Lilly Pulitzer

Nancy Macdonell

 
Lilly Pulitzer
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Lilly Pulitzer

Nancy Macdonell

The story of the Lilly Pulitzer brand is bound with that of its inimitable founder and of Palm Beach, Florida, itself. Founded in the mid-1800s as the first resort town in the country, Palm Beach was where newlyweds Peter and Lilly Pulitzer settled in the early 1950s to live year-round, which, while an unusual decision at the time, fit with Lilly’s bohemian personality and rule-breaking spirit. The instantly recognisable Lilly Pulitzer brand, now synonymous with resort wear, was created in the late 1950s, when Lilly worked at a stand selling juice from her husband’s orange groves. While Lilly loved the job, it was messy, so she had her dressmaker create brightly printed, comfortable shifts that she could wear during work to mask the fruit stains, a stark contrast in both colour and shape to the form-fitting styles of the decade. With this design, Lilly unknowingly invented American resort wear. Soon, every Palm Beach girl wanted the Lilly dress, and it began selling more than the juice. The trend grew during the vibrant, irreverent sixties, when Jackie Kennedy began wearing Pulitzer’s creations, and thanks to colour TV, the world was exploding with vivid hues in perfect parallel with Lilly’s designs. The Lilly became the symbol of cool, chic beach glamour at all the jet set’s favourite spots, as photographed by the legendary Slim Aarons.

Today, Lilly Pulitzer celebrates its sixtieth anniversary, and the brand’s designs are as timeless as ever, its hand-painted, custom-colour watercolour and acrylic pieces featuring flamingos, sea turtles, shells, monkeys, and countless other beach- and jungle-inspired patterns made to outfit every generation. 

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