The Enduring Allure of Lilly Pulitzer

June 02, 2014

Lilly Pulitzer, the eponymous and iconic brand ubiquitous amongst the privileged and preppy, is known for its bright, playful prints and easy, simply-constructed cuts. The New York Times spoke to both the popularity of the Lilly prints and the distinct lifestyle associated with the brand when it referred to Ms. Pulitzer as the, “princess of prints who created an enduring fashion uniform for wealthy socialites and jet setters”. 

It is a name that has endured over multiple generations and expanded to encompass an entire lifestyle. Brand devotees can now buy Lilly shoes, umbrellas, stationery, bedding even Christmas ornaments!

Lilly Pulitzer Sister Florals Comforter Cover Collection

At ADRIAN EAST, we love it because it screams summer, carefree fun. The easy-breezy dresses are statement pieces that can just be slipped on while the fabulous quick-drying bathing suit fabric makes it difficult to keep tanks and bikinis in stock!

Tybee Bikini from Lilly Pulitzer[/caption] Easily identifiable by the bold colorful patterns, often in hot pink and bright green, Lilly “looks” tend to overflow with fruits, vegetables and animals; monkeys, lions, sea fish to name a few. Trippin and Sippin, Fan Dance. The patterns are so popular, that Town and Country recently featured the 9 most popular prints over the last 13 years. People seem to not only want to wear the prints, but collect them, feverishly looking for the “Lilly” name hidden in the pattern. In fact, a buying guide on Ebay focuses on the “collectability” of the prints, explaining that,
“ Some collectors go after certain prints or color combinations because of their themes or their rarity or certain styles because of their popularity. Some collectors prefer vintage Lilly items which date from the late nineteen sixties to the mid nineteen eighties.”

Lilly Pulitzer has gone beyond the typical limits of a successful apparel brand; reaching cult status with thousands of devotees around the globe and almost 1 million “liking” the Lilly Pulitzer Facebook page. There has been a Lilly Pulitzer retrospective at the Parsons School of Design and Martha Stewart, another lifestyle guru, devoted a whole show to the Lilly lifestyle and look on the occasion of the company’s 50th anniversary. 

Martha Stewart in a Lilly Pulitzer print called Shake It Up[/caption] Despite its current widespread popularity, this huge American brand was actually begun as an afterthought: Lilly and a friend of hers had opened a juice stand on Worth Avenue and struck upon the idea of the colorful shifts as a way of disguising the juice stains they had been struggling with via bright, crazy patterns. While immediately successful with the Palm Beach crowd, the brand really took off when former classmate, Jacqueline Kennedy, wore a Lilly shift while on vacation in Hyannis Port. 

Mrs. Kennedy wears a Lilly Pulitzer dress as she relaxes with President Kennedy and their children, John Jr. and Caroline, in Hyannis Port, Mass., in 1962.[/caption] When the founder and fashion doyenne passed away in April of 2013, her obituary in the New York Times noted:

At its height in the 1960s and 1970s, Lilly Pulitzer, with its popular resort wear, had sales of more than $15 million, a store on Jobs Lane in Southampton, N.Y., 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 annual net sales of more than $100 million with modern takes on many of her original prints.

While we respect the numbers, we LOVE what those big numbers represent: lots of little kids (and their Moms!) in colorful, whimsical prints that make the world just a little bit of a happier place! Thank you Lilly Pulitzer. Job well done.

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