Lillian Lee McKim
November 10, 1931
Roslyn, New York, U.S.
|Died||April 7, 2013 (aged 81)|
Palm Beach, Florida, U.S.
|Alma mater||Finch College|
|Known for||Lilly Pulitzer brand|
|Notable work||The Lilly Shift Dress|
(m. 1950; div. 1969)
(m. 1969; died) 1993)
|Relatives||Patsy Pulitzer (sister-in-law)|
Lillian Pulitzer Rousseau (November 10, 1931 – April 7, 2013) was an American entrepreneur, fashion designer, and socialite. She founded Lilly Pulitzer, Inc., which produces floral print clothing and other wares.
Lilly and husband Herbert 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".
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. Over 85% of Pulitzer's prints were designed by Suzie Zuzek, the designer for Key West Hand Prints. 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 and her daughter Caroline Kennedy; and members of the Rockefeller, Vanderbilt and Whitney families. After Jackie was featured in Life wearing one of Lilly's shifts, many preppy ladies followed her lead. The Jacqueline dress is one of Lilly Pulitzer's most successful styles. Lilly later stated that the first shift dress Jackie was photographed in was made of kitchen curtains. By 1984, Lilly closed down the entire clothing operation.
Revival of the brand
In 1993, the rights to the brand were purchased by Sugartown Worldwide, Inc. 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.
Today, the company maintains 75 Lilly Pulitzer Signature Stores (also known as Via Shops).
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.
Along with women's clothing, the company also produces children's clothing, swim, shoes, jewelry, accessories, bedding (revived in 2010), 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 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. 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.
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 a choice of print.
Pulitzer published a pair of lifestyle books—Essentially Lilly: A Guide to Colorful Entertaining and Essentially Lilly: A Guide to Colorful Holidays—with author Jay Mulvaney. 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. She has held contests on her Facebook page to vote on which sororities will get their own prints. In 2014, Lilly Pulitzer stopped the production of sorority printed items.
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.
On April 7, 2013, aged 81, Pulitzer Rousseau died at her home in Palm Beach, Florida.
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. Museum director Lori Durante stated "Lilly Pulitzer fashion is relative to the American experience ... [it] is relevant to Palm Beach County, to Florida." 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."
- Lieder, Ruth (March 11, 1968). "Lilly Fashions Her Own Kind Of Pulitzer Prize". SI Vault. CNN. Retrieved August 10, 2010.
- "For the Love of LILLY". Museum of Lifestyle & Fashion History. Retrieved May 17, 2011.
- McDonough, Yona Zeldis (June 19, 2021). "The Woman Who Made Lilly Pulitzer". Airmail News. Retrieved July 9, 2022.
- Whittle, Andrea (February 6, 2021). "Suzie Zuzek Was a 1960s Icon Who Never Got Her Due". W Magazine. Retrieved July 9, 2022.
- "Our Story – Lilly Pulitzer". Archived from the original on October 16, 2014.
- "Perennial returns as Lilly Pulitzer gets goony again". The Baltimore Sun. June 9, 1994.
- "Sugartown Worldwide, Inc. Company Overview". BusinessWeek.com. Retrieved May 17, 2011.
- "ReservedPage". Archived from the original on March 4, 2000.
- "Oxford Industries, Inc. Announces Acquisition Of Sugartown Worldwide, Inc". Reuters. December 21, 2010.
- Schneier, Matthew (April 22, 2015). "Lilly Pulitzer for Target: They Came, They Waited, They Went Home Mad". The New York Times.
- Lilly Pulitzer Home Archived March 5, 2010, at the Wayback Machine garnethill.com
- "New Bridal Lines Debut". Women's Wear Daily. June 24, 2010.
- Swift, Jessica Fontaine (November 5, 2018). "Lilly Pulitzer Returns to Palm Beach with Iconic, Landmark Store". Palm Beach Social Diary. Retrieved July 17, 2019.
- "Rushing into Spring". Lilly Blog. March 25, 2011. Archived from the original on April 30, 2011.
- "Greek Chic Announcement", May 2011
- Horwell, Veronica (April 10, 2013). "Obituary: Lilly Pulitzer". The Guardian. Retrieved April 10, 2013.
- "Wanted: Dancing pink monkeys". Sun Sentinel. April 4, 2010.
- "10 Fun Lilly Pulitzer Facts We Bet You Didn't Know". Archived from the original on October 9, 2016. Retrieved October 5, 2016.