Lilly Pulitzer

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Lillian Pulitzer Rousseau
Lillian Lee McKim

(1931-11-10)November 10, 1931
DiedApril 7, 2013(2013-04-07) (aged 81)
ResidencePalm Beach, Florida
Alma materFinch College
OccupationFashion designer
Known forLilly Pulitzer brand
Notable work
The Lilly Shift Dress
StyleAvant Garde Preppy
Home townRoslyn, New York
Spouse(s)Herbert Pulitzer (1950-1969)
Enrique Rousseau (1969-1993)

Lillian Pulitzer Rousseau (Lillian Lee McKim; November 10, 1931 – April 7, 2013), better known as Lilly Pulitzer, was an American fashion designer and socialite. She is known for founding Lilly Pulitzer, Inc., which makes clothes with bright, colorful patterns. Because the brand has been very popular with rich people, Lilly has been called the "Queen of Prep".[1][2][3]

Personal life[change | change source]

Lillian Lee McKim, nicknamed Lilly, was born on November 10, 1931 in Roslyn, New York. Her father was Robert V. McKim and her mother was Lillian McKim (maiden name Bostwick). She was the middle child, with an older sister named Mary Maude and younger sister named Florence Fitch. Her mother, Lillian, was an heir to the Standard Oil fortune. Lillian divorced Robert and married Ogden Phipps in 1937.

Lilly went to the Chapin School in New York City, along with Bouvier sister Jacqueline. In 1949, she graduated from Miss Porter's School in Farmington, Connecticut. She attended the college-finishing school Finch College in New York City, but left after one semester to work as a midwife's assistant in West Virginia and later as a volunteer at the Veterans Hospital in The Bronx.

In 1950, she married Peter Pulitzer, the grandson of publisher Joseph Pulitzer. They moved to Palm Beach, where Lilly started her clothing company, Lilly Pulitzer, Inc. In 1969, Lilly and Peter were divorced. She married Enrique Rousseau soon after. She legally changed her name to Lillian Rousseau, but her clothing company kept the "Lilly Pulitzer" label. Lilly continued to live in Palm Beach. Enrique died from cancer in 1993.

Lilly has three children from her marriage to Peter: Peter, Minnie, and Liza. Peter lives in Bridgehampton, New York, with his wife, Elise, and five children: Fiona, Caleb, Stefan, Aaron, and Daniella. Liza currently lives in West Palm Beach, Florida, with her husband, Henry, and three children: Waverly, Hattie and Rayna. Liza is currently helping out in Florida with the Lilly Pulitzer Brand.

Death[change | change source]

Pulitzer died on April 7, 2013 in her home in Palm Beach, California from natural causes, at age 81.

Business[change | change source]

Lilly and Peter settled in Palm Beach, Florida, shortly after their marriage. Peter owned several Florida citrus groves, and with fruit from the groves Lilly opened a juice stand on Via Mizner, just off Worth Avenue in Palm Beach.

In the course of working at the juice stand, Lilly found that squeezing juice made a mess of her clothes. Seeking to hide the juice stains, she designed a sleeveless shift dress made of bright, colorful printed cotton. Lilly found that customers loved her dress, so she made more to sell at her juice stand. Eventually, she was selling more dresses than juice, and decided to focus on making and selling what had become known as her "Lillys".[4]

In 1959, Lilly became president of her own company, Lilly Pulitzer, Inc. The company's main factory was located in Miami, Florida and the fabrics were produced by the Key West Hand Print Fabrics company in Key West.[3]

From the 1960s to the early 1980s, Lilly's bright, colorful clothes were very popular, worn by rich people such as First Lady Jackie Kennedy, and members of the Rockefeller, Vanderbilt and Whitney families.[3] However, by 1984, Lilly felt she was not having as much fun as she used to and retired, closing down her entire clothing business.[5]

Revival of the brand[change | change source]

In 1993, the rights to the Lilly Pulitzer brand were bought by Sugartown Worldwide, Inc.[6] They contacted Lilly with the hopes of bringing back the brand because, "they just loved Lilly, their mothers and sisters loved Lilly, and they wanted to bring the line back," according to Lilly herself.[5] Lilly is not involved in the day to day running of the company, but she continues to do things like approve new designs, fabrics, and collections.

Today, the company has 75 Lilly Pulitzer Signature Stores (also known as Via Stores), several company-owned retail stores, sells to independently owned stores and is in major department stores such as Bloomingdales, Lord and Taylor, Nordstrom, and Neiman Marcus. On December 21, 2010, Sugartown Worldwide, Inc. was bought by Oxford Industries, Inc.[7]

Products[change | change source]

A Lilly Pulitzer store at The Gardens Mall in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

Along with women's clothing, the company also makes men's clothing, children's clothing, maternity clothes, shoes, jewelry, accessories, bedding (revived in 2010[8]), and stationery. The company started a bridal collection in 2010.[9][10]

Lilly Pulitzer has made special collections with sorority prints on them, among them Kappa Delta, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Delta Delta Delta, and Delta Zeta.[11] She has held contests on her Facebook page to vote on which sororities will get their own prints.

Cultural impact[change | change source]

Lisa Birnbach's humorous "guides", The Official Preppy Handbook and its sequel True Prep: It’s a Whole New Old World, say Lilly Pulitzer clothing is a must-have item for "preppy" women.

The Museum of Lifestyle & Fashion History in Boynton Beach, Florida, ran an exhibit from August 2010 through May 2011 about the clothing and designs of Lilly Pulitzer.[3] Museum director Lori Durante stated "Lilly Pulitzer fashion is relative to the American experience ... It is relevant to Palm Beach County, to Florida."[2]

References[change | change source]

  1. "Lilly Pulitzer dubbed 'Queen of Prep' at Lisa Birnbach book-signing". Palm Beach Daily News. Dec 13, 2010. Retrieved May 17, 2011.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Wanted: Dancing pink monkeys". Sun Sentinel. April 4, 2010.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 "For the Love of LILLY". Museum of Lifestyle & Fashion History. Retrieved May 17, 2011.
  4. Lieder, Ruth (March 11, 1968). "Lilly Fashions Her Own Kind Of Pulitzer Prize". SI Vault. CNN. Retrieved 10 August 2010.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Perennial returns as Lilly Pulitzer gets goony again". The Baltimore Sun. Jun 9, 1994.
  6. "Sugartown Worldwide, Inc. Company Overview". Retrieved May 17, 2011.
  7. "Oxford Industries, Inc. Announces Acquisition Of Sugartown Worldwide, Inc". Reuters. Dec 21, 2010.
  8. Lilly Pulitzer Home
  9. Lilly Pulitzer Wedding Line
  10. "New Bridal Lines Debut". Women's Wear Daily. 2010-06-24.
  11. "Rushing into Spring". Lilly Blog. March 25, 2011.

Other websites[change | change source]