was helping her came to the stand in a colorful shift as well.  Laura having been in the fashion business had a feeling the two had more than a "great minds think alike" moment-they had a business..  The rest is style history.
Lilly in her first shop on Via Mizner by Howell Conant via

The two designed a collection of happy prints for their easy going shifts and used Key West Handprint Fabrics.  The dresses hung on a basic pipe at the juice stand and quickly began selling faster than the juice. 

 Lilly's classic simple cotton dress was soon seen all over Palm Beach by the ladies who lunch-with and without shoes  -and when Lilly's old school friend Jacqueline Kennedy was seen wearing her Lillys on vacation-everyone wanted a Lilly.

Jackie in a Lilly, 1962 via LIFE

Lilly closed her juice stand and concentrated on her clothing business.  The Lilly prints all came from original artwork, as they do today-full, happy, colorful -inspired by the beach, the sun, the summer and the party.  The Lilly Pulitzer look became synonymous with a preppy socialite look, but Lilly understood that everyone wants that summer vacation spirit wherever and however they can get it.

Rose and Kathleen Kennedy in their Lillys via
  Lilly never played by the rules, she set her own style and her clothes reflected her world.  She said that she "designed collections around whatever struck my fancy ... fruits, vegetables, politics, or peacocks!”  The brand went through some tough years and filed for Chapter 11 in the 1980s but was acquired a decade later with Lilly still putting her stamp of approval on the fabric prints and has returned once again to color our closets and our lives . 

 “Life is a party. Dress like it” -Lilly Pulitzer

 Her designs reflected a way of life and  instantly brought to mind Palm Beach and summers at the Cape.  The simple styles made from whimsical tropical prints in happy vacation colors of pink and green, turquoise and yellow... were expanded in a full apparel line for women, kids and the preppiest of guys. 

 Fashion has come and gone but the Lillys our Moms wore in the 60s are still instantly recognizable as the signature of that once bored socialite- a "...gypsy, living a carefree life of ponies and tennis.”,  who believed that life should be a party and that "it's always summer somewhere."

"Being happy never goes out of style" 
Lilly Pulitzer Rousseau