Personal Essay
9:00 am
Mon April 8, 2013

Saying Goodbye To Fashion Designer Lilly Pulitzer

One of the classic "Lilly" dresses by Palm Beach designer Lilly Pulitzer.
Credit Etsy.com

My wardrobe is completely Lilly Pulitzer-free. 

And today, I regret it.

As the fashion world mourns the death of the socialite-turned-designer, who died Sunday in Palm Beach at the age of 81, I find myself wondering what about Pulitzer’s signature line was so intimidating to me.

Were the sherbet orange and sea foam green prints too bold for me?

Did I feel my triceps weren’t toned enough to pull off that sleeveless shift?

Or perhaps the whole line just struck me as too “vacation-ey” to be taken seriously.

Got a photo of your favorite Lilly Pulitzer item? Please send us a Tweet at @wlrn

I might have taken the plunge, had I known the wonderfully goofy story of how the whole Lilly Pulitzer line came to be.  In the late 1950’s, Pulitzer was running a juice stand on Palm Beach’s fashionable Worth Avenue.  The work was staining her dresses, so she asked her dressmaker to design a shift with splashes of large, colorful print to camouflage the stains.  The iconic “Lilly” dress was born.

The print patterns were often a paean to tropical life; flowers, shells, seahorses.  Before long, the simple mini-dresses were “must-have” items for many in the Palm Beach social set.  Pulitzer’s dress had become the resort wear equivalent of Holly Golightly’s little black dress.

And now, as I take note of all the monotones in my decidedly un-Floridian wardrobe, I feel ashamed.  It’s as if I’ve betrayed some secret sisterhood.  After all, there are few, if any, fashion trends that Florida can call its own.  Unless you include the white blazers, linen trousers and sockless loafers from “Miami Vice.”  But that belonged to the guys.

It seems like a denial of my tenancy here (now in its 18th year) that I haven’t been willing to bask in this textile celebration of South Florida life.

I’m still not fully convinced that the “Lilly” would flatter my somewhat – ahem – generous figure.

But I don’t see the harm in getting one of her scarves.