It’s rare that a person’s name comes to represent an object, but such is the case with Lilly Pulitzer. Just say ‘Lilly’ and it...

It’s rare that a person’s name comes to represent an object, but such is the case with Lilly Pulitzer. Just say ‘Lilly’ and it conjures images of simple sheath dresses in vivid colors. But what of Lilly Pulitzer herself? As Kathryn Livingston’s Lilly: Palm Beach, Tropical Glamour, and the Birth of a Fashion Legend (Wiley, 2012) reveals, the woman was just as vivid as the dresses her name came to evoke.

Born and married into privilege, Lilly Pulitzer wasn’t your typical debutante. She walked around Palm Beach barefoot and had a pet monkey. Boasting a similar background Jackie Kennedy and an extra shot of joie de vivre, she seems, from Livingston’s portrait, like a woman who would make excellent company at cocktail hour.

She was also a bit of an entrepreneurial genius. Hoping to break out of a post-partum depression, Pulitzer opened an orange juice stand on Worth Avenue, selling juice to tourists and the Palm Beach hoi polloi, including the Kennedys. Ultimately, she would build an entire empire based solely upon the pattern for a simple sheath dress intended to hide orange juice and sweat stains.

But, as the title suggests, Lilly is as much the story of Pulitzer as of Palm Beach itself. Unlike most residents, who were seasonal, the Pulitzers lived in Palm Beach year-round. Thus, Lilly’s story is one of both personal and local success.

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