Lilly Pulitzer

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Lilly Pulitzer
Lillian Lee McKim

(1931-11-10)November 10, 1931
DiedApril 7, 2013(2013-04-07) (aged 81)
CitizenshipUnited States
Alma materFinch College
OccupationFashion designer
Known forLilly Pulitzer brand
Notable work
The Lilly Shift Dress
Spouse(s)Herbert Pulitzer (1950-1969; divorced; 3 children)
Enrique Rousseau (1969-1993; his death)

Lillian Pulitzer Rousseau (November 10, 1931 - April 7, 2013), better known as Lilly Pulitzer, was an entrepreneur, fashion designer, and American socialite. 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 (Mimsy) Maude, and her younger sister was Florence (Flossie) 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 Jacqueline Lee Bouvier (the future Jacqueline Kennedy, First Lady of the United States). 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 Administration Hospital in the Bronx.[citation needed]


Lilly and husband Peter Pulitzer settled in Palm Beach, Florida, shortly after their marriage. They owned several Florida orange groves and, with produce from these, she opened a fruit juice stand on Via Mizner in Palm Beach. While working at the stand, Pulitzer found that squeezing juice made a mess of her clothes. Seeking to camouflage the juice stains, Lilly asked her dressmaker to design a dress that would camouflage the stains. She discovered that customers loved her dress, so she produced more to sell 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, Pulitzer became president of her own company, Lilly Pulitzer, Inc. The company's main factory was 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 people such as former classmate Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Caroline Kennedy, and members of the Rockefeller, Vanderbilt and Whitney families.[3] 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] Lilly later stated that the first shift dress Jackie was photographed in was made of kitchen curtains.[6]

Revival of the brand[edit]

In 1993, the rights to the brand were purchased by Sugartown Worldwide, Inc.[7] 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).[8]

The brand, carried by 23 company-owned retail stores, also sells to independently owned shops and 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.[9]

In April 2015, Target announced a collaboration with Lilly Pulitzer. Within hours, the collection was almost entirely sold out, in stores and online.[10] In September 2019, Target will re-release pieces from its partnership with Lilly Pulitzer, among other iconic design partners.[11]

On November 10, 2018 the Worth Avenue store, located in Palm Beach, Florida within very close proximity to the original fruit juice stand, was opened officially with a big block party and fashion show on sections of Worth Avenue.[12]


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

Along with women's clothing, the company also produces children's clothing, swim, shoes, jewelry, accessories, bedding (revived in 2010[13]), and stationery. Lilly never wanted to produce clothing that was suited for the colder months. "It’s always summer somewhere," she was quoted as saying. In accordance with Mrs. Pulitzer's reported preferences, the dress was to be worn with bare feet and was lined, in order not to require underwear. The company launched an exclusive Bridal Collection in 2010.[14] With everything Lilly does she follows the motto "Everything is possible with sunshine and a little pink.", which very accurately represents her fun and vibrant fabric designs. Every Lilly print hides a surprise. "Lilly" is painted into each one. If you look closely at your modern or vintage prints, you'll find it![15] The company had a collaboration with Target in the spring of 2015 which sold out in a matter of hours. Some Lilly Pulitzer fans were offended that the brand would be offered at discounted prices, and demand was so high for the collection that it crashed the Target website, angering many customers who were unable to purchase any of the products.[16] The official launch date for the products was April 19, 2015.[17]

To honor the original Lilly Pulitzer juice stand and store, the Worth Avenue store in Palm Beach holds exclusive and custom designs that can be created with your choice of print.[18]

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.[19] She has held contests on her Facebook page to vote on which sororities will get their own prints.[20] In 2014, Lilly Pulitzer stopped the production of sorority printed items.

Personal life[edit]

In 1950, she eloped with Herbert (Peter) Pulitzer Jr., grandson of Joseph Pulitzer (publisher after whom the Pulitzer Prize is named). 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. She continued to reside in Palm Beach, Florida. Enrique Rousseau died of cancer in 1993.[21]


On April 7, 2013, aged 81, Pulitzer-Rousseau died at her home in Palm Beach, Florida.[21]

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] In 1966, The Washington Post reported that the dresses were "so popular that at the Southampton Lilly shop on Job’s Lane they are proudly put in clear plastic bags tied gaily with ribbons so that all the world may see the Lilly of your choice. It’s like carrying your own racing colors or flying a yacht flag for identification."[22] She changed the summer uniform of countless thousands of American women who once wore flower printed cotton shirts, wrap around skirts and big, klonky, thick-soled loafers. The total look was usually that of a shirt tail flapping out awkwardly in the back. "Lilly Pulitzer," the article continued, "neatly put a stop to all that."



  1. ^ "Lilly Pulitzer dubbed 'Queen of Prep' at Lisa Birnbach book-signing". Palm Beach Daily News. Dec 13, 2010. Archived from the original on October 17, 2011. 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. ^
  7. ^ "Sugartown Worldwide, Inc. Company Overview". Retrieved May 17, 2011.
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Oxford Industries, Inc. Announces Acquisition Of Sugartown Worldwide, Inc". Reuters. December 21, 2010.
  10. ^ Schneier, Matthew (22 April 2015). "Lilly Pulitzer for Target: They Came, They Waited, They Went Home Mad". The New York Times.
  11. ^ Hallemann, Caroline (2019-08-14). "Here's What to Expect When Target Brings Back Its Lilly Pulitzer Collaboration". Town & Country. Retrieved 2019-08-15.
  12. ^
  13. ^ Lilly Pulitzer Home Archived 2010-03-05 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ "New Bridal Lines Debut". Women's Wear Daily. 2010-06-24.
  15. ^ "10 Things You Didn't Know About Lilly Pulitzer". 24 November 2014.
  16. ^ "Why do People Hate Lilly Pulitzer?". 22 April 2015.
  17. ^ "This Is Why the Internet Freaked Out About Lilly Pulitzer for Target".
  18. ^ Swift, Jessica Fontaine (5 November 2018). "Lilly Pulitzer Returns to Palm Beach with Iconic, Landmark Store". Palm Beach Social Diary. Retrieved 2019-07-17.
  19. ^ "Rushing into Spring". Lilly Blog. March 25, 2011. Archived from the original on April 30, 2011.
  20. ^ "Greek Chic Announcement", May 2011
  21. ^ a b Horwell, Veronica (2013-04-10). "Obituary: Lilly Pulitzer". The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-04-10.
  22. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-10-09. Retrieved 2016-10-05.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

External links[edit]