• Sun, Apr 7 2013

Lilly Pulitzer, Patron Saint Of Printed Dresses, Has Died

Lilly Pulitzer in her first shop off Via Mizner in Palm Beach, 1962

Lilly Pulitzer in her first shop in Palm Beach, 1962

Fashion designer Lilly Pulitzer Rousseau passed away today in Palm Beach at the age of 81, and her passing has made the world is a little less bright, and also less covered in tiny tropical flowers.

Pulitzer was best known for her bright, printed frocks, which became hugely popular in the 1960s and today are still a staple of fancy areas in Florida and pretty much any country club during the summer months.

In high school, I worked for a time as a summer camp counselor at a country club, and nearly all my three-year-old campers turned up in Lilly Pulitzer at some point during the summer. Admittedly, a Lilly Pulitzer printed shift is perhaps on the high end of clothes for a three-year-olds to play in, but it’s also one of the cutest things in the world.

They’re cleanable, though. According to the fashion designer’s website, Pulitzer’s famous dresses came about when the designer, then a Palm Beach socialite, spilled orange juice on her dress. Pulitzer’s husband owned orange groves, and in 1959 she started a juice stand to vend his wares. After spilling juice on herself one day, Pulitzer asked her dressmaker to make her some dresses in colorful prints that were busy enough to hide any fruit or juice stains.

Soon the sleeveless shift dresses were selling more than the juice, but the brand really took off when Pulitzer’s childhood friend Jackie Kennedy was photographed wearing one of her dresses. (Career advice for fashion designers: Try to be childhood friends with future fashion icons.)

“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,” Pulitzer said in her book Essentially Lilly: A Guide to Colorful Entertaining.

In honor of her memory, we should all make an effort to use the word “zingo” as much as possible.

Via The LA Times

Photo via Lilly Pulitzer

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