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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Sorority fashion mainstay Lilly Pulitzer leaves behind colorful legacy

    KRT FASHION STORY SLUGGED: NYFASHION-LILLYPULITZER KRT PHOTOGRAPH BY TODD PLITT/KRT (September 21) NEW YORK, NY– A model walks the runway wearing a pink fun stripe pique shrunken polo, love court skirt with pink and blue piping and havana blue dance shoe during the Lilly Pulitzer Spring 2003 fashion show in New York City on September 21, 2002. (KRT) NC KD BL 2002 (Vert) (Digital image) (Diversity) (lde)

    Fashion icon Lilly Pulitzer died last Sunday. While her empire will ensure her legacy lives on, she takes with her a wealth of artistic vision that was seemingly created by chance.

    Characterized as the princess of Palm Beach prints in springtime hues, Pulitzer first found her inspiration on a citrus farm in the 1950s. Her vision was prompted by an adoration for dappled, multicolored patterns that could creatively hide the juice stains on her clothes. Soon her dresses were in higher demand than her citrus.

    Socialites and celebrities became captivated by her coastline-inspired dresses. During the 1960s, the fashion industry coined the term “wearing a Lilly,” meaning a sleeveless shift dress centered around simplicity and functionality.

    The success of Lilly Pulitzer, Inc. amazed even the reluctant fashion icon herself.

    “Jackie [Kennedy] wore one of my dresses — it was made from kitchen curtain material — and people went crazy,” Pulitzer said in her book, “Essentially Lilly, A Guide to Colorful Entertaining.” “They took off like zingo. Everybody loved them, and I went into the dress business.”

    Wearing a Lilly during that era evoked eminence and popularity, but women mainly adored the dresses’ refreshing patterned prints. Each dress was tailored in such a way that was modest, but the patterns made it eye-catching and appealing.

    Many of Pulitzer’s designs reflected her life. Her original tailored designs were inspired by shorelines, wine glasses, native flowers and even politics.

    What began as two simple styles of dresses has since expanded into a fashion empire. Each store carefully reflects that locale’s characteristics, while still showcasing the original floral prints from the 1950s and ’60s.

    More recently, the company has fashioned an entire sorority line, with prints for every major sorority house on campuses across the country. Playing into the vibrant lifestyle of the South, the Pulitzer style has become synonymous with large sun hats and horse races.

    While Pulitzer gave up her ownership rights in 1993, her preppy imagery remained a staple in new company’s vision. Many of her original patterns and conservative designs from her early line are still emulated in today’s stores.

    “Somehow, they found me,” Pulitzer said in a 1994 article with The Baltimore Sun. “They said they just loved Lilly, their mothers and sisters loved Lilly, and they wanted to bring the line back.”

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