Live the Lilly Life

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Lilly Pulitzer Catalogue

Queen of Palm Beach preppy, Lily Pulitzer passed away over the weekend at the age of 81. And because my country club upbringing involved lots and lots of Lily, the news made me nostalgic for the designer’s beachy prints.

Scenes from my childhood

Scenes from my childhood

Looking through old and new photos of the designer and the socialites who’ve loved them, led me to do some research on the designer herself. Turns out, Pulitzer was actually pretty cool, and I have a newfound appreciation for the woman who saw the world through pink-and-green lenses and built an empire based on how she thought life should be lived.

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Lilly Pulitzer

Given how her prints have come to symbolize a cookie-cutter conservative, Preppy rulebook-following crowd, I was surprised — no, shocked — to discover Pulitzer was quite the rebel.

Lilly living it up

Lilly living it up

The socialite refused to be boxed in by the rules of Manhattan society, or by Manhattan at all. Pulitzer eloped with her husband (adorably named Peter Pulitzer), and left NYC behind to start a juice stand in Palm Beach. She fell into designing by accident — after having colorful fabric made into dresses to hide the juice stains while she worked her stand.

The designer with her husband Peter Pulitzer in Palm Beach, FL in 1955 photographed by Slim Aarons

The designer with her husband Peter Pulitzer in Palm Beach, FL in 1955 photographed by Slim Aarons

Another little-known factoid about the legendary designer: She was schoolmates with Jacqueline Kennedy — and it was Jackie who shifted the Palm Beach rebel’s focus from juices to dresses, though accidentally. After Jackie was photographed wearing one of Lilly’s printed shifts, the designer’s dress line really took off.

Jackie Kennedy in a Lilly Pulitzer dress

Jackie Kennedy in a Lilly Pulitzer dress

A loyal Lilly lover, Jackie often wore her one-time classmate’s printed shifts during vacations.

Jackie Bouvier Kennedy wearing Lilly Pulitzer while on vacation

Jackie Bouvier Kennedy wearing Lilly Pulitzer while on vacation

Even if you’re still not digging her prints that have covered everything from shift dresses to shorts, bathing suits, pants, ties, bedding, surfboards, bridal gowns and more, you have to respect how the designer built an iconic brand around the idea that life should be a celebration.

The Lilly Life

The Lilly Life

The glass-half-full motto that would come to define the company pretty much says it all: “Life. Lilly. And the pursuit of happiness.”

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Lilly Pulitzer Catalogue 2006

While I don’t shop at Lilly Pulitzer anymore, the brand has introduced more modern styles that don’t scream “Lilly Pulitzer” or “beach party” that even non-prepsters would appreciate.

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Modern Lilly Pulitzer

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2002 Lilly Pulitzer catalogue featuring Lauren Bush Lauren

But I still think that a vintage Lilly shift dress circa the ’60s and ’70s remains the pinnacle of beach chic.

A Palm Beach pool party shot by Slim Aarons

A Palm Beach pool party shot by Slim Aarons

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Vintage Lilly Pulitzer

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Throwback Lilly

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Lilly Pulitzer Family

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Vintage Lilly Pulitzer

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Vintage Lilly Pulitzer

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Lilly (far left) with husband Peter Pulitzer and friends

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Pulitzer Pink

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“It’s always summer somewhere” with Lilly

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A Pulitzer Pairing

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Lilly Pulitzer in her design

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Words to Live By courtesy of Lilly Pulitzer

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Vintage Lilly

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Lilly at work

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Modern Lilly modeled by Amanda Hearst

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Lilly gearing up for a party

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Lilly Pulitzer runway show

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The designer at one of her runway shows

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A perfect Pulitzer pair

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Lilly with her daughters

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A Pulitzer party

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Lilly Pulitzer runway show

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Lilly Men

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Retro Lilly

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Classic Lilly

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Ladylike Lilly featuring Camille Belle

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The “Lilly” girl

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It’s always summer with Lilly

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Lilly even got her own Barbie

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Vintage Lilly

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Modern-day Lilly

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The Lilly way of life

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The Lilly girl

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Lilly enjoying her favorite season

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Modern Lilly

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Lilly Pulitzer runway show look

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Vintage Lilly-loving couple

Lilly at home

Lilly at home

We'll miss you Lilly!

We’ll miss you Lilly!

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