Lilly Pulitzer

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Lilly Pulitzer
Born Lillian Lee McKim
(1931-11-10)November 10, 1931
Palm Beach, Florida, U.S.
Died April 7, 2013(2013-04-07) (aged 81)
Citizenship United States
Alma mater Finch College
Occupation Fashion designer
Known for Lilly Pulitzer brand
Notable work The Lilly Shift Dress
Home town Roslyn, New York
Spouse(s) Herbert Pulitzer (1950-1969; divorced); 3 children
Enrique Rousseau (1969-1993; his death)

Lillian Pulitzer Rousseau (born Lillian Lee McKim; November 10, 1931 – April 7, 2013), better known as Lilly Pulitzer, was an American socialite and fashion designer. She founded Lilly Pulitzer, Inc., which produces clothing and other such wares featuring bright, colorful, floral prints. As the brand is popular with high society, she was called the "Queen of Prep".[1][2][3]

Early life[edit]

Lillian Lee "Lilly" McKim was born to socialites Robert V. McKim and his wife, Lillian (née Bostwick) in Roslyn, New York in 1931, the middle daughter of three. Her elder sister was named Mary Maude, and her younger sister was Florence Fitch. Her mother, Lillian Bostwick McKim was an heiress to the Standard Oil fortune. Robert and Lillian McKim divorced, and Lillian remarried, to Ogden Phipps, in 1937.

She attended the Chapin School in New York City, along with Bouvier sister Jacqueline Lee. 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 assistant with Frontier Nursing Service in Kentucky {according to} and as a volunteer at the Veterans Hospital in The Bronx.[citation needed]


Lilly and husband Peter Pulitzer settled in Palm Beach, Florida, shortly after their marriage. Peter owned several Florida citrus orange groves, and with produce 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 camouflage the juice stains, she designed a sleeveless shift dress made of bright, colorful printed cotton. She found out that customers loved her dress, so she produced more in order to sell them at her juice stand. Eventually, she was selling more dresses than juice, and decided to focus on designing and selling what had become known as her "Lillys".[4]

In 1959, Lilly Pulitzer 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, Pulitzer's bright, colorful clothes were very popular, worn by elites such as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Caroline Kennedy, and members of the Rockefeller, Vanderbilt and Whitney families.[3] Lilly Pulitzer was a former classmate of Jackie's. After Jackie was featured in Life magazine donning one of Lilly's famous shifts, many preppy ladies followed her lead. The Jacqueline dress is one of Lilly Pulitzer's most successful styles. By 1984, Lilly closed down the entire clothing operation.[5]

Revival of the brand[edit]

In 1993, the rights to the brand were purchased by Sugartown Worldwide, Inc.[6] They contacted Pulitzer with the hopes of reviving the brand because, "they just loved Lilly, their mothers and sisters loved Lilly, and they wanted to bring the line back," Pulitzer said.[5] Pulitzer was not involved in the day-to-day administration of the company, but she continued to serve in the role of creative consultant, approving new designs, fabrics, and collections, and branching out into other product lines.[citation needed]

Today, the company maintains 75 Lilly Pulitzer Signature Stores (also known as Via Shops).[7]

23 company-owned retail stores, sells to independently owned stores and is in major department stores such as Belk, Lord and Taylor, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. On December 21, 2010, Sugartown Worldwide, Inc. was purchased by Oxford Industries, Inc.[8]


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

Along with women's clothing, the company also produces men's clothing, children's clothing, maternity clothes, shoes, jewelry, accessories, bedding (revived in 2010[9]), and stationery. The company launched an exclusive Bridal Collection in 2010.[10][11]

Pulitzer published a pair of lifestyle books—Essentially Lilly: A Guide to Colorful Entertaining and Essentially Lilly: A Guide to Colorful Holidays—with her friend, author Jay Mulvaney, showcasing her entertaining style. She also released two desk calendar books, Essentially Lilly 2005 Social Butterfly Engagement Calendar and Essentially Lilly 2006 Party Animal Engagement Calendar. She was known to make special collections with sorority prints on them.[12] She has held contests on her Facebook page to vote on which sororities will get their own prints.[13]

Personal life[edit]

In 1950, she eloped with Herbert (Peter) Pulitzer Jr., grandson of publisher Joseph Pulitzer. The couple had three children: Peter, Minnie and Liza. In 1969, Lilly and Peter were divorced. She married Enrique Rousseau shortly thereafter. Although she legally changed her name to Lillian McKim Rousseau, her clothing company continued to operate under the "Lilly Pulitzer" label. Lilly continued to reside in Palm Beach, FL, and Rousseau died from cancer in 1993.[14]


On April 7, 2013, aged 81, Pulitzer Rousseau died at her home in Palm Beach, Florida.[14]

Cultural impact[edit]

Lisa Birnbach's tongue-in-cheek guides, The Official Preppy Handbook and its sequel True Prep: It’s a Whole New Old World, feature Lilly Pulitzer clothing as must-have items 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]



  1. ^ "Lilly Pulitzer dubbed ‘Queen of Prep’ at Lisa Birnbach book-signing". Palm Beach Daily News. Dec 13, 2010. Retrieved May 17, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b "Wanted: Dancing pink monkeys". Sun Sentinel. April 4, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c d "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. ^ a b "Perennial returns as Lilly Pulitzer gets goony again". The Baltimore Sun. June 9, 1994. 
  6. ^ "Sugartown Worldwide, Inc. Company Overview". Retrieved May 17, 2011. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Oxford Industries, Inc. Announces Acquisition Of Sugartown Worldwide, Inc.". Reuters. December 21, 2010. 
  9. ^ Lilly Pulitzer Home
  10. ^ Lilly Pulitzer Wedding Line
  11. ^ "New Bridal Lines Debut". Women's Wear Daily. 2010-06-24. 
  12. ^ "Rushing into Spring". Lilly Blog. March 25, 2011. 
  13. ^ "Greek Chic Announcement", May 2011
  14. ^ a b Horwell, Veronica (2013-04-10). "Obituary: Lilly Pulitzer". The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-04-10.