According to an announcement on the company’s official Facebook page, iconic fashion designer Lilly Pulitzer Rousseau died Sunday in Palm Beach, Florida, at the age of 81, surrounded by her family. “Lilly has been a true inspiration to us and we will miss her,” the statement said. “In the days and weeks ahead we will celebrate all that Lilly meant to us. Lilly was a true original who has brought together generations through her bright and happy mark on the world.”
It all started with a juice stand. When 21-year-old Lilly married Peter Pulitzer, they moved soon from NYC to Palm Beach where the newly married wife opened a juice stand next to her husband’s citrus groves. To hide the stains from the juice, she wore a sleeveless dress in colourful printed cotton.
Lilly Pulitzer – the clothing label was born. The “classic shift dress” shot to international fame and demand when Lilly’s old schoolmate Jacqueline Kennedy née Bouvier, now the First Lady, was photographed wearing a “Lilly” while on vacation. “Jackie wore one of my dresses – it was made from kitchen curtain material – and people went crazy. They took off like zingo. Everybody loved them, and I went into the dress business.” (From the book: Essentially Lilly, A Guide to Colorful Entertaining). And the rest is history.
Lilly Pulitzer is not as known in Europe than it is in the US. When I lived in Lake Forest, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, I spotted those colourful prints for the first time. I have to admit that I never really warmed up to them but somehow they always remind me of the great time I had living there and I have a great respect for the company the iconic fashion designer built up. I even mentioned it once in my column.
R.I.P. Lilly! My thoughts are with the Pulitzer Rousseau family.
Photos: Courtesy of Lilly Pulitzer