As the saying goes - April showers bring May flowers. The bright ensembles below are the work of American designer Lilly Pulitzer (1931-2013). Their floral prints reflect the designer's colorful aesthetic. Pulitzer designed the cotton shifts - the "Lilly" - with her own needs in mind. Legend has it that in the late 1950s Pulitzer - then a Palm Beach socialite and the wife of an orange grove owner - created the printed dresses to hide orange juice stains.
Orange floral shift dress, Lilly Pulitzer, 1965-1969, Gift of Sybil Roberts Seay (2001.014.008a-b)
Other women began requesting their own. The dresses were a favorite amongst many notable women, including Jackie Kennedy. The designer and the first lady had been classmates. Pulitzer's brand took of when Kennedy was photographed in one of the designer's simple shift dresses on a vacation in Hyannis Port, MA in 1962. The first lady was a very notable influence on 1960s fashion - also inciting trends like the pillbox hat. Undoubtedly influenced by its inclusion in the first lady's wearing, Pulitzer's designer was highly successful into the early 1980s.
The Goldstein Museum of Design has a number of Pulitzer's dresses in their collection. These simple shift dresses were by no means innovative. However, as Richard Martin (1997), long-time Curator of Costume at the MET, points out, "the barren non-design of the "Lilly" was its allure."
Teal floral shift dress, Lilly Pulitzer, Lilly Pulitzer,1965-1969, Gift of Sybil Roberts Seay (2001.014.003)
Multi-colored floral shift dress, Lilly Pulitzer, 1960-1969, Gift of Margot Siegel (1978.020.005)
After a nine year hiatus, Pulitzer's brand was relaunched in 1993. The designer has had a much less influential role in the new company, acting as a creative consultant. However, the fun, colorful aesthetic established by the Florida socialite back in the 1950s has persisted. Pulitzer died in 2013; however, her iconic prints recently experienced another revival. In April, 2015 the brand paired with Target to release the Lilly Pulitzer collection - which includes everything from beauty products, to beach towels, to bikinis and, of course, a number of simple shift dresses in a variety of colorful prints.
Stegemeyer, A. (1998). Lilly Pulitzer. In Who's who in fashion. New York, NY: Fairchild Publications.
Posted by Goldstein Museum of Design at 11:31 AM
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