Lilly Pulitzer was a fashion designer who came to the world of fashion through an unusual route. Born to a wealthy family in 1931 and christened Lillian Lee McKim, she counted among her friends Jacqueline Bouvier, who the world later knew best as Jackie Kennedy. She attended school with Jacqueline, but was not particularly interested in college. Instead, in 1950, she eloped with Peter Pulitzer, and the couple settled in Palm Beach, Florida.
Today, we’re quite used to seeing women from wealthy families create designer lines of clothing. Lilly Pulitzer, however, had something else in mind, opening a juice stand in Palm Beach. The stand was successful but Pulitzer hated the way her clothes would end up stained with juice. She designed a dress without sleeves, which in its bright colors became just as attractive as the juices she made. In fact, she got demands for the pattern and design, and turned her attention to fashion instead, a good thing for her friend Jackie Kennedy who loved the classic shift dress, and sported it on numerous occasions.
Pulitzer expanded her repertoire and designed clothing from 1960-1980s. Her clothing was known for its simple lines, bright colors, pretty pastels, and the use of many tropical inspired or flowery prints. Many of her designs became the ultimate in preppy wear. She retired from the fashion scene in 1984, but revived the line in 1993. She had 70 Lilly shops before her death in 2013, and you can also find Lilly Pulitzer fashions at stores like Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, and Bloomingdale’s.
In addition to a line of clothing for women, Lilly Pulitzer designed clothing for men and children. She also had a children’s line called Minnie, and she featured accessories like sunglasses, handbags, and scarves. In addition to designing clothing, department stores may carry Lilly Pulitzer bedding too.
Pulitzer, who divorced and remarried Enrique Rousseau, is now officially named Lilly McKim Rousseau, and her brand may sometimes just be called Lilly. Her second husband passed away in 1993, but Lilly continued on, putting forth her colorful, carefree, Florida inspired designs that are enjoyed by many. She has also published two books, Essential Lilly: A Guide to Colorful Entertaining and Essential Lilly: A Guide to Colorful Holidays. Both were co-written with Jay Mulvaney.