Lilly Pulitzer

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Lilly Pulitzer
Born Lillian Lee McKim
(1931-11-10)November 10, 1931
Roslyn, New York, U.S.
Died April 7, 2013(2013-04-07) (aged 81)
Palm Beach, Florida, U.S.
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. Yes, that Pulitzer—as in the Pulitzer Prize. It’s not hard to believe that the designer was incredibly wealthy–after all, look at her clientele—but the family she married into has years of good breeding and high-society connections attached to it. Born to an heiress of the Standard Oil fortune, she married Herbert Pulitzer Jr. (known as Peter), the grandson of Joseph Pulitzer—the publisher synonymous with the Pulitzer Prize. Although they divorced in 1969 after 19 years of marriage and three children, she kept the name for its cache. Read more: 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] Lilly later stated that the first shift dress her former classmate,Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis,was photographed in was in fact 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]

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.[9]

In April 2015, Target announced a collaboration with Lilly Pulitzer. Within hours, the exclusive collection was almost entirely sold out, in stores and online.[10]


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[11]), 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.[12][13] 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![14] 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.[15] The official launch date for the products was April 19, 2015.[16]

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.[17] She has held contests on her Facebook page to vote on which sororities will get their own prints.[18] 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 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, Florida. Enrique Rousseau died of cancer in 1993.[19]


On April 7, 2013, aged 81, Pulitzer Rousseau died at her home in Palm Beach, Florida.[19]When Her son Peter spoke at her funeral service saying, "Our mother was a woman of extremes…She gave and gave and gave, and asked for nothing in return…Joyous feelings just oozed out of her…She showed us how to enjoy life."[20]Lilly leaves a legacy of following your dreams, doing things your own way, and always having fun. She knew how to throw a great party, so we'll leave you with her secret Bloody Mary ingredient: Clamato juice.[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. 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. ^
  11. ^ Lilly Pulitzer Home
  12. ^ Lilly Pulitzer Wedding Line
  13. ^ "New Bridal Lines Debut". Women's Wear Daily. 2010-06-24. 
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ "This Is Why the Internet Freaked Out About Lilly Pulitzer for Target". 
  17. ^ "Rushing into Spring". Lilly Blog. March 25, 2011. 
  18. ^ "Greek Chic Announcement", May 2011
  19. ^ a b Horwell, Veronica (2013-04-10). "Obituary: Lilly Pulitzer". The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-04-10. 
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^

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