The cherished fashion designer, socialite and “Queen of Prep” Lilly Pulitzer Rousseau died on Sunday at the age of 81. Her preppy, floral printed garments became a sensation despite Pulitzer’s own reports that she had little to no business experience. In fact, the story behind her iconic shift dresses reflects the whimsical, delightful style of her clothing and prints.
Pulitzer opened a juice stand in Palm Beach, Fla., an attempt to profit from her husband Peter’s citrus groves. As the legend goes, Pulitzer asked her seamstress to use bold, colorful fabric to camouflage the inevitable juice stains acquired on the job. After discovering that customers loved her simple, colorful shift dresses, she made the switch from juice stand owner to clothing designer. After fashion icon and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis appeared on the cover of Life magazine sporting one of her dresses, Pulitzer’s popularity skyrocketed.
Lilly Pulitzer products continue to experience a large and devoted following. Her clothing is noted as an important uniform of the preppy resort lifestyle. Lilly Pulitzer also experiences widespread popularity on college campuses. In particular, Lilly Pulitzer’s sorority prints, which feature the unique colors and symbols of women’s sororities, can be seen on college campuses across the United States.
“My pledge mom gave me a Lilly Pulitzer tote and makeup bag during pledge mom week,” said Miriam Gilbert, a freshman. “I like that each sorority has its own unique print.”
Lilly Pulitzer also recently reintroduced its bedding line. Andrea Park, a writer with Her Campus, chose a yellow and pink floral printed spread.
“I love my Lilly Pulitzer bedding,” Park said. “It’s so colorful and could brighten up any dorm room.”
The company’s success is predicted to be unaffected by the death of Pulitzer, with analysts noting Pulitzer’s strong, deep-rooted following. Summer Delaney, a sophomore in the Medill School of Journalism, says she has worn Lilly Pulitzer throughout her life and plans on continuing her patronage.
“Everything Lilly made was colorful, fabulous and original and I really admire her uniqueness and contribution to the fashion world,” Delaney said.
Lilly Pulitzer’s death, while saddening, has helped remind the public of her legacy. “Regardless of whether or not you like her clothing, you have to admire her creativity and fresh perspective that revolutionized the industry,” added Delaney.