At age 81, Lilly Pulitzer Rousseau, fashion icon, died on Sunday, April 8 in her Florida home.
Pulitzer was more than a designer; she was an entrepreneur and creator. Her clothing line started while she attended her husband’s fruit juice stand–juice stained her uniform and created vibrant color combinations. To hide the stains, she began making and wearing bright, floral-patterned shift dresses, which gained more popularity (than the fruit juice) among her patrons. She began selling these dresses and sales surpassed those of the fruit juice.
Her dresses were called “Lilly’s,” and at a time when women were not very involved in business, she became the president of her own company. Her display of entrepreneurship at this time was inspirational to many other women.
Lilly’s clothing are ‘happy clothes’. Her designs perfected the use of eccentric patterns and cheerful colors, making her clothes visually appealing to say the least.
“The clothes also fit really well, and it’s just so classy,” said Camille Morisi, junior and self-proclaimed “Lilly Girl.”
Lou Catania, LRHS theater teacher, grew up wearing Lilly Pulitzer and continues wearing the brightly patterned clothing. She recollects wearing a different Lilly dress each week to various debutante parties while she studied at St. Mary’s. “I started wearing Lilly again when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The bright pink colors were my symbol of hope and it reminded me of happier times,” she said.
Pulitzer was a “fashion-rebel” at the time. Some of her original designs were classified as “the rich at play,” because one of her shift dresses was photographed on Jackie Kennedy for the cover of Time Magazine. “She really gave a different look to the ‘countryclub’ [set],” said Catania.
She not only changed the clothing of the upper class, but she “defined southern-prep,” according to Catania. She added that Lilly’s designs really make a distinction between northern preps and southern preps.
Pulitzer’s legacy is one that will never fade. “By wearing her clothes, I’ve learned just to be myself,” said Morisi.
Catania said, “She certainly gave the idea of celebrating life; life can be refined and elegant but also joyous.”
“Life is a party, dress like it” -Lilly Pulitzer Rousseau.