Sunday, September 21, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Fashion icon Lilly Pulitzer has died

Lilly Pulitzer, the grand dame of all things girlie, preppy-chic, has died.

Fashion icon Lilly Pulitzer has died

FILE - In this March 16, 1965 file photo, Palm Beach the fashion designer Lilly Pulitzer, wears her own design and creation of the Lilly shift, in Palm Beach, Fla. Pulitzer, known for her tropical print dresses, dies in Florida at 81. (AP Photo/Robert H. Houston, File)
FILE - In this March 16, 1965 file photo, Palm Beach the fashion designer Lilly Pulitzer, wears her own design and creation of the Lilly shift, in Palm Beach, Fla. Pulitzer, known for her tropical print dresses, dies in Florida at 81. (AP Photo/Robert H. Houston, File)

Lilly Pulitzer, the grand dame of all things girlie, preppy-chic, has died.

She died at her home Sunday afternoon in Florida. She was 81.

What started  as a simple dress Pulitzer had designed for her  to hide orange juice stains - her first venture into business was selling fresh-squeezed  juice near her husband's groves - is now known world- wide as the world's most colorful ready-to-wear women's wear brand bursting with tropical prints, bold colors and joy.

A woman can't help but feel good when she puts on a pretty Lilly dress.

And thanks to 1960s fashion icon Jacqueline Kennedy, who wore one of Pulitzer's floral shifts in a Life magazine photo spread, that warm feeling is a staple in any socialite's wardrobe.

The company's headquarters are in King of Prussia.

But more interesting than Pulitzer's $122 million brand and its 20 stores, is Lilly. She was rich, yes; Pulitzer was born  Lilly McKim to an extremely wealthy family in Rosyln, New York. She married the grandson of the famouly wealthy Joseph Pulitzer, for whom the Pulitizer prize was named. She had nannies and employed them her whole life.  And I must admit, I don't own one Lilly dress - her aesthetic just isn't me. Still, I think I would have wanted to be her friend.

Before Pulitzer discovered her penchant for design, she had a nervous breakdown. She had three children in succession, looked up and realized she was bored and unfulfilled. Her doctor told her to find something to do for her to do, so in the 1950s she opened the orange grove stand. And In trying to find herself - basically maintain the aura of looking pristine and clean - she stumbled upon the floral patterns that would make her fashions iconic.

In finding her authentic self, Pulitzer found her true calling. And long before Oprah - who is also a friend in my head - Pulitzer suggested women everywhere do the same.

Pulitzer would have parties in her barefeet. She was a hippie at heart. She loved the easy going lifestyle. Her designs would draw upon everything from politics to tropical settings. Her work has inspired preppy designers everywhere from Ralph Lauren to Tommy Hilfiger to Tory Burch to L.L. Bean. A Lilly Pulitzer piece is clean, simple, bold and bright. She made crisp Nantucket style a fashion trend and became one of the original life style brands in the process.

Lilly Pulitzer was authentically Lilly.

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Elizabeth Wellington Fashion Columnist
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