Loving Lilly: Remembering Lilly Pulitzer

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I was reading about fashion icon Lilly Pulizer and her death this past week at age 81. Her colorful trend setting, Palm Beach attire has always caught my eye, my daughter and I even sported a matching set of colorful shifts when she was little. What I learned is that Lilly Pultizer (with the exception of being a socialite in Palm Beach) was just like so many of us, working to keep a piece of her identity while raising kids and being a wife. It was the late 1950s , her wealthy husband owned citrus groves and she decided to sell oranges and grapefruits from the backseat of the family station wagon to keep busy. Little did she know that this decision would shape the rest of her life.

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From there she began making juice, Lilly was squeezing juice all day and needed to hide all the juice stains on her clothes. Instead of just putting on an apron, she asked her seamstress to make some sleeveless dresses in colorful fruit prints and not before long women were asking where they could buy the dresses. Lilly had some made for the stand that hung in the back and soon started selling more dresses than juice. Her dresses became a huge sensation in the 1960s when then-first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, who attended boarding school with Lilly, wore one of the sleeveless shifts in a photo-shoot for Life Magazine.

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“I designed collections around whatever struck my fancy … fruits, vegetables, politics, or peacocks! I entered in with no business sense. It was a total change of life for me, but it made people happy,” Pulitzer told the The Associated Press in March 2009. Lilly Pulitzer found her calling and began opening stores and creating dresses that made young women around the world feel happy and comfortable. How can you not put a smile on when you see a fabulous Lilly. The company thrived until the 1980s when fashion trends were changing and was off the scene for about 10 years when Sugartown Worldwide bought the brand, building it to even a bigger success. Below is one of the latest stores in Riverside.

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“I don’t know how to explain what it was like to run my business, the joy of every day,” she told Vanity Fair Magazine in a story in 2003. “I got a kick every time I went into the shipping department. … I loved seeing (the dresses) going out the door. I loved them selling in the shop. I liked them on the body. Everything. There’s no explaining the fun I had.” Lilly. That says it all, a woman found her place.

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  • Kate

    Get story, enjoyed reading it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/cathy.wolfram.1 Cathy Wolfram

      Inspiring story about realizing our gifts and using them :)

  • Kate

    Meant to say GREAT story…LOL Her dresses are fun.