In Memorium: Lilly Pulitzer

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I was in Farmington, CT yesterday morning at my boarding school, Miss Porter’s, participating in their career day panel in which Ancients (our name for alumnae) speak to current seniors and juniors about our career paths, college and life in general.  When I got in my car to come home I saw on my phone that Lilly Pulitzer had died.  Lilly was a fellow Ancient of Miss Porter’s and it was strange to see such news when I happened to be at the school. But I feel like I have a connection to Lilly that goes beyond just a shared alma mater.  True, I learned to love Lilly at MPS, I came into the school a style-less shy girl and left a confident pink and green loving preppy.  I hung onto my Lilly dresses for a long time after departing Main Street, even wearing one to my college graduation, despite my change is style.  A picture taken that night ended up being the one I used on my Match.com profile which attracted my southern gentleman husband, Andrew.  He recognized that I was wearing Lilly and associated that with a “good girl” :).  He still carries this pic of me at 20 years old in a pineapple print Lilly dress in his wallet.

Cut to many years later and the first time I met Andrew’s entire extended family, at his cousin Lindsey’s wedding.  I knew Andrew came from very hearty preppy stock (boarding schools, Ivy Leagues and such) and so I thought that wearing a Lilly dress was the safest bet for a strong first impression.  And just to be sure I was extra accepted into the clan, I made Andrew wear a Lilly tie. He REALLY, REALLY did not want to, but I begged, and he obliged.  A sign to me that this was a man worth holding onto. I remember walking into the wedding and poor Andrew getting totally teased by his cousins and uncles for the tie/dress combo and seeing NO ONE else in anything remotely as bright and prepster as us.  Years later, after getting married,  Andrew’s family and I all still get such a good laugh about the “Lilly ensemble” I cooked up. They will in fact, delight in this picture.

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(left- college graduation, right- wedding, with two sidenotes: we were quite inebriated and sweaty from dancing and the disposable camera that took this distorted Andrew’s forehead- while it is LARGE, it’s not this large. He wanted me to share that.)

I have a lot of emotional attachment to Lilly.  It brings me back to a VERY happy place and time in my life.  Even though my personal style has ventured far from her signature style, I still smile when I see a bold Lilly print and certainly have plans to dress any future little ones in it.  Lilly was a fantastic model of female entrepreneurship as well- her ability to turn a quickly made “uniform” to wear at her juice stand into something gracing the shoulders of Jackie O (another former MPS Ancient) is amazing. Read her story HERE. Yes, she was a woman of privilege, but not one who rested on her laurels because of it. She was so influential in “Palm Beach Style” and beyond- she created a whole brand of fashion.  One that will live on for a long time.

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Modern day Lilly looks:

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Classic Palm Beach style:

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Lilly Pulitzer has a line of furniture and fabric with Lee Jofa- I actually am mad about these desks!

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 Thanks for brightening our days Lilly- and reminding us to have a little fun while we’re here.

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30 comments

  1. Nice rememberance and history of Lilly. On a side note, I live in Farmington with my husband and girls so I chuckle when you write that you visited your school because who knows, we may see you one day at Naples Pizza or Apricots! Also, your blog is immensly enjoyable!

  2. Love Lilly. This weekend, I decked out my little summer house out back in Palm Beach chic and then discovered she had died. I put out my LIlly entertaining book and had a Pimm’s in her memory. Thanks for sharing a little snippet of your own life, too.

  3. My kids paid homage to Lilly today when they dressed for school:
    Son: Lilly Tie with uniform
    2 Daughters: Navy, Lilly cable sweaters and Lilly print belts with their uniform skirts

  4. While I may have never had an emotional attachment to Lilly quite like yours, I was always a fan of her prints & designs & of course her entrepreneurial spirit like you said! A great example of a life well-lived. Rest in peace.

  5. Lord knows I went through quite a Lilly stage growing up… and I can’t wait to dress my future little ones in her happy, festive prints.

  6. What sad news. I grew up in North Palm Beach and the dress code was always Lilly. No matter where you went there was always at least someone in a Lily print. She was an incredible business woman – she will be missed. Thanks for sharing your Lilly story.

  7. a lover of color, cocktails and cheer – what’s not to love? had to dress my baby girl in a lilly shift today and may just do so the rest of the week. funny that dressing for lilly mourning entails hot pink with black nowhere in sight…

  8. That photo of you in the pineapple dress is a stunner. It is the prettiest shot of you I’ve seen yet. No wonder Andrew was smitten. ;-)

  9. What a beautiful to a very lovely woman.
    As one who has wintered in PB… This woman came
    back on her own and develop a fashion brand that will
    alway’s be among her highest accomplishment… Aside from
    from her children.

    I still wear my Lilly’s daytime Palm Beach.

    RIP… Ms. Lilly.

  10. I was so sad to hear about her passing. My museum is putting together an exhibition in the coming year. Might be a great time to come and visit us in Miami.

  11. Yes, I do DELIGHT in that picture and that story about Chad and Linds’ wedding as told from your point of view!

  12. Another loss in the fashion history. I’ve always loved the name Lilly (my granddaughter’s.) franki

  13. Loved this, Erin. And I have never liked Lily Pulitzer (clothing). lol I just know so well those associative feelings a designer can bring of another time, another era and reading about the role she played in your courtship and who she was as a woman was truly delightful and charming.

    Though I am realizing I was the only one shopping at Wet Seal and County Seat and Contempo in the early 90’s while you and your sassy butt readers were rolling in pink and green. You know, where sizes come in odd numbers and everything requires hand wash because it would disintegrate in the washer? Pretty sure we won’t be seeing a post in ode to them anytime soon. Thank God. Still trying to forget.

  14. In the early 80″s one of my good friends had a long weekend wedding extravaganza in Long Island. Among the revelers was her aunt, the one and only Lilly (my friend’s namesake as it happens…). She was fun and relaxed, (at that time her company had closed) and took a special interest in me because I was a budding entrepreneur. At 20 years old I was hawking scrimshawed pocket knives ( a short career) and struggling. She was excited about my “business” and giving advice and enthusiastic support. Having grown up in a bastion of prep, Princeton, N.J., all I wanted to talk about was her, and to list the many dresses of her design still hanging in my childhood closet! A great memory for me and so bittersweet to hear of her passing. She lived a full life!

  15. Such a sweet post! love your blog, don’t comment much. You have a great writing style and duh– great interior design talent.

  16. This is just lovely Erin. What a sweet story about you and Andrew… she really did have a way of affecting so many people’s lives, and I’m sure she still will for generations to come! Such an inspirational woman.

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